Hosted by much loved Tim Healy and his wife Denise Welch, with free birthday cake for all audience members, the show offers a succession of dazzling acts performed by well known stars who all have an association with the historic Theatre Royal. From ballet dancers to opera singers, comedians to West End and Broadway performers, all the acts have either walked the boards at the Theatre or have a longstanding relationship with it as an audience member or visitor. What unites them all is their love of one of the finest and most historic theatres in the UK, and a desire to celebrate its landmark birthday.
Panto stars Clive Webb and Danny Adams have accrued an enormous fan base across the North of England and Scotland during the comparatively short time they have been performing at the Theatre Royal. Relative unknowns when they first joined Jill Halfpenny here in 2004 in Cinderella, the father and son duo have since risen to the top of the billing as household names, selling out a pantomime in their own right with their unique blend of slapstick comedy and magic coupled with inimitable warmth. As living legends of Theatre Royal pantomime, they are set to entertain and delight young and old alike at the top the Gala bill.
One of the most celebrated, award-winning musicals on stage today, Billy Elliot has been dazzling London’s West End since 2005, and has gone on to captivate audiences around the world. A selection of the show’s young north-east based stars will gather together to bring a bit of West End magic to the evening, providing sensational dance accompanied by unforgettable music.
Also, fresh from winning the TMA’s coveted award for Outstanding Achievement in Dance and a guaranteed Theatre Royal sell-out, comes multiple award-winning choreographer / director Matthew Bourne’s company New Adventures with a dance sequence from one of their productions. Magical, enthralling and provocative, Bourne’s work is critically acclaimed and will prove a major highlight of the evening.
Allan Stewart, legendary performer and star of the West End production of Jolson adds some more celebrity glitter to the line-up along with king of Panto, comedy legend and self-confessed ‘Queen of the Jungle’ Christopher Biggins. What’s more, no Gala line-up would be complete without veteran showbiz duo Ian and Janette, otherwise known as The Krankies. Taking a break from their busy pantomime, cabaret and variety show performance schedule, the pair are offering their support to the night with a taste of the comedy and supreme showmanship that has rocket-charged their 40-year career.
Opera star Graeme Danby, known for his strong, dramatic portrayals of characters in his recognizable Bass tones, will also be supplying one of his vocal performances to the night. A local boy, Danby was born in Consett and after honing his talent at the Royal Academy of Music in London , has gone on to perform at several of the world’s leading Opera houses, including the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden and English National Opera.
Another vocalist of some repute and the artist to round off the line-up so far is star of the hit musical Chess (which premiered at the Theatre Royal in Summer 2010) Australian-born Daniel Koek. Star of the international tour of Saturday Night Fever and the acclaimed 50th Anniversary Tour of West Side Story, Koek has also received high acclaim for his debut album Self Titled Tenor which reinforced his reputation as one of musical theatre’s most promising voices.
Many more names are set to be announced for the show over the coming weeks, all artistes appear subject to availability.
All the artistes are kindly offering their services for free, and the profits from the ticket sales will go towards the Evening Chronicle Sunshine Fund, who support local children with disabilities by supplying specialist equipment, and Cash for Kids, Metro Radio’s charity, who deliver initiatives for sick and underprivileged children in the regional community, helping to give the neediest a better and brighter future.
Built in 1837 the Theatre Royal was the flagship building in Grainger and Dobson’s famous city plan. It features what is generally regarded as the finest Theatre façade in the UK, later combined with a fine 1901 auditorium by one of the great Theatre architects, Frank Matcham. Over the centuries, many of the great names of the English stage have played at the Royal, from Keane to Irving, Olivier to Dench and the Hollywood greats Orson Welles, Charlton Heston and Jack Lemmon have also trodden the famous boards. In 2009 the modern great Ian McKellen described the Theatre Royal Newcastle as his favourite theatre.
The Grade I Listed Theatre today is both neo-classical monument and cultural engine, with an annual audience of 337,000 and over 380 performances each year. Earlier this summer it underwent a major restoration to return it to it’s Victorian glory in readiness for it’s 175th birthday in February 2012.
The Birthday Gala appears at Newcastle Theatre Royal on Sunday 19 February at 7.30pm. Tickets are £25.00 - £47.50 (no concessions except Friends) with all profits going to The Sunshine Fund and Cash for Kids, and can be purchased from the Theatre Royal Box Office on 08448 11 21 21 or select your own seat and book online.
Other birthday events include the Birthday Blaze - a spectacular free outdoor festival taking place on the evenings of 18 and 19 February, and a series of fringe exhibitions and performances. Please consult the website for more details.