Five Minutes with the Fabulous Doreen Tipton

Doreen Tipton is a legend in her own lifetime. The first person in the United Kingdom to be diagnosed with ‘Lazy Cow Syndrome’, this awful disability hasn’t stopped Doreen from becoming an icon, first in her beloved Black Country, and now on the way to conquering the world. Ahead of this year’s Wolverhampton Grand pantomime, ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’, I had a chat with Doreen at the stunning Mount Hotel. Unfortunately, Doreen was feeling a little tired, probably as a result of lazy cow syndrome, and so she had a little rest in bed. Nevertheless, I spoke to Doreen (and her ultra-ego Gill Jordan) about this year”s panto, and life in general.

JACK AND THE BEANSTALK – PANTO – GRAND WVH
Wolverhampton Grand Theatre Jack and the Beanstalk Panto photo-call
Picture by Adam Fradgley

Fashion-Mommy: Last year you played the Lazy Empress in Aladdin, tell me about your character this year, is it true you’re playing yourself?

Doreen: Sort of. This year I’m playing Dame Trott’s lazy next door neighbour, who happens to be called Doreen.

FM: Do you get recognised out of character?

DT: I never get recognised out of character. When I’m Doreen people shout to me in the street, come over to me and often act as if we were life long friends, which is really lovely. I hardly ever do interviews as Gill. I think people want to believe that Doreen is real.

FM: What is the reaction to Doreen outside of the Midlands?

DT: I think it is more to do with humour than geography – you either get Doreen or you don’t. It’s about being on that particular wavelength, a little bit like Monty Python, lots of people don’t get it, but others love it. What I find interesting is that the audience spans right across the age groups, from young kids to 90 year olds.

JACK AND THE BEANSTALK – PANTO – GRAND WVH
Wolverhampton Grand Theatre Jack and the Beanstalk Panto photo-call
Picture by Adam Fradgley

FM: Why do you think you appeal to the young?

DT: I think personally the young find me funny for the same reason’s they find their parents or grandparents funny, they recognise the same sort of humour that they see in their own older relatives.

FM: Is Doreen based on anyone in particular?

DT: No, not any one person, but more a generalisation from lots of different people. But lots of people recognise Doreen as someone they know.

FM: You’ve returned to the Grand Theatre for this year’s panto – why was that?

DT: I had such a fantastic time last year, everything was perfect, the cast, the backstage staff,and the Grand is such a wonderful theatre. I just couldn’t resist!

FM: Is there any particular character in pantomime that you would love to play?

DT: (in a big, booming voice) Mirror, Mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all. I would love to play the Wicked Queen from Snow White, a vicious queen.

FM: How did you persuade Robert Plant to be in your movie?

DT: I know, I still pinch myself about that. I think the best answer is that I am a big fan of Robert, and Robert is a fan of Doreen’s. It was amazing!

Sat 9 Dec – Sun 14 Jan

JACK AND THE BEANSTALK

Wolverhampton Grand, click here for ticket information.

Cilla the Musical: A Star is Born

Cilla the Musical opened at Birmingham’s New Alex Theatre last night and proved to be the best new musical of the year. The story of the rise to fame of the legendary Cilla Black, and her love story with Bobby Willis is an astounding piece of theatre that combines the best music of the 1960s with a poignant story, and, with incredible performances from the whole cast, this musical is set to be a new classic.

It’s 1962 and Priscilla White is a Liverpool typist who longs to be a singer. Plucking up the courage to get up on stage with a local band, she is spotted by local boy Bobby Wlllis, who is immediately smitten by her talent and personality. He offers to be her manager, although his first attempt at negotiating a contract fails miserably and sees him out of pocket every time she sings. Her friends are another Liverpool band, The Beatles, and they arrange for her to sing with them as a sort of audition for their manager, the debonair Brian Epstein. But Cilla chooses the wrong song and the audition is a disaster. With help from Bobby, she gets back on her feet and back on stage, and when Epstein chances upon Cilla singing gutsy rock and roll, he sees her potential and signs her to a contract. After one false start, Cilla is number one. But what does fame mean to her relationship with Bobby? And is the music she is singing really what is right for her. Cilla gets her fame, but also everything unwanted that comes with it.

Cast of Cilla The Musical – Liverpool Empire – Photo By Matt Martin

In the role of Cilla we have a star making performance by the incredible Kara Lily Hayworth. She is Cilla, from the voice, the mannerisms, the sparkling personality, basically everything we loved about our favourite Scouser. When she delivers ‘Anyone who had a heart’ it is literally spine tingling, the hairs on your arms just stand up, and ‘You’re my World’ is equally as good. The relationship with Bobby is fabulous, the chemistry, banter and, at times, the pain, is all there.

Kara Lily Hayworth (Cilla) – Cilla The Musical – Liverpool Empire – Photo By Matt Martin

Bobby is played by Carl Au and it is another performance that blows you away. His Bobby is cheeky, likeable and self sacrificing, he has a beautiful voice, best demonstrated on ‘A Taste of Honey’ where he gives a stunning delivery, but abandons his chance of fame to be Cilla’s rock, even though, at times, she treats him appallingly.

Completing the three central performances we have the always reliable Andrew Lancel as Brian Epstein in a performance that is filled with pathos. His deterioration, from the suave, assured manager and businessman of the early scenes, to the desperate man ravaged by his demons in his final scenes, is devastating, a heartbreaking performance that gives Cilla a dark edge.

The scene setting of the 1960s, with note perfect musical performances from The Beatles, The Mamas and the Papas (absolutely uncanny) and Gerry and the Pacemakers, all go to make this the consummate 1960s musical. Add in the sets that eerily recreate The Cavern and The Ed Sullivan show and you have a classy retelling of a fascinating story.

Kara Lily Hayworth (Cilla) – Cilla The Musical – Liverpool Empire – Photo By Matt Martin

Cilla the Musical is simply brilliant. Beg, steal of borrow a ticket. Five Stars all the way.

CILLA – THE MUSICAL

WRITTEN BY JEFF POPE

DIRECTED BY BILL KENWRIGHT & BOB TOMSON

New Alexandra Theatre Birmingham                                                    atgtickets.com/Birmingham

10 – 14 October

The Wedding Singer is a Joy at Wolverhampton Grand

I really should start this review with a disclaimer. I absolutely love the movie version of ‘The Wedding Singer.’ I love it as a love letter to the 1980s, it’s use of fashion and music, and the superb cast, Drew Barrymore, Adam Sandler, Billy Idol and the rappiing granny. So as much as I was looking forward to the musical theatre version which is currently at the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre, there was some sense of trepidation. I needn’t have worried. The Wedding Singer is just glorious, the ultimate feel good night out that has music, comedy and a lovely warm centre,

It’s 1985 and Robbie Hart is a wedding singer, part of a group with his best friends Sammy and George who provide music at nuptials. Robbie is looking forward to his own upcoming wedding to Linda. But when Linda leaves him a ‘Dear John’ letter and literally jilts him at the alter, Robbie’s life falls apart. But support is forthcoming from the lovely Julia, a waitress at many of the weddings he plays at, and the pair start to fall in love. Unfortunately Julia is engaged to the rather odious Wall Street dealer Glen Gulia, and so it seems that the perfectly matched couple will never get together.

There is so much to love about The Wedding Singer. The performances are a joy, with the whole cast just perfect in their roles. Jon Robyns is fantastic as Robbie, warm and funny in his happier times, and frankly hilarious when he loses it during ‘Somebody Kill Me.’ He has a wonderful chemistry with Cassie Compton as Julia, and Cassie herself is just lovely as Julia, sweet and charming throughout. Ray Quinn is a great bad guy as Glen Gulia, and his performance of ‘All about the Green’ is another highlight, whilst the veteran Ruth Madoc is frankly hysterical, I don’t think I will ever get over the sight of Ruth rapping and dabbing.

The supporting cast are also brilliant, with Ashley Emerson (Sammy), Samuel Holmes (George) and Madonna-alike Stephanie Clift (Holly) all stealing scenes and looking like they are totally enjoying themselves. And mention must be made of the numerous supporting roles played by Mark Pearce. Each characterisation he made was memorable and superb, from the bitter drunk brother giving a wedding speech, to the barfly extolling the single life in the ‘Single’ bar scene.

The Wedding Singer nods its head towards 1980s pop culture in so many wonderful ways, from the choreography in the ‘Casulty of Love’ scene with echoes of Thriller, to the priceless ‘Single’ bar scene that could be from an episode of Cheers, with the ‘Single’ song as its theme tune. Combined with the likes of Tina Turner, Mr T and, of course, Billy Idol appearing in those final scenes, and you have a musical that is a real tribute to all that was good about the 1980s (and in the Wall Street scenes with Ray, all that was bad about the decade of greed.)

Funny, feel good and with a fabulous cast, The Wedding Singer is not to be missed. I loved it from start to finish.

Thu 5 Oct – Sat 7 Oct

THE WEDDING SINGER

Wolverhampton Grand Theatre

Click here for ticket information