We were pleased we followed our own yellow brick road of Christmas Lights and visited the redeveloped Leeds Playhouse which lit up a dark gloomy night with its new colourful city facing entrance, complete with a festive treat of a show inside.
“There’s no place like home”
It’s apt that the new base is housing a new Christmas production this year of The Wizard of Oz.
The theatre feels spacious, modern and accessible with state-of-the-art facilities yet all still with that community friendly feel that Leeds Playhouse does so well.
The audience alone proves what great work the theatre does at reaching people near and far. And this production is professional yet inviting.
We’re immediately transported into this magical show with a strong confident Dorothy (Lucy Sherman and Agatha Meehan) and audience favourite Toto the dog easing us into this classic story.
What I love about a lot of productions at Leeds Playhouse is the fact that they have a community ensemble of local people. But not only that the show is seamless and it’s hard to tell the professionals from the new talent as we are taken on this magical journey.
All the cast are strong and nicely choreographed with comical touches which pleases all ages.
The stand out actor for me is the Lion (Marcus Ayton) who punches the right note with his own take on the character. He is closely followed by the Wicked Witch of the West (Polly Lister) who is equally as flamboyant in her own way.
Whilst the auditorium inside Leeds Playhouse feels large, the cast cut through the vastness by utilising the whole space - as they travel through the audience and make use of the impressive set. It’s gives an initimate feel to a professional production.
For me, seeing the parents and carers wait for their loved ones who performed in the show was the icing on the cake showing how this theatre has yet again opened up its stages and made us all feel at home in the often distant world of theatrical productions.
As the show is long (2hours 50 minutes) I’d say it’s mostly suitable for older children and grown ups. Otherwise it’s the perfect family festive treat for the whole family.
The official lowdown
The Wizard of Oz, the spectacular family musical, is now open at Leeds Playhouse for Christmas 2019.
Production images revealed today show the magical land of Oz, where audiences are beingwhisked away on a whirlwind adventure down the yellow brick road, through the poppy fields and into the Emerald City.
New friends Scarecrow (Eleanor Sutton), Lion (Marcus Ayton) and Tin Man (Sam Harrison) join fearless Dorothy (Lucy Sherman and Agatha Meehan) and her faithful dog Toto on their magical adventures. Along the way, they meet the Munchkins of Munchkinland, played by young people from the Leeds City Region, and escape the clutches of the vengeful Wicked Witch of the West (Polly Lister) as they traverse the yellow brick road to find the mysterious Wizard of Oz (Graham Hoadly).
The Wizard of Oz, directed by Leeds Playhouse’s Artistic Director James Brining, is playing in Leeds Playhouse’s Quarry Theatre, which has reopened in time for Christmas following the building’s dramatic £15.8m redevelopment.
Audiences now enjoy improved access into and around the building, comfortable contemporary seating in the Quarry, new hospitality areas and a dramatic new city-facing entrance opposite Leeds City Bus Station.
As part of its first season of Christmas celebrations in its new look home, Leeds Playhouse is hosting a sensational sing-along performance of The Wizard of Oz on Friday 13 December, inviting audiences to dress up, sing loudly (and proudly) and join in the fabulous festive fun.
The Wizard of Oz, Leeds Playhouse’s Quarry Theatre
20 November 2019 – 25 January 2020. Press Night Tue 26 November 2019, 7pm
Box office 0113 213 7700. Book online leedsplayhouse.org.uk
11/13/2019 0 Comments
Leeds Playhouse in partnership with City of Sanctuary will host the inaugural networking meeting for theatres from across the country working to support Refugees and Asylum Seekers, this week in West Yorkshire.
The network is an opportunity for organisations to work together sharing best practice and responding to different political or world situations. The Refugee Council will be in attendance to offer support and context for participants. Venues attending include Sheffield Theatres, Oxford Playhouse and Sherman Theatre.
Head of Creative Engagement Ruth Hannant said: “Leeds Playhouse has led the way in becoming the first Theatre of Sanctuary in the UK, following our commitment to supporting and working with Refugee and Asylum Seekers. It is fantastic to be partnering with City of Sanctuary to share ideas and opportunities on a national scale with other organisations.
“Here in Leeds we have seen first-hand the benefits to those who are accessing the various Theatre of Sanctuary programmes at the Playhouseand it has been fantastic to see those individuals grow and develop skills that are benefiting them in all areas of their life
“This network aims to look at how theatres and theatre companies can work together on a national scale to join up best practice, share resources and jointly respond to different political or world situations.
“We are incredibly proud of the work we have done and continue to do as a Theatre of Sanctuary, and look forward to sharing this learning with our colleagues from other venues, as well as learning about the excellent work being delivered around the country.”
Leeds Playhouse became the first Theatre of Sanctuary in 2014, offering support and a welcoming environment to refugees and asylum seekers through a range of creative and practical projects. This dedicated programme of work includes; a weekly women’s singing group Asmarina Voices including a creative play session for pre-school children; and Hearts a young person’s group in partnership with the Children’s Society; Conversation Cafe run with volunteers from our Older People’s programme Heydays, using creative activities to enable people to practice their conversational English.
11/9/2019 0 Comments
By Sophie Mei Lan
It’s easy to hibernate at home as the cold weather and dark nights loom in, but I was glad we ventured out into the rain to find a stylish yet cosy pub, an Oasis on a main road in West Yorkshire.
The warm outdoor lighting of The Castle pub on Barnsley Road in Wakefield glowed in the dark, immediately drawing us in.
Not only has the pub, now my new local, received a stunning refurbishment, but there’s a full Vegan menu as well as the normal pub menu to choose from. There’s also an array of drinks, cocktails and hot drinks to select. Better still, you can drink and/or dine now in the comfort of a modern and welcoming establishment.
On arrival, the manager Mat gave us a warm welcome and showed us around the pub-cum-restaurant. The venue’s interior is an instagrammer’s dream with touches of gold, feature walls, pictures and different themed areas. It has been done up stylishly and you could tell the staff were proud to show us around. This gave us the perfect sense of a ‘homely’ pub feel with splashes of grandeur.
To start with we ordered drinks at the bar. I couldn’t resist an orange infused gin cocktail and my friend ordered a Peroni. We then took our seats at one of the tables in the dining area. It was nice that the tables were spaced out, rather than being too close together, they were nicely set out so you have adequate space to enjoy your food and drink with your friends and family.
Food and Drink
I was excited to see a full Vegan menu with a good range of exciting dishes. Whilst my friend scoured the standard menu.
I’m not used to having so much choice as a Vegetarian and it was great to see such a variety of dishes from a Superfood Salad to Spiced coconut Curry, Mezze Platter and Moroccan-Inspired Cauliflower Tart.
The desserts looked dreamy too with a Salted Caramel Billionaires Bar and Blackcurrant mousse just a couple of things on the Vegan menu alone.
The seasonal main menu has a huge range of steaks and rotisserie chicken from the grill to freshly made pizza and gourmet sandwiches.
My friend chose the SMOKED SALMON & KING PRAWN POT topped with Devon crab crème fraîche, served with ciabatta.
I had the Vegan Mezze platter to start which was as tasty as it is colourful with Tzatziki, Aubergines, Lebanese Salad, beetroot hummus and falafal with flatbread.
For mains, I opted for the Vegan Coconut Curry which was lightly spiced with some delicious aubergines and rice to accompany it. I couldn’t finish it as the starters were so filling but it was delicious. My friend had the 10 oz Rib-Eye Steak which is served with twice-cooked chunky chips, a roasted mushroom, confit tomato and parsley butter.
We both enjoyed the freshly made food which was tasty and filling… pub grub portions but at a quality restaurant standard.
There’s also a wide range of sides available to order from Halloumi Fries to Dauphinoise potatoes.
For desserts we had the THE HOUSE SHARER which is Vegetarian friendly. This included Home-baked chocolate brownie, white chocolate & blackcurrant cheesecake tower, Belgian chocolate & hazelnut mousse (which I could have eaten all night long) and a Bourbon vanilla ice cream cookie sandwich. It was a lovely way to finish off a decadent meal and a good way to try a few desserts. We definitely want to return to try THE AMBASSADOR'S MELTING CHOCOLATE & HAZELNUT BOMB: Rich chocolate ganache, hazelnut, crisp wafer and vanilla ice cream, encased in a dark chocolate sphere, melted with hot white chocolate sauce. And the Vegan WARM BLUEBERRY & ALMOND POLENTA CAKE with Herefordshire blackcurrants and soya vanilla custard or vegan vanilla ice cream.
The Castle in Wakefield is the perfect setting for business lunches, romantic meals out and an evening with friends. It’s stylish yet cosy, the perfect place to hibernate and be treated over Winter. Whilst the decor and food was brilliant, what really stood out for me, was the staff. From the moment we entered we were warmly greeted and shown around. The team couldn’t do enough for us from helping us select food and drink (with a good knowledge of all the menu) to making sure we were happy with everything. You could sense their true pride of the pub as if they were welcoming us into their own home.
This public house is definitely going to be our new local… and before now I would have said that I wasn’t really a “pub-goer” but if pubs are like this… I’m a convert.
The official lowdown:
The Castle in Wakefield has received a stunning refurbishment, re-opening to guests with a new look on Saturday 9th November.
The Castle, located on Barnsley Road, has undergone a significant makeover that has given the much-loved eating and drinking spot a modernised, stylish and contemporary feel.
Serving a top-quality, seasonal menu, guests can enjoy a broad range of premium grill dishes, including three premium steaks cuts from selected British & Irish farms – hand-cut by skilled butchers and expertly aged for superb tenderness and flavour – four-bone lamb rack with chorizo, chimi churri and butternut squash, or maple glazed pork belly with pig cheek. With fresh fish delivered daily, there's seared wild Atlantic scallops with cauliflower two ways, king prawn gratin in a creamy garlic, white wine & leek sauce and sea bass fillets in a vermouth velouté.
Still offering fantastic value, the fixed price Monday-Friday lunch menu includes a broad range of dishes under 650 calories, freshly made pizzas and gourmet sandwiches.
General Manager, Mat, who has 15 years’ hospitality experience, said: “The Castle is a hugely popular pub and provides a hub for the local community so we’re really excited to be part of the team as it begins its next chapter.
“We have made some stunning changes that have allowed us to create a modern, open and stylish look and feel to the pub – making it the ideal spot for friends and family to get together. We have loved unveiling the brand-new pub to guests!”
Its team has also grown with several new people hired to fill various roles. Head Chef Jodie Reed is leading the team, and has over 10 years industry experience.
As part of the refurbishment, the pub has received a full makeover, opening up the restaurant area and bringing new energy to The Castle. The pub also boasts a private beer garden, where guests can watch the local bowls club play during the season. A private dining area is also available for reservations, perfect for celebrations and private parties.
Its new improved décor is a top to tail transformation, taking inspiration from the UK’s most luxurious dining and drinking hotspots. The sophisticated décor combines dark purples, creams and greys with bold patterned wallpaper and sophisticated lighting throughout. The smooth leather finishes create an authentic and cosy feel to the historic pub, named after nearby Sandal Castle.
Go to: www.facebook.com/thecastlewakefield/ and: https://www.thecastlewakefield.co.uk/ for more details.
DISCLAIMER: We received this experience free of charge for the purpose of this review.
11/2/2019 0 Comments
I’d never seen The King and I let alone read the book Anna and The King of Siam but thankfully I rode the waves of this musical masterpiece at Leeds Grand Theatre.
Following its critically acclaimed Broadway smash hit run and a sold-out record-breaking season at the London Palladium, the multi Tony Award-winning production of The King and I has landed at Leeds Grand Theatre and is playing until Saturday 9 November 2019.
The King and I at Leeds Grand Theatre - Review
We are immediately transported to Thailand with Anna Leonowens and her son who arrive on a ship to teach the King of Siam’s many wives and children.
There were echoes of my own grandmother’s journey when she arrived in the Far East after a three week journey to live with my grandfather in Malaysia.
Anna and her son’s accents and attire immediately stand out in stark contrast to those living inside the kings Bangkok based palace.
Anna is in many ways a strong feminist who takes us all under her wing as she challenges the treatment of women as subservients.
Anna, played by Annalene Beechey, seamlessly embodies a feisty but loveable character who conforms just enough to win the king over and yet she still manages to stand her ground between what she believes to be right and wrong.
The King, played brilliantly by Jose Llana, who first appears ruthless but throughout the show he draws us in with his comical facial expressions and his willingness to take on Anna’s “guesses” i.e, advice about what he should do to woo the West who had dubbed him a “barbarian.”
Interestingly, the King had actually employed Anna to help modernise his kingdom. Whilst he's a polygamist, he is not necessarily barbaric.
Anna and the king begin to bond as they prepare to put on a western style greeting for a British envoy who come to assess the situation in Siam. Part of this is dressing the King's wives in large circle skirts which shows a clash of cultures as the women struggle to move in such clothing.
At times you feel uncomfortable as westernising everything about the East isn’t necessarily making it more “civilised” just more western.
But this contrast evolves into a fusion of two cultures. Anna and the King's relationship starts to blossom as they work together to impress the envoy.
Part of the visit is a show by servant Tuptim who is involved in her own secret love story. She manages to put on a play called the Small House of Uncle Thomas. It's a brilliantly choreographed piece of narrated dance with stunning costumes.
Whilst the show impresses the guests, the king is furious at Tuptim as the show tells the story of a servant fleeing a King and Buddha saves them but melts the river so the King drowns.
Tuptim then flees to be with her own lover.
Anna and the King continue to bond but refuse to admit their love, even as the King requests Anna to show him how to dance.
But the pair then dramatically clash as Tuptim is captured and brought back to the palace to be whipped whilst her lover is found to be dead.
Anna vows to leave Siam and prepares to board a ship leaving Siam with her son. But she is stopped in her tracks as she receives a letter from the King who is dying.
The pair reconcile in a touching yet comical way as the King communicates with Anna from his death bed. His last wishes are for his son to take the role of King and Anna to stay to help him.
The ending offers hope for the future and shows the kingdom's willingness to change.
The show is beautifully choreographed and the live Orchestra adds to the richness of this endearing show. Make sure you head to Leeds Grand Theatre before it departs.
The official lowdown
Directed by Bartlett Sher and produced by the celebrated creative team that brought the production to the Palladium.
Performing as Anna, fresh from her West End success, is Annalene Beechey, and reprising his critically acclaimed Broadway performance as The King is Jose Llana. The two stars have been wowing audiences since the musical embarked on its international tour earlier this year. Annalene said: “I absolutely love playing Anna, she is a dream role for any actress. I’m delighted to bring this wonderful production and our glorious King to Yorkshire!”
Set in 1860s Bangkok, the musical boasts one of the finest scores ever written, including Whistle a Happy Tune, Getting to Know You and Shall We Dance, and features a company of over 50 world-class performers with full-scale orchestra; The King and I is a testament to the lavish heritage of gloriously romantic musical theatre.
The King and I is at Leeds Grand Theatre from Tuesday 29 October to Saturday 9 November 2019
Book online at leedsgrandtheatre.com or call Box Office on 0844 848 2700
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