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/

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.

The Leicester venue guide

After a tumultuous year and a half, venues need your support like never before. Here are some of the best places to see live music, theatre, comedy and more in the city

De Montfort HallDe Montfort Hall
@demontforthall
www.demontforthall.co.uk
Leicester’s grand civic concert hall sits on the shoulder of Leicester University, like Steve Ovett in the 1500m. Or maybe a more up-to-date reference.
In the past it’s played host to acts ranging from Louis Armstrong and Frank Sinatra, to the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, to Led Zeppelin and Iron Maiden, to the The Clash and U2, to Amy Winehouse and Adele, to … oh, loads more. It welcomes all manner of good touring stuff, from crowd-pleasing theatre shows to top TV comedians to major gigs.
Coming up: Laura Marling, Paloma Faith, Kasabian, Alan Carr.

Curve - photography by Hitz RaoCurve
@CurveLeicester
www.curveonline.co.uk
Leicester’s striking ‘inside-out’ theatre, which was designed to pull back the architectural curtains of a playhouse to allow audiences to get an idea of what goes on behind the scenes. Don’t leave Leicester without visiting at least once. The Exchange bar over the road is good too.
Coming up: Simon Amstell, Matthew Bourne’s The Midnight Bell, Tokyo Rose, Derren Brown, A Chorus Line.

O2 Academy LeicesterO2 Academy
@O2AcadLeicester
www.academymusicgroup.com/o2academyleicester
Two gig venues (capacity 1,400 and 500) built into Leicester University’s Students’ Union as part of a multi-million refurb of the 1950s building back in
2011. The SU had another major makeover this summer.
Coming up: The Libertines, Beastwang, The Skints, British Sea Power, Gary Numan.

The Y Theatre
@TheYTheatre
www.leicesterymca.co.uk/theatre
The oldest surviving theatre in Leicester, with a programme that takes in comedy, music and more. Find it near the railway station.
Coming up: Gary Delaney, Comedy of Black Origin, Iain Stirling, Sukh Ojla, Slim.

The Little Theatre
@thelittleleics
www.thelittletheatre.co.uk
The stage where a young Richard Attenborough took the first steps of his acting career is home turf for the Leicester Drama Society. The Little Theatre – find it off Granby Street – puts on a panto each year, and also hosts gigs for the Comedy Festival.
Coming up: Six Feet Away, My Mother Said I Never Should, Cinderella.

The Big Difference
@BigDiff_Venue
bd-tickets.co.uk
Royal Blood, George Ezra, Blossoms, Wolf Alice, Russell Howard, Romesh Ranganathan, Katherine Ryan and Tom Allen … you’ve missed them all at this cafe/bar/venue on Leicester’s High Street previously known as the Cookie.
It’s recently been taken over by the charity behind the Leicester Comedy Festival.
Coming up: Olga Koch, Black History Month Comedy Night, Rachel Fairburn, Kae Kurd.

The Musician
@MusicianVenue
www.themusicianpub.co.uk
A little bit hard to find if you don’t know Leicester that well: a small-but-perfectly-formed venue that punches well above its weight, bringing critically-acclaimed American roots artists – among others – to the East Midlands.
Coming up: Trials of Cato, Alice Robbins, Alabaster DePlume.

The Soundhouse
@The_Sound_House
www.thesoundhouseleicester.co.uk
Independent venue a short walk from the railway station that specialises in rock gigs.
Coming up: Hanya, False Heads, Beans on Toast

Firebug
@FirebugBar
firebugbar.net
Bar and 100-capacity venue, near to the DMU campus, in the old Gas Offices building on Horsefair Street, which has hosted gigs by Foals, Frank Turner and Frightened Rabbit and comedy shows by Stewart Lee, Russell Howard, Josie Long and more as part of the Bottle Rocket comedy night and Leicester Comedy
Festival.
Top tip: it does slap-up breakfasts at the weekend too, and they don’t start serving them until midday.
Coming up: Echobelly, Gender Roles and Sound of the Sirens.

The Shed
@getintheshed94
getintheshed.co.uk
Seedbed venue that first opened its doors in the mid-1990s. Home to the Ambush alt-club night, with past guest DJs including Enter Shikari, IDLES and more.
Coming up: Miss Bowie, Ohana, Oceans Apart.

2Funky Music Cafe
@2funkymusiccafe
2funkycomplex.co.uk
West End – no, not that one – venue, just off Braunstone Gate … so really handy for the DMU campus.
Club nights and tribute acts galore, and it’s recently had a major refurb.
Coming up: Sicaria Sound, Carroll Thompson, And Still I Rise, Polski Stand-Up w Leicester.

Attenborough Arts
@AttenboroughAC
attenborougharts.com
Leicester University’s public arts venue, which offers a mix of performances, exhibitions and courses.
Coming up: Chief Springs.

Upstairs at the Western
@UpstairsWestern
upstairsatthewestern.com
Leicester’s only pub theatre – just 42 seats above one of the city’s best-loved neighbourhood boozers.
Coming up: Too Pretty To Punch, Doomscroll.

The Phoenix
@PhoenixLeic
www.phoenix.org.uk
Leicester’s independent arthouse cinema, with an ace cafe. Well worth the schlep to the other side of town.

DSC_2259

Cinema de Lux
www.showcasecinemas.co.uk
Your nearest – and swishest – cinema. All the big new releases, and pretty much right on your doorstep. Fancy seats available too.