We’re off to see the Wizard! The curtain’s up on Curve’s Christmas show

Director Nikolai Foster’s re-imagined technicolour wonderland of Oz is here – and a perfect excuse to gather your friends and family for this classic Christmas musical.

By Dwija Raval

Oz you like it: Paul French (Tin Man), Jonny Fines (Scarecrow), Giovanni Spanó (Lion), Georgina Onuorah (Dorothy) and Ben Thompson (Toto). Photograph by Marc Brenner

The Yellow Brick Road has wound its way to Rutland Street, Leicester, and Curve Theatre’s revival of the much-loved story of the Wizard of Oz is shaping up to be a colourful Christmas classic.

The homegrown production, which opened last month, stars Georgina Onuorah as Dorothy, with puppeteer Ben Thompson’s four-legged companion Toto joining her on a turbulent journey from Kansas to the wonderland of Oz, a world where nothing is quite as it seems.

The reviews so far have been overwhelmingly warm. The Daily Mail called it sumptuous. British Theatre.com hailed it as “stunning, a kaleidoscopic riot of sight and sound.” What’s on Stage said it is “a smart, aural and visual joy with wonderful heart and adventurous depictions.” The Stage said there’s “plenty of magic.” The Guardian called it a “fun, if rather cluttered, production.” The Times struck a sour note, saying it lacked a heart.

Jonny Fines, known for his work in Curve’s My Beautiful Laundrette, is cast for the role of Hunk and Scarecrow, Paul French (Curve’s Grease) as Hickory and Tin Man, while Mamma Mia’s Giovanni Spanó will take play Lion.

American actor, singer and impressionist Christina Bianco is playing Glinda, Geoffrey Aymer (Curve’s The Colour Purple) as Uncle Henry, Hamlet’s Jonathan Dryden Taylor as Munchkin Coroner, Jacqui Dubois (The Harder They Came, US Tour) as Aunt Em, Andrew Patrick-Walker as Munchkin Vicar, English singer Charlotte Jaconelli appear as Ms Gulch and The Wicked Witch of the West and Mark Peachey (The Lion King, UK tour) will be seen as Professor Marvel and The Wizard of Oz.

The cast ensemble includes Andrew Dillon (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs), Martin McCarthy (Curve’s Grease), Dancer Ellie Mitchell (Cinderella), Natasha Mould (Grease, UK tour), Mervin Noronha (Greatest Days, Art is Dead), Amy Oxley (Shrek, UK tour), Christina Shand (Hairspray, UK tour), Tom Watson, Daisy West (Northern Ballet), and Charlotte St. Croix (Hairspray, UK tour).

It’s all been put together by the production manager Patrick Molony and re-imagined by Curve’s artistic director Nikolai Foster (Billy Elliot: The Musical, A Chorus Line, West Side Story).

The show is choreographed by Shay Barclay, known for her work in Cinderella (2021), Cats (2019), and Mary Poppins Returns (2018), and costumes of all characters and puppetry work are managed by costume and puppet designer Rachel Canning. Former president of the magic circle Scott Penrose brings alive magical moments on screen.

The magical setting of the story is created at the Curve by the set designer Colin Richmond, lighting director Ben Cracknell, projection designer Douglas O’Connell, and props supervisor Marcus Hall Props.

E.Y Harburg and Harold Arlon’s original songs like ‘the Yellow Brick Road’, ‘We’re off to see the Wizard’ and ‘Over the Rainbow’ from the MGM film are featured with additional music and lyrics by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. 

Guess we’re not in Kansas anymore: the cast of The Wizard of Oz. Photograph by Marc Brenner

The Wizard of Oz runs at Curve until January 8. Tickets are available online at https://www.curveonline.co.uk/whats-on/shows/the-wizard-of-oz/

Discounted tickets are £15 for under-16s/under-18s school groups, £20 for students/16-25 year-olds, and are 15% off for members. There is more information available on discounts and support on their website. The company has also organised access-friendly performances including British Sign Language interpreted, captioned, audio-described, dementia friendly and relaxed. 

Cinderella brings the magic to Leicester this Christmas (with a little help from AJ and Curtis Pritchard)

By Safiyyah Choudry

The cast of Cinderella at De Montfort Hall, Leicester

Grab your glass slippers and arrange the carriage because Imagine Theatre is bringing the spectacular Christmas pantomime of Cinderella to Leicester.

One of the UK’s leading pantomime producers will be transforming Leicester’s De Montfort Hall into an enchanted realm this winter for a festive extravaganza.

Running from December 10 to January 2, the family favourite will feature an array of sets, costumes and special effects.

The performance will involve a great deal of singing, dancing and laughing, all of the magic ingredients needed for Leicester’s show of the season! It will entail heaps of slap-stick comedy, audience participation and fun for the whole family.

It will star the dancing duo and good guys of reality television, AJ and Curtis Pritchard, as Prince Charming and Dandini the matchmaker.

CBeebies presenter Evie Pickerill will dazzle audiences with her debut as the leading lady, Cinderella. Jarred Christmas will bring the festivities back to De Montfort Hall for a second year to play Buttons. West End star Madison Swan will ensure her princess protégé is set for the ball in her role as the fairy godmother.

Tickets will start from £15.25, and audiences can enhance their experience with additional extras. These include an evening with AJ and Curtis for £40 and meet-and-greets for £45.

There will also be accessible tickets on sale, with relaxed and signed performances for those with disabilities.

Cinderella runs at De Montfort Hall, Leicester from December 10 to January 2 (excluding December 19, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day). For more information and tickets, visit: https://www.demontforthall.co.uk/event/cinderella/

Come as you were: Nirvana UK bring back the grunge age

By Sof Clarke

It’s been a ghost town on the live music scene the last few years due to covid, but Nirvana UK are resurrecting the spirit of a true grunge icon.

The tribute band have announced their 2023 tour dates, and Leicester is on the map.

“We are really looking forward to coming back to Leicester after last year’s great show!” said frontman Jez, who performs as Kurt Cobain. “You can expect more of the same from us, but more of a set themed around the ‘In Utero’ tour shows of 1993/94.”

After almost 10 years together, the band know everything about the trio they emulate. They even include genuine 1990s equipment and outfits to amplify the authenticity of an original Nirvana show.

“From vintage Tama drums, preamps, power amps, effect pedals, cabinets, speakers all the way down to microphones. We use all the same equipment as Nirvana would have used,” he said.

The tragic death of Kurt Cobain in 1994 denied a new generation of Nirvana fans the chance of ever seeing the band play live. “We really do all we can to provide the audience with the best possible representation of Nirvana live,” said Jez.

When asked about the type of people we can expect to see at the show, Jez said: “We see an entire spectrum. From nine-year-olds with their parents to the older generation who would have been into Nirvana when they were around.”

When questioned on the work-to-life ratio in the band, Jez replied, “It’s been very hard work at times but also very rewarding. I mean, not many people get to pretend they are Nirvana, right?”

Nirvana UK play the O2 Academy, Leicester on April 8, 2023. Click here for tickets.

TV Priest live at Firebug, Leicester: a raw, orchestral post-punk trip

Review by Shaikha Rahimi

Gone are the days where rock gigs are only about hair whipping and top-of-the-lungs screaming. From chest patting to the lyrics to swinging the microphone stand across the stage, Charlie Drinkwater draws a line between the audience and the band through emotion. And, above all, by being quintessentially TV Priest.

TV Priest’s debut album showcased who they are as a band as well as their versatility, and their second album hammered down their sound. Uppers was an unapologetic political statement and the predeceasing album seems to have traces of that, too. The earsplitting guitars and drums combined with Drinkwater’s vulnerable and honest lyricism created juxtaposition like no other.

Drinkwater, whose artistry is not limited to music, was profoundly immersed in the lyricism throughout the show. He did not stop at satisfying the audience’s ears; he brought the visuals into it. His stage presence is theatrical in a sense, and he almost innately feels the urge to act out his lyrics. “Life only comes in flashes of greatness,” he exclaimed, with his hands over his head. 

TV Priest on stage at Firebug. Image by Shaikha Rahimi.

One Easy Thing, one of TV Priest’s most known tracks, had to make it to the setlist, and the band’s ability to immerse the audience into the lyricism shone through once again as Drinkwater said: “And when you used to laugh, rooms used to open for you .. like a mother weeping.” 

He does it once again as he repeatedly patted his chest while building up the crescendo: “I need to sleep, so very, very deeply. But I am on the call, and I am waiting.” This moment was the highlight of the night. TV Priest put on a show that is well-rounded and strikes a balance between theatrical elements and rock music. I would not have been surprised to see curtains closing the show. 

With the size of Firebug’s venue in mind, it already felt like an intimate gig. But Drinkwater took the artist-fan interaction up a notch by sitting at the edge of the stage during Limehouse Cut, one of the many profound moments during the show. Contrary to the studio version of the track where Drinkwater’s vocals are low-pitched and sonorous, he howled and quavered: “Won’t you follow, follow me?” into the crowd without a microphone. Drinkwater is certainly au fait with sustaining fan interactions. “You can find us around our merch stall after the show selling T-shirts to pay for petrol,” he said mid-show. It seems transparency is not limited to his lyricism.

For the audience, this is a rollercoaster with consistent highs and no lows. It encapsulates meaningful lyricism, with zestful stage presence, and timeless sound. Drinkwater’s commitment to the vulnerability of his lyricism carried the audience through a plethora of emotions. He was clearly submerged in the guitar, bass, and drums. You could just see it in his face, and you cannot help but surrender to the intensity of their marvellous crescendos. Nothing held TV Priest back. This show was incised with energy, sensational vocals, and unparalleled stage presence.

The support act were London-based alternative-rock band Modern Woman. Their music is hard to label and is mysterious in its intent: post-folk-meets-art-rock. The layered instrumental excellence of the violin – yes, a violin – and the electric guitar with the rhythmic cymbals created a goosebump-inducing sound.

But it was TV Priest’s night: a show that felt like a raw, orchestral post-punk trip that gave the audience a thrilling adventure that was all about screeching guitars, pounding drums, and authenticity.

TV Priest’s current European tour takes in France, Belgium and Switzerland and concludes in Köln, Germany on Friday, November 25. Buy tickets at https://www.tvpriest.com.

Culture Kick: Judith Okoh

Students on De Montfort University’s Arts and Entertainment Journalism module pick the films, plays, music, TV shows and books that shaped them.

My favourite film 

I don’t think I have ever been able to choose just one favourite film because they keep changing over time but one thing I am sure about its that it has to be a romantic film.
I think one of the main reasons I love this type of film is because they are so far from my reality. I mean I cannot relate at all, but it is nice to see people being deeply in love and having a happy ending. 

The first time I went to the theatre 

The first time I went to the theatre was when I was in primary school for a school excursion. I remember me and my friends being so excited about it but left so disappointed, I cannot tell you much about it because I fell asleep halfway through. I promised myself I will give the theatre another try someday but it’s never happened. 

The TV show I’m currently binging  

I am completely obsessed with TV shows, I can go as far as watching Spanish TV shows that have maybe 40/50 episodes, like the one I am watching right now, called La Reina del Flow. But I’m also very strict when it comes to TV, if I do not completely love a show from the jump, I will not give it a chance, like I would if it was a film.

The first song I adored 

The first song I adored was the High School Musical song Breaking Free, it made me fall even more in love with the show and the main characters, I remember singing it along with them and felt like I was part of the musical. 

My karaoke tune 

Any old R&B love song like If I Ain’t Got You by Alicia Keys or Mariah Carey’s We Belong Together I will completely sing it word to word till my lungs collapse.
Also, I should mention I wholeheartedly believe that I can sing, even if my friends might disagree. 

The lyrics I love 

I love songs that have lyrics with a deep meaning, the ones that keep you thinking. I love the ones that have a play with words and you need to rewind it to understand it better and the ones you wish you could hear again for the first time.
For me, these lyrics have such an important impact once you realise what is truly going on in society.

The book I couldn’t put down 

I remember five years ago when I was completely obsessed with reading. I could finish a book in a day and there was this specific series that was so popular at the time – After by Anna Todd – and my mum used to tell me she couldn’t afford to buy all of them for me, so I had to content myself with reading them online. My phone was with me 24 hours of the day, so I would start reading them from the moment I woke up until I fell asleep. I couldn’t tell you how many times my phone fell on my face while in bed because I was sleepy but also too invested in the book so I always had to finish the chapter.


I think some UK shows like Too Hot to Handle are very hyped up, the concept of the show makes no sense at all and it’s ridiculous. I don’t know who is worse, us, the viewers who watch it and give them the ratings, or the people who actually apply to go on to these type of shows.

My guilty pleasure 

Although … if I had to choose a guilty pleasure it would be Love Island. It’s a show I watch every night when it’s on, but also a show I will criticise every time I get a chance, but there is just something about it that makes it so entertaining. Maybe watching other people’s drama distracts me from my own or perhaps I’m actually a messy person who enjoys drama…