A brand new festive show by Northern Ireland’s very own musical maestro Paul Boyd is set to brighten up Christmas at Newtownabbey’s Theatre at the Mill from December 1 to 13.
Tinseltown, the 21st professional stage musical by the award-winning Newtownabbey born writer/director is a fantasy adventure exploring the quirkier side of Christmas.
Paul Boyd, who has several West End hits to his name, has assembled a stellar cast and crew for his latest stage production and is looking forward to the show premiering in the beautiful theatre at Mossley Mill.
He praised Theatre at the Mill for its commitment to new writing and ambitious live productions.
“Theatre at the Mill has been at the forefront of premiering exciting new shows and this is very important for the development of theatre in Northern Ireland. They know the audiences love them and I am not sure anyone else does it so well. They give artists the freedom to do something a bit different,” he said.
Tinseltown is a fast-paced, hilarious Christmas musical fantasy with a beautiful chocolate box set imagined by David Craig, one of the principal designers on the hit show Game of Thrones. Costumes have been created by fellow Game of Thrones designer Cala Barrow.
Paul said: : “It’s hard to get people of this calibre these days so it’s great to get them involved in a big new show. They agreed because it isn’t a fluffy story. It has a bit of an edge to it and it’s real storytelling.”
It tells the story of Jack, a young boy who doesn’t believe in Christmas, who stumbles upon a secret village deep in the woods. His appearance upsets the equilibrium of the village and its resident wicked witch senses the opportunity to cancel Christmas.
Audiences will be enchanted right from Paul Boyd’s opening number, ‘Spirit of Christmas’, a high energy festive song that could be straight out of Mariah Carey’s Christmas album.
Paul says the music deliberately has a cinematic quality as today’s audiences are used to big the drama of big screen scores from the likes of Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter.
He added: “Nowaday we are competing with the cinema and TV. That’s why we put live music in the show because that is something that those two mediums can’t do. Also, unlike going to a movie you get a different experience every night. That is the beauty of live theatre.”
During his research Paul studied the root of all our Christmas traditions and has re-imagined them. For example, in his show the circle of traditional Christmas wreaths signify that there are zero days to go until the big feast. The villagers hang holly number one on their doors when there is a day to go.
The show features some of the leading musical theatre talents in the UK, including young emerging stars from Northern Ireland forging great careers in the West End.
Christopher Finn plays Jack, the eponymous hero and everyman, who has run away from home but doesn’t remember why. Christopher, from Grimsby has become an adopted son of the Northern Ireland having performed at the Theatre at the Mill, the Lyric and the Black Box in recent years.
He said: ““I can’t really escape. I played Quasimodo in the Theatre at the Mill last Christmas and was in Hansel and Grettel the year before and in Molly Wobbly at the Black Box. I also performed in Elegies for the Rainbow Project at the Black Box, so Northern Ireland has become like a second home.”aHan
Hillsborough’s very own musical sensation, Rhiannon Chesterman, from the UK touring production of Hairspray, plays Pookie Bogthrollop, one of the Tinsels, whose job is to collect holly. She finds Jack out in the outer woods and brings him to the village.
She said: “She is a typical Tinsel, very outgoing and is friends with Boke Nubbins. They collect holly together for Christmas. She goes off into the outer woods where she meets Jack. She brings him to the town and that’s where the story takes off.”
Boke Nubbins is played by Lurgan’s Conleth Kane, who was a frontrunner in RTE’s Fame the Musical a few years back. Conleth loves Christmas and was delighted to be asked to take part in the show.
He said: “I’m still trying to work Boke out. He’s quite innocent but he knows what he’s doing. Paul has written a lot of cracking tunes for me including the opening song, which is radio-friendly.
“It’s a parody of all those upbeat songs , similar to ‘All I Want for Christmas is You’. It captures the era of the 80’s and 90’s with all those big Christmas hits. Fifty per cent of Christmas is nostalgia. You listen to all those old songs and you never get sick of them. Paul has done really well to recreate that for a new generation of kids.
“Christmas is my guilty pleasure so it is right up my street. When he offered me a part in the show, I had no hesitation, I said ‘Book me In’. It is a chance to be a kid again. With this show you have to give 150%. It is full on energy from start to finish.”
Jane Milligan, the daughter of comic genius and member of the Goons – Spike, is playing the evil witch Foofaleena. It is a role she is used to as she also played the witch in Paul Boyd’s highly acclaimed musical Hansel and Grettel on stage in Belfast two years ago.
She said: “It is brilliant to be performing in Northern Ireland again. Paul Boyd is a very gifted writer and director and I have worked with him for over 25 years. The witch in Tinseltown is the witch from Hansel and Grettel and I really look forward to playing her again.”
The cast also features Northern Ireland TV star Nuala McKeever and former artistic director of the Lyric Theatre Richard Croxford in his first stage role since returning to acting.
Nuala plays Fertyl Baps and village’s baker and Richard is Nelson Flung, the panicky Mayor. The relationship between the two provides some of the show’s funniest moments.
Nuala said: “I also play her brother Craggy Baps. Mrs Baps is very down to earth and always trying to keep the Mayor calm. She is the voice of Pastry and Reason. Richard and I are having fun teaching the others everything we know about dance.”
Richard added: “Nelson is great fun to play. He is very full of himself and pompous but a real panicker, trying to get everyone ready for Christmas. He has many names. He tells Mrs Baps that she should refer to him as Mr Mayor or ‘Your Grace’ so he gets called Grace, which becomes Gloria. Don’t ask me why!”
For further information on Tinseltown, contact Theatre at the Mill on 02890340202 or www.theatreatthemill.com