A Chorus Line at Curve: ‘My exclusive, behind-the-scenes chance to watch the mesmerising Christmas show take shape’

Chorus of approval: the cast of A Chorus Line at Curve. Image by Marc Brenner.

From read-throughs to rehearsals to curtain up, De Montfort University Journalism student Maykel Valladares followed the rise of Curve’s critically acclaimed Christmas show – and blogged about it for the Leicester theatre’s website. How did she land the role? Here’s her story

It’s July 2020, mask mandates are put into place and people are still encouraged to stay at home in the state of Utah. I needed to find something to keep me busy, so I registered for a summer semester of school. I spent a lot of time sewing since I was pursuing a fashion degree.

One day I was cutting and ironing a significant amount of fabric and I wanted to play something on the television so I wasn’t working in silence. I saw that the popular Broadway musical “Hamilton” had recently been made available on Disney Plus, so I decided to turn it on. As it went on, it was no longer background noise. I became hooked on the story, the dancing, and the music. This was the start of my obsession for musical theatre.  

Fast forward to October 2021. I have taken the leap to live in England and I’m studying Journalism at De Montfort University in Leicester. Even though it’s a dream come true to study abroad, I knew I had my work cut out for me.

During the first week of classes on the Arts and Entertainment Journalism module at DMU, I found out about an internship that was available at Curve Theatre in Leicester, as a blogger for their big Christmas production of A Chorus Line. The blogger would get to sit in on rehearsals and help give a glimpse of what goes on behind the scenes.

A chance for me to practice my writing and I get to watch a musical? Sign me up!

I applied and got an interview with Fiona Moore, the press and digital manager at Curve. She’s incredibly sweet and was kind enough to offer me the position.

Utah to Les-tah: Maykel at Curve

I started on November 1, the first day of rehearsals. You could feel the excitement radiating off this new cast. As I looked around the rehearsal room, there were mood boards hung up all over and a miniature model of what the set will look like. I loved seeing the 1970s inspirations the set and wardrobe designers were using.

That first day, it was just the cast getting to know each other and doing a reading of the script. They all sat in a circle and even though there was no singing and dancing, they were animated and were starting to become their character. Honestly, I would pay just to watch that.

‘It has been a privilege to learn about how much work it takes to bring a production together.’

Maykel Valladares

Every week I would check back in with the cast seeing how the show was progressing. Going to rehearsals was the highlight of my week. For me, watching them learn the songs and dances helped me grow my appreciation for theatre. I would get lost in their voices and was mesmerised by the energetic choreography.

I had never really thought about the hours of work that go behind a big production like this. You just go in, take a seat, and almost just assume that they have always know what they are doing. That’s not the case. They forget lines, they miss steps, they have to repeat everything. What impresses me is the dedication and discipline to practice for hours on end to perfect their craft.

Hats off: A Chorus Line at Curve, Leicester. Image by Marc Brenner.
Mirror man: Adam Cooper as Zach. Image by Marc Brenner
In the air tonight: the mighty Carly Mercedes Dyer as Cassie. Image by Marc Brenner

During most rehearsals, director Nikolai Foster would stress the importance of understanding the story of A Chorus Line. It’s a story of these actors from all different backgrounds just trying to pursue their passion. The audience won’t be able to relate if the actors themselves can’t relate to the story.

“This is a story about your childhood being over and moving towards the future,” said Nikolai, “Embrace it with your energy and connect the story to you.”

The relatability of A Chorus Line is what makes it one of my favourite musicals. I love Nikolai’s reason for bringing this show to Curve.

“We are being made stronger by the trauma and the anxiety by the sheer terror of what we’ve all been through,” said Nikolai.

Going to the theatre is what gives me an escape from the uncertainty of life. Even if it’s just temporary, seeing the characters of this show singing about the struggles of growing up makes me feel like I’m not alone. I think everyone will be able to relate to some aspect of this show.

It has been a privilege to learn about how much work it takes to bring a production together. It feels like just yesterday it was the first rehearsal and it was just a simple reading. Now, it’s the highlight of the holiday season for all those who watch it. 

A Chorus Line runs at Curve, Leicester, until Friday, December 31. Read Maykel’s blog for Curve here. And book tickets for the show here: https://www.curveonline.co.uk/whats-on/shows/a-chorus-line/

A marriage made in Leicester: DMU journalism graduates tie the knot

By Thomas Carter

A twisted ankle on a fateful trip to Prague sparked a romance which blossomed during journalism studies at De Montfort University for two sweethearts who have now got married in a stunning autumn ceremony.

Love was truly written in the stars for Sam Ellison and Alice Gibbs, who were first of all classmates in joint honours journalism classes before going on together to study on DMU’s Channel 4 Investigative Journalism MA postgraduate course.

The happy pair first discovered their connection during a trip to Prague organised by DMU.

WEDDING BELLS: DMU alumni Sam and Alice at their ceremony

“We went on a DMU trip to Prague where Alice introduced herself to me, even though we’d been sat across from each other in the same class for a year!” explained Sam, now 29.

“On a night out I actually hurt my ankle, damaging a ligament, and Alice stayed back at the room to look after me.

“She spent the night running back and forth from the freezer getting tea towels to ice my ankle, and we hit it off from there.”

From that night, the two became best friends, spending all their time together for the remainder of their years at university, with Sam proposing while the couple were on a holiday in Ireland in 2019.

Thankfully, there were no Covid-19 restrictions affecting how many people could attend their wedding last month (OCT29), meaning the couple were able to celebrate their special day together with 100 of their family and friends.

Alice, 26, said: “It was really brilliant, even with us being so worried in the build up that someone might test positive for Covid-19 or if there was another lockdown.

“The timing couldn’t have been better as we always said we wanted to get married at the end of October 2021.

“We both like the autumn, and we had all the pumpkins out, which were great!”

Many former classmates joined them for the celebrations, with Lewis Bagshaw being the best man and Melinda Stead the maid of honour. Both are DMU graduates in journalism and psychology respectively.

DMU REUNION: Lewis, Sam, Alice and Melinda (left to right) met during their time at university

Alice, who since graduating has gone on to be a freelance journalist and now works in the marketing department at Next, added: “All of the tutors [at DMU] were so fantastic and supportive, they helped me get to where I wanted to go. 

“I did some amazing things, such as work experience, because they encouraged me to do it. 

“I genuinely think studying journalism was one of my favourite things about my time at university.”

The couple wanted to emphasise the important role that their lecturer, Andy Plaice, who sadly died in February last year, had on their lives.

Sam, who is a content writer for UK Linkology, said: “Andy was such a big part of our time at university, right from the first year onwards, and his classes brought us together.”

On behalf of everyone at DMU, we would like to wish Sam and Alice the very best for their future together.

Restaurant review: ORSO Leicester… does it live up to the hype?

During Leicester Restaurant Week, Ana Goncalves pays a visit to ORSO Leicester to see if the place lives up to the hype after tirelessly hearing numerous recommendations.

ORSO is a quaint coffee shop on Market Place, right next to Leicester Market, and has been open for just over a year now.

In that time, it has been busy carving out a nice reputation as an affordable and cosy place for students, pensioners and busy shoppers to spend the cold winter days.

I’ve heard so many good recommendations, and whenever I pass by, catching a whiff of the freshly-made coffee and a hint of cinnamon, I can see full tables and happy faces through the windows. It looked – and smelled – great. 

My experience? Not quite as positive, unfortunately.

When I arrived, I was immediately greeted by staff and went to the till to grab a menu. Orso offer different types of toast and drinks. Their prices range between £3.50 to £7 for sourdough toast, and between £1.80 to £4.50 for drinks. 

I got ‘The Avo One’, a sourdough toast with fresh smashed avocado and lime, topped with poached eggs and seeds, a Chai, and an OJ. 

‘The Avo One’, Chai & OJ – taken by Ana Goncalves

First, they brought the Chai. I have to say, it was as white as milk, which is quite weird because chai is supposed to have a light brownish colour. And as I took my first sip, my fears were confirmed. It was just sugary milk with a dash of cinnamon on top.

Definitely disappointed, as Chai is meant to be a very flavourful mix of herbs and spices. 

The avocado toast, on the other hand, was good. I had to ask for salt & pepper, as it needed the seasoning for the flavours to be more accentuated, but other than that, it was okay.

And the OJ was my favourite – freshly-made like OJ is supposed to be.

I believe ORSO is perhaps one of those places you only go to once. The price-quality ratio is not worthy in my opinion, and I was very disappointed with the Chai, mainly. 

Overall, it doesn’t live up to the hype. I would give it a 3/5.

Leicester’s Christmas ice rink returns next month

By Em Brooks

Leicester’s Christmas ice rink is set to return to the city centre next month.

The ice rink has been a big part of Leicester’s festive events in recent years with more than 25,000 tickets being sold for it in 2019 alone.

Last year, due to Covid the rink did not appear. However, due to restrictions being lessened this year, it is returning.

Appearing alongside the ice rink will be a Ferris wheel with various other holiday themed items appearing in the city.

Reacting to the news, a Leicester mother said about taking her daughter to go ice skating: ‘’It’ll be a great experience.’’

Another older couple added that they’re both: ‘‘Glad to see it return,’’ despite not planning on skating themselves due to previous injuries.

Holly Dobson, a student at De Montford University said: ‘’I cannot wait to get back on the ice.’’  

As with previous years the ice rink will be hosted by Icescape.

The rink opens from Thursday, December 2, to January 3, in Jubilee Square. It will be open to all ages, both night and day, sessions last 45 minutes on the rink with hired ice-skates and skate-aids available. There are also quieter sessions available as well as reduced prices for off-peak sessions.

Leicester to have a smashing time this weekend

By Zarina Ahmed

Leicester’s Stokes Wood Allotment will be holding a pumpkin smash this weekend aiming to motivate locals to take part in environmental impact reduction.

A pumpkin smash offers the chance for any leftover pumpkins from Hallowe’en to be smashed and composted, reducing food waste.

So far, the organiser of the event, Carry on Composting, have collected over 100 pumpkins for the event, with another 40 at a local school.

Last year, 100 pumpkins were collected, with local schools joining in for the event, according to Rod Weston, an active participant in community composting.

Mr Weston said that small efforts done by groups, such as Carry on Composting, have been influenced by charity hubs that encourage the reduction of food waste.

He said: “We’ve been encouraging composting for years.

“I’ve been doing this for 10 years now, and similar events have always been successful.”

Going to various universities, schools and events, he and other groups have been encouraging others about leftover food waste, especially after Hallowe’en, which is a peak time to compost and reduce food waste.

The non-profit organisation has been set up to promote the reduction of food waste and the amount of waste sent to landfill sites.

The pumpkin smash is one of a number of similar events taking part across the city.

Leicester City Council, which has promoted the event, estimates: “That 15 million pumpkins are binned in the UK every Halloween – but the flesh, seeds and even the stringy bits can be used to serve up some delicious treats instead.”

Councillor Adam Clarke, Leicester’s deputy city mayor for the environment, said that across the city, there are: “Thousands of dedicated allotment-growers who are committed to reducing food waste, so it’s great to see these events happening that will help spread the message.

“We’re keen to encourage people to recycle more.”

The pumpkin smash will be held on Saturday(NOV13), from 10.30am to 12.30pm at Stokes Wood Allotment in Leicester.