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.

Review: Easy Life at Morningside Arena, Leicester

Easy does it

by Abi Willock

“This is the biggest tour we’ve ever been on!” says Easy Life’s frontman Murray Matravers, beaming out at the crowd at Leicester’s Morningside Arena on Friday night.

The humble band are clearly ecstatic to be home, bounding around the stage. They’re also proud to be back. “Leicester is the best city,” says Matravers. 

From gaining the hottest record title with their single ‘Earth’ on Annie Mac’s Radio 1 show, to being nominated for three NME awards, Easy Life have rocketed in recent months.

This exceptional gig –  part of their ‘Life’s a Beach’ debut album tour – shows exactly why they have become so popular. Fans know how crystal clear their studio sound is, and their live performance proves to be just as striking. 

Matravers’ distinctive voice lends itself to his ever-poetic lyrics and the talent of Sam Hewitt is especially commendable as he switches seamlessly from playing keyboard to bass to the saxophone and sings backing vocals in between.   

Crowd participation adds to the vibrant atmosphere as Matravers surfs the uplifting hands of fans and shouted that he wanted to see “more people up on people’s shoulders” during Skeletons, a number that Easy Life performed on Jimmy Kimmel Live! in the US earlier this year. 

Slow Motion also creates a roar from the crowd as everyone puts their hands together and sparkling pyrotechnics light up the arena. Coming down on the rollercoaster of a show, the audience find themselves entranced by the beautiful opening notes of Temporary Love Part 2 as a sea of singing voices swayed along to the uplifting tune.  

Easy Life wow Leicester and are sure to do the same to cities nationwide on the rest of their album tour. Their homecoming show is a night to remember.

View from the crowd

“It’s hard to pick a favourite part of the night… every song was just fantastic,” says George Barrs, a fan of the band since they released their first single, Pockets. “I looked up at them on stage and realised, they’re just a bunch of guys from Leicester living their dream.”  

Elliott Luxton, who first discovered Easy Life when they were interviewed on BBC Radio Leicester in 2019, says: “They sound no different live, especially with their song Lifeboat. You couldn’t tell they weren’t in a studio. They’re almost better live.” 

Ninja Warrior centre hosts first night of Leicester Business Festival

By Adam Clarke

Dean Sayer, owner of Ninja Warrior uk Leicester

A Ninja Warrior centre that only opened five months ago was in the spotlight yesterday(MON, NOV8) when it hosted a major event in Leicester.

Ninja Warrior UK Leicester was opened only in June, but it was selected to host the Opening Event of the Leicester Business Festival.

Approximately 50 guests attended the meeting in the centre, including the mayor of Leicester, Sir Peter Soulsby.

Ninja Warrior UK Leicester features a café and two obstacle courses, one for adults and children and one for adults only, based on the hit TV show on ITV.

It was launched by owner Dean Sayer, who invested more than £1.2million into the project.

He said: “The leisure industry does need new things.

“It was a huge challenge [to set up]. You’ve got to train staff and you’re got to buy stock [for the café].

“This was a very expensive business venture.”

He said he decided to set up this business so that he could spend more time with his family.

Mr Sayer considered several locations for his new business, including Birmingham and Coventry, but ultimately decided on Leicester, as it had a huge retail park with free space, a huge population, easy access to the city centre and a lack of competition.

So far, Ninja Warrior UK Leicester has had the most business during weekends and school holidays, but Mr Sayer said it has an exciting offering for schools, and he intends to partner with them to hold PE lessons at the centre.

He said: “When children come here, they don’t see hard work or a traditional PE approach, they see fun.

“Indirectly, they get good exercise and activity, and burn calories.

“That’s my goal over the next 12 months.”

For more details about the centre, visit the website at https://ninjawarrioruk.co.uk/leicester/.

Leicester looks forward to Christmas lights switch-on

By Maria Karatzia

The countdown has begun in Leicester to the Christmas Lights Switch-on at the Clock Tower on Sunday, November 21.

The lights will switch on at 6.30pm as part of a free entrance festival in Leicester which allows everyone to join, in contrast to last year when the event had to be cancelled due to lockdown.

The hosts during the evening will be Jimmy Carpenter and Summaya Mughal from BBC Radio Leicester.

They will be joined by Antony Costa, who is a member of the boy band Blue, and former BBC Radio Leicester presenter Martin Ballard, now working as a professional actor who will star as  Widow Twankey in De Montfort Hall’s Christmas pantomime Aladdin.

Father Christmas and the Lord Mayor will also join the Humberstone Gate festivities, along with music and entertainment from 4th Avenue and The Platforms.

The event will run from 4.30 until 10.30pm during which people will be able to enjoy street food and drinks at a Christmas Canteen in New Market Square.

There will be  a free outdoor screening in New Market Square of the film Elf from 4.30pm. Performers, including bands and street artists, will be entertaining in other parts of the city centre.

 This year Leicester City Council has spent £50, 000 to update the city’s stock of Christmas decorations.

More than 16,000 sparkling lights and a spectacular tree, with 2,000 lights and 900 baubles, will be switched on.

The Town Hall will have its usual ‘Christmas Greetings’ motif together with some colourful new LED Christmas trees, while new red and white decorations will span the street at Gallowtree Gate.

Deputy city mayor Cllr Piara Singh Clair said: “I’m delighted that our celebrations will return to Leicester’s streets this Christmas, with just a few changes to make sure that people can join in safely.”

The city council is hoping the Christmas event will be a great opportunity for youngsters to have a fantastic experience with their friends or their family.