X-Factor Stars in London’s West End

Matt Cardle - Memphis theatre breaks

Sara benn
Hi Theatre-goers

I’ve been watching ITV’s the X-Factor on and off since 2005 (the first series completely passing me by) and with the announcement this week that the 2010 X-Factor winner Matt Cardle will be the successor to Killian Donnelly in the role of DJ Huey in the sensation musical Memphis at the Shaftesbury theatre, it made me think about all the other winners and runners ups from the tv talent show who may not be hitting No 1 in the charts but have forged out successful careers in musical theatre.

People often write off X-Factor for making ‘10 second stars’ who, after the obligatory Christmas No. 1, pretty much disappear off the planet, but there have actually been a good number of them who have used their 15 minutes fame to their advantage and not given up on the ‘performing music to a live audience’ dream.

Shayne WardI’ll start with the 2005 winner, Shayne Ward, who after initially having a string of top 20 hits in 2006, fell away into obscurity for a number of years until he popped up as the larger than life character of Stacee Jaxx in the 2011 West End production of Rock of Ages – the 1980’s inspired homage to big hair, blue denim and tight Lycra leggings. He has since dueted with Louise Dearman (Wicked) singing the Oscar winning song Falling Slowly from the musical Once; has toured the UK in the mammoth arena production of The War of the Worlds and has now landed a regular role in Coronation Street. The 2005 runner-up, Andy Abrahams, has recently appeared in the UK touring production of Godspell.

Runner up in 2006 was baby-faced Ray Quinn who was already destined for a life in the performing arts having started his career at a young age in the Channel 4 soap Brookside. But his success on the X-factor proved he could sing as well and he went on to star as Danny Zuko in the West End production of Grease at the Piccadilly theatre. He has since toured the UK extensively with many top-notch musicals including Legally Blonde, Dirty Dancing and The Rise & Fall of Little Voice. In between all that he won the 2009 series of ITV’s Dancing on Ice and was crowned the “All Stars” winner as the ice show came to an end in 2014. The winner in 2006, Leona Lewis, whilst not appearing in a musical theatre production did make her acting debut in 2014 in a musical film called Walking on Sunshine.

One of my all-time favourite X-Factor contestants was Rhydian Roberts who was runner up to Leon Jackson (Leon who???) in 2007. I’m a bit of a sucker for the velvet tones of a tenor voice, so was completely drawn in to Rhydian’s renditions of the Phantom of the Opera and the tear-jerker Somewhere (from West Side Story) during the competition. Rightly so, Rhydian went on to have a successful recording career with two top 20 studio albums and performing in a number of hit musical theatre productions including The War of the Worlds, Grease, We Will Rock You and the Rocky Horror Picture Show. He can currently be seen as Pilate in the UK tour of Jesus Christ Superstar. I already have my tickets booked!

Alexandra Burke - Edinburgh The Bodyguard2008’s winner Alexandra Burke started off as a pop-princess with enviable chart success, but then went the way as many X-Factor contestants and lay dormant for a number of years before making her West End stage debut as Rachel Marron in the phenomenal The Bodyguard at the Adelphi theatre in 2013. She is now touring around the UK with the same production.

I’ve already mentioned one of my all-time favourite contestants, but in 2009 Rhydian was topped by winner Joe McElderry. Although Joe failed to have chart success immediately after the X-Factor I always thought he should find his way into musical theatre – especially Les Miserables but what do I know? Over the last 5 years he’s released 4 successful studio albums (two of them getting into the top 3) and was the winner of tv reality shows Popstar to Opera Star (Series 2) and Channel 4’s The Jump in 2014. In 2012, he took my advice and began his musical theatre career with a cameo appearance in Dirty Dancing at the Sunderland Empire, followed by a one-off appearance as Tommy in The Who’s Tommy at the Prince Edward Theatre and appeared in Thriller – Live alongside Stooshe and Macy Gray. Joe Mcelderry in The Who's Tommy

This year he reprises his role as Tommy at the Blackpool Opera House for a two week run in September. Again, my tickets plus B&B are booked.

And so we come to 2010 and that year’s winner Matt Cardle who, I thought, did have a very “sellable” voice. I was surprised when he didn’t do as well as predicted in the singles charts. Anyway, he certainly didn’t give up on his musical dream and was picked personally by Memphis star Beverley Knight to take over as her leading man which he will do from 6th July 2015.

Kinky Boots Theatre Breaks in LondonAnd finally, 2011 runner up Marcus Collins has carved out a successful musical theatre career within the UK touring production of Hairspray and will soon be seen in this year’s London premiere of Kinky Boots with Killian Donnelly – that man making way for Matt Cardle.

Now is that a “six degrees of separation” scenario or what?

Well, that blog was a bit of a mini-production in itself! I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I have enjoyed researching and writing it.

Have a great rest of the week


Matthew Warchus First Season at the Old Vic Theatre, London

Hi Theatre-goers

I was reading with great interest about the forth-coming season at the Old Vic theatre under the new Artistic Directorship of Matthew Warchus who is stepping into the role this Autumn.

Outgoing Artistic Director Kevin Spacey will over-see his last production High Society before vacating the position after an 11 year successful tenure.

rob-brydon 200x200Matthew Warchus, who won an Olivier Award for Best Director in 2012 for Matilda the Musical, will begin his new season directing Gavin & Stacey star Rob Brydon who will lead a mammoth cast of young performers in a new play by Tamsin Oglesby called Future Conditional about Britain’s current educational system. Rob Brydon has also been announced as a member of the Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company and is appearing with the man himself in an adapted French farce called The Painkiller at the Garrick theatre next Spring.

After Future Conditional, Warchus will direct a production of Eugine O’Neill’s The Hairy Ape followed by family fun over the Christmas period in the form of Dr Suess’s classic tale The Lorax which promises ‘theatrical invention, songs and zany humour’.

timothy-spall 200x2002016 brings two star turns in form of Ralph Fiennes in David Hare’s adaptation of Ibsen’s The Master Builder and then Timothy Spall, not best known for his stage work, will star in Harold Pinter’s The Caretaker.

Warchus’ inaugural season ends on a high in collaboration with some old friends – namely composer and lyricist Tim Minchin and award winning choreographer Peter Darling (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) who were at the fore-front of the success of Matilda the Musical. They are now throwing their talents into the boiling pot again with writer Danny Rubin to bring us a musical version of the 1993 hit film Groundhog Day which sees a belligerent TV presenter relieve one horrible day in his life over and over again.

With all this to look forward to, it looks like it’s going to be another great 12 months for the Old Vic theatre.

Enjoy the week



Spring Awakenings in London

bill bailey

but not Spring Awakenings :-(

Hi Theatre-goers

Hope you all had a good Easter weekend and for those of you still enjoying the Spring break I hope you are being jollied up by the lovely weather.

The month of April has three big openings in the West End with Imelda Staunton giving a critically acclaimed performance in Gypsy which opens officially at the Savoy theatre on 25th April; at the Old Vic theatre Cole Porter’s sophisticated musical High Society opens on 20th April.

damian-lewis american buffaloHollywood comes to town with Damien Lewis and John Goodman leading the cast in David Mamet’s hard hitting yet funny crime drama American Buffalo which opens at the Wyndham’s theatre on 27th April (previews from 16th April).

Finally, the Theatre Royal Bath’s production of Noel Coward’s comedy Hay Fever starring Felicity Kendal and Simon Sheppard opens at the Duke of York’s theatre on 29th April.

bend it like beckhamOnwards to May and there’s the world premiere of new musical Bend It Like Beckham based on the British 2002 comedy film about a young Asian girl fighting against family tradition as she vies for a place on the local women’s football team. It opens at the Phoenix theatre on 24th May (with previews from 15th May).

We also have a revival in the form of The Audience which was last seen in London in 2013 with Dame Helen Mirren playing the pivotal role of Her Majesty. Now another Dame takes steps into the regal shoes in the form of Kristen Scott Thomas. The Audiences opens at the Apollo theatre on 9th May.

Towards the end of June Oscar Wilde’s exquisite comedy The Importance of Being Earnest begins its previews at the Vaudeville theatre on the Strand on 24th June with ITV’s Pirot David Suchet giving an award worthy performance has the intimidating Lady Bracknell. It officially opens on 1st July.

bill baileyIf none of the above appeal to you must be (a) mad or (b) out of the country for the next three months… However, here at Theatre Breaks we like to offer variety and know that not everyone gets as excited as us by musicals, so how about booking early for Bill Bailey’s Limboland tour which comes to the Vaudeville theatre during December – a fantastic Christmas present for anyone who loves their wit very dry or closer to hand are our fabulous Wimbledon 2015 Packages where you are able to watch finals matches on the magnificent No 1 Court.

Now, never say we don’t give you a choice…

Enjoy the week



PS check out the Vickster’s review of American Bufallo at https://vickster51corner.wordpress.com/2015/05/18/theatre-review-american-buffalo-starring-damian-lewis-john-goodman/ – has some interesting comments on seats and prices too!

Kids on Stage

Lion King - child stars

Kids on stage

Hi Theatre-goers

Is there anyone out there like me who, as a child, dreamed of being a successful actress on the West End stage?

I am very lucky to have fulfilled that dream as I was in two productions in London in the early 1990s – The BFG at the Aldwych theatre and The Witches at the Duke of York’s theatre. Suffice to say that the experience was absolutely the most thrilling thing I have EVER DONE IN MY LIFE. Oh, how I longed for those days of being a young 20 year old performing on stage night after night. But then a husband, mortgage and children over-took my theatrical aspirations.

So, today I was updating our websites with new cast members joining current West End shows and it got me thinking as I was reading about the 40th Billy joining the cast of fantastic musical Billy Elliot at the Apollo Victoria theatre that these kids are really living the dream… or at least living MY dream!

billy elliot - child actorsWith the aforementioned Billy Elliot having five alternate Billys, three alternate Michaels and Debbies respectively plus a troupe of young ballerina’s strutting their stuff eight times a week in the West End is certainly not living up to the old saying of “never work with children or animals”. The on-stage rapport between Billy and his best friend Michael is spot-on and the actors who play the role of Billy are sensational ballet dancers and gymnasts. How uttering brilliant to be so good in a dance discipline at such a young age that you can pretty much hold a West End show together single-handedly.

kids on stage in matildaAnd Billy Elliot is not the only show that proves children can be the glue of the production. Just look at Matilda the Musical at the Cambridge theatre where, in its first year, the four young actresses who alternately played the lead role of Matilda all won Olivier Awards in the Best Actress category. Having seen the show three time myself, I can confidently say that the Matilda’s are the crème de la crème of child actors. But for those that know the Roald Dhal story, Matilda shares the stage with a rotation of 24 other children all who shine as her classmates – especially the young actors who play the chocolate cake eating Bruce.

charlie bucket child actor in London's west endAt the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, not so new-kid-on-the-block Charlie and the Chocolate Factory boasts 16 children alternatively playing the parts of Charlie and the other four Golden Ticket winners some who don’t last very long in the show (I’m looking at you Augustus Gloop) and some who cling on for as long as they can before being taken off stage, kicking and screaming, by a pack of squirrels (yes, you Veruca Salt).

Lion King - child starsLong standing granddaddy of family shows – Disney’s the Lion King at the Lyceum theatre – has eight alternate actors playing the parts of young Simba and Nala – who have some great scenes together in the first half of the show. Of course, it’s Simba’s story so we do tend to see a lot more of him and all the times I’ve seen the show I’ve been very, very impressed with the actors who are usually no more than 12 years old.

So you see, it’s never too young to aspire to stardom and dream a dream … the London stage awaits!

Have a good weekend


Easter for a Short Break in London

beautiful in london this easter

Easter egg hunts, St George’s Day parades, the Boat Race, the London Marathon, Mother’s Day… it must be Spring 2015 in London!

Make sure you keep the whole family entertained when you visit London this spring with our essential guide to what’s on in the capital during March and April…

Easter Theatre Breaks

Look out for special Easter events and activities for the whole family at London attractions

There will be Easter themed events at the WWT London Wetland Centre where real eggs and ducklings will be the order of the day. You can visit Kensington Palace and the other Royal Palaces and enjoy Easter egg hunts at the Cutty Sark, V&A Museum of Childhood and Kew Gardens.

For all those with a sweet tooth how about a chocolate afternoon tea at One Aldwych – the perfect way to compliment Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Theatre Breaks this Easter!

And remember sensational
Cats Theatre Breaks offer PURRFECT midweek discounts during the Easter Holidays.

St George’s Day

St Georges Day will be celebrated in style in the capital. Although the day itself is on 23rd, the Feast of St George will be celebrated in Trafalgar Square on Saturday 25th April with free events including a parade, food stalls, children’s activities and much more. You can combine this with a family theatre break to see Matilda in the evening or Disney’s The Lion King on the Sunday matinee.

London Marathon

It seems the whole world has its eyes on London during the London Marathon. Whether you are coming down to London to compete or support or just take in the atmosphere, a theatre break is a wonderful way to complete the weekend of the 25/26th April 2015. Check out Theatre Breaks for the Saturday of the London Marathon Weekend

The Boat Race

Saturday 11th April will see the 161st London Boat Race as spectators take to the banks of the Thames to cheer on the crews from Cambridge and Oxford universities. How about combining this with either of our two recommended shows Beautiful – The Carole King Musical Theatre Breaks or Lord of the Dance : Dangerous Games Theatre Breaks .
Check out other Theatre Breaks available on the Boat Race Weekend

Mother’s Day

Whether you treat her to a Mother’s Day Afternoon Tea at the British Museum, take her to see the beautiful spring blooms on one of Kew’s colourful tours of spring bulbs and blossom or watch a West End show – such as Billy Elliot . Here you can either book a break or just tickets for your Marvellous Mum.

And finally…

As they do every spring, the clocks spring forward an hour on the night of 28/29th March – so don’t forget to change yours if you have plans for Sunday 29th March… It’s no fun missing the first 15 minutes of a show!

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