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Les Mis star is living the dream

To adjust the title of one of the best known songs in Les Misérables, Dean Chisnall is not Dreaming A Dream but living it. Ahead of the lavish production’s Norwich arrival, Dean tells JOHN BULTITUDE he has fulfilled a career ambition by playing Jean Valjean.

Norwich Theatre Royal is a venue which has a place in the heart of Dean Chisnall. On his visit to the city in 2015 where he played the title role in Shrek, he told journalists one of his career dreams was to portray Jean Valjean in Les Misérables.

Five years on, he is poised to do just that when Cameron Mackintosh’s iconic production returns to Norwich Theatre Royal for a five-week run.

“I still can’t really believe it. This is the reason why many of us do what we do. It is the reason why I got into musical theatre and it is one of the first shows I ever listened to,” said Dean.

“It is not a role, it is a privilege and I have always thought of my work like that. This show is really the ultimate privilege. There is no greater feeling and no greater responsibility.”

The touring role follows a successful run in the West End in the same role for Dean plus a glittering career which reads like a Who’s Who of best-known musicals including Blood Brothers, Mamma Mia, Love Never Dies, La Cage Aux Folles and Never Forget.

But his current part is one he has aspired to and takes very seriously. Dean explained: “The wonderful thing about the production is that you get to come in and put your own take on it but you never lose sight of why you do it. When the orchestra strikes up, you are very aware of the honour, the privilege and the history of the show’s last 35 years.”

But the journey to portraying this iconic character comes after an awful lot of preparation to ensure every member of the audience enjoys the perfect performance. He said: “The one thing I can say with my hand on my heart is that I have worked hard. Cameron Mackintosh is the definitive producer and he is the boss. He is so wonderful in what he brings to people’s lives as he produces shows of the highest order and he won’t allow anybody else in them without his say so. I find that is sensational for someone who has been doing it for such a long time.

 “That is because he cares. There is no greater privilege for an actor to know that his producer cares to that extent and that is a great pay off for us all.”

That dedication is repaid by the reaction of those who see it. Dean admits the audience are thoroughly immersed in the story. He said: “You can hear the audience’s emotion and you can sense it. Even though the clue is in the title, it is a very sad piece. It is the most uplifting piece of musical theatre as well because you get that shared experience and, although it is a really physical role, you feel wonderful when you come off stage.

“Mentally, it is also a real drain. There may be some productions where you can, to an extent, fake it but you cannot fake this show. There is such a journey for Jean Valjean. If you think about it all at once, you will go crazy but if you think about it step by step, I find that is the best way to portray it and to tell the story.”

The epic story, which takes to the stage from March 4 to April 4, is set around the French Revolution and is also an ideal way to escape the stresses and strains of life, according to Dean. “People can just come and forget. Whatever the reason you have come to see it, it is relevant and it is pure escapism. For three hours, you can escape from what is going on in the world as it is a tricky place to be right now. That is why our job is an ever bigger privilege,” said Dean.

Les Misérables will mark a welcome return to the Norwich Theatre Royal stage for Dean after previous visits saw him play The Narrator in Blood Brothers and the iconic role of Shrek.

His time playing the green giant certainly helped broaden his skills. Dean laughed: “Sitting there for two hours before each show being transformed into Shrek was very hard. The onstage part was a privilege to do but the off-stage part meant you really had to zone out and it was also so hot. You would come off stage with half your chin hanging off. I remember when I came to Norwich, it was extremely hot and we had a real heatwave.”

And Dean is also looking forward to spending more time in Norwich. He said: “I love the city. It has such a lovely vibe. When I have been in shows there before, I have not been there for long and so I did not get to see too much of the city. With this one, we will be there for a nice period of time and I am looking forward to exploring.”

So while it may be intense and moving but uplifting on stage, there is a definite air of excitement for Dean as he makes his long-awaited return to Norwich in a part he enjoys playing day after d

Les Misérables runs from Wednesday March 4 until Saturday April 4, 2020 at 7.30pm with Thursday and Saturday matinees at 2.30pm. Tickets £10-£66.50. Discounts for Friends, Corporate Club, Over-60s and Under-18s.

Book at www.theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk or call the box office on 01603 630000.

Dean Chisnell
The cast of Les Miserables. Picture: MATTHEW MURPHY

Cringleford woman charged with burglary and receiving stolen goods


Police have charged a man and a woman in relation to a series of burglaries across the area.

Christopher O’Neill, 29, from Kensington Road, Middlesbrough has been charged with ten counts of burglary.

The charges relate to incidents which happened on:

Wednesday 31 July at Colney Lane, Cringleford

Between Monday 5 August and Thursday 8 August at Mill Road, Blofield

Wednesday 7 August at Buxton Road, Spixworth

Wednesday 7 August at Mansel Drive, Norwich

Wednesday 7 August and Thursday 8 August at Lodge Lane, Norwich

Thursday 8 August at Coltishall Lane, Norwich

Thursday 8 August at Freethorpe, Norwich

Thursday 8 August at Bay Field, East Tuddenham

Thursday 8 August at Dereham Road, Honingham

Sheree Townshend, 30, from Brambling Lane, Cringleford, has also been charged on one count of burglary in Tuckers Road, Loughborough, on 9 August and one count of receiving stolen goods in relation to an incident in Boston on the same date.


Both O’Neil and Townshend, appeared at Norwich Magistrates Court this morning and were remanded in custody and are due to appear at Norwich Crown Court on Monday 9 September 2019


A fab night of music at Theatre Royal

I never got to see the Beatles perform live, possibly due to the fact that I wasn’t born until 1966.

My discovery of the Fab Four came much later when, as a 12-year-old, I found a stack of LPs and a portable record player belonging to my stepmum, a huge fan who also never got to see them live.

So last night’s performance Let It Be at the Theatre Royal was a right treat for us both.

The show looked back at the musical history of the “mop tops” through the recreation of signature performances such as the Royal Variety Show and Shea Stadium, interspersed with newsreel and adverts from the time. How we chuckled as the newly-married bride lit up with the voiceover slogan “time for a Capstan”.

The four performers were faultless musicians, swapping from guitar to piano and back. The joke back in the day was that Ringo Starr wasn’t the best drummer in the world, he wasn’t even the best drummer in the Beatles. You certainly couldn’t have said that about Ben Cullingworth as a believable Ringo. He was joined on stage by Richard Jordan as John (he passed the test with my stepmum, John was her favourite), John Brosnan as George and Emanuele Angeletti as Paul.

The first half was a tour through the Beatles’ back catalogue from early days to the Sgt Pepper years, the second half an imagined reunion for John’s 40th birthday taking in each band member’s solo material. This included a stunning version of While My Guitar Gently Weeps with the guitar solo masterfully played by ‘George’. George didn’t event play that on the original, it was Eric Clapton.

The audience ranged in age but had one thing in common, they knew the words to all the songs and were encouraged to sing along and get up, clap and dance.

A couple of crowd pleasers ended the concert – Let It Be and Hey Jude – before a standing ovation. A truly uplifting evening of music from one of the worlds best and biggest bands.

“Kill* for a ticket” – Patsy Webster (stepmum)

(*Don’t actually kill someone, obviously. The show runs until Saturday and tickets are still available. www.theatreroyal.co.uk)

Gay Webster

Pictures: Paul Coltas

No Great British Prom at Blickling this summer

The Great British Prom will be taking a break this year with a view to returning to the Blickling Estate in 2020.

Lisa Ward of organisers Revival Productions said: “We have been running this type of concert for many years and experience shows us that sometimes it’s good to have a break, with a view to coming back with renewed vigour.

“The Great British weather worked against us last year, however, we know that this event has become a firm favourite in the Norfolk calendar and so we are planning to come back bigger and better in 2020!”

Jo Bosch, visitor experience nanager at Blickling said “Our summer concerts are something we look forward to all year and are a highlight of our annual programme. 

“Classic Ibiza promises to be even bigger and better this year and we really welcome the approach our partners at Revival Productions are taking in asking what their loyal supporters would like to see at the Great British Prom event at Blickling in 2020.”

Revival Productions are asking the Great British Prom audience what they’d like to see for 2020. The traditional proms event or perhaps something different? You can have your say by visiting the Great British Prom Facebook page and commenting there, or email info@revival-productions.co.uk with your thoughts.

Lisa added: “Tell us what you’d love to see! We have a year to plan something very special for our Norfolk audience.”

Classic Ibiza will be returning this year on Friday August 9. For full event details please visit www.classicibiza.co.uk or call 01283 841601.

 

Blickling Great British Prom 2017, Photo by Simon Finlay Photography.

Norfolk drink/drug driving results shock

Nearly 190 people were arrested during the Christmas drink and drug driving campaign in Norfolk, with more people testing positive for drugs than alcohol.

Norfolk police have just released the results of the month-long campaign, launched on 1 December 2018, which targeted drivers getting behind the wheel under the influence of alcohol and drugs. A total of 189 drivers were arrested.

A break down of the results shows that 1,140 breath tests were carried out with 72 people providing positive readings, while 97 people failed drug tests out the 180 conducted.  In addition, nine people were arrested for failing to provide a specimen while 11 people were arrested for being unfit to drive through drink or drugs.

During the 2017 campaign, 947 tests were carried out with 81 drivers providing positive readings. Of the 172 drug tests conducted 56 drivers failed. In addition, six people were arrested for failing to provide a specimen while 12 people were arrested for being unfit to drive through drink or drugs.

This year again saw specific time slots at Norwich Magistrates’ Courts being reserved to deal with those caught drink or drug driving. This effectively meant that offenders could lose their licence within 24 hours of being breathalysed whilst facing additional fines.

Chief Inspector Kris Barnard, Head of the Roads Armed Policing Team (RAPT), said: “It’s disappointing to see that people are still prepared to take the risk and get behind the wheel under the influence of alcohol, although it does appear to be a minority of motorists.

“A notable difference during this campaign is that there have been more drivers tested positive for drugs than alcohol. While this is a concern, drug driving is something we actively target all year round. It’s also a reflection of our increased ability to carry out roadside tests for cannabis and cocaine.

“Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol impairs your judgement, making your reactions slower and therefore increasing the chances of being involved in a collision.”

 

A roadside drug-test device.

 

 

‘Vote for Cringleford’s Acts of Kindness’ plea

Cringleford Hub’s mission to unite the new community has led organisers to launch a year-long Acts of Kindness project in 2019 – and they’re appealing for your votes.

The scheme aims “to promote mindful compassion in order to help everyone to lead happier, healthier, more connected lives.”

Organisers are urging residents to vote for the project in the Aviva Community Fund 2018 scheme at www.avivacommunityfund.co.uk/voting/campaign/getinvolved before the November 20 closing date.

A hub spokesman said: “Having a year-long project promoting and enabling opportunities for individuals, families, groups, clubs, businesses and organisations to ‘pay it forward’ in our rapidly-expanding village, will enable the practice of kindness to become a habit; a way of being.”

Funding from the Aviva scheme would help create a “pledge register” for the Acts of Kindness, publicise the project and buy items for craft activities, gifts and props to take out to local organisations.

“Cringleford Hub’s story has grown out of the conviction that people can have a real and beneficial impact on the communities where they live and work and beyond, with practical and committed loving service,” the spokesman added.

The hub currently runs a community café, a weekly toddlers’ group, a children’s film group, in conjunction with Cringleford Parish Council; a weekly worship group, and community events from picnics to art trails.

Free support afternoon in Cringleford for carers

A care home in Cringleford is inviting the local community to a free event offering support and advice to family carers.

On Wednesday  November 14, from 1.30pm–4pm, the team at Care UK’s Cavell Court on Dragonfly Lane is welcoming people to its first ‘Communication for Carers’ event, designed to help local family carers to get to know each other and share ideas and experiences.

Gina Brown from Age UK Norwich will be hosting the interactive workshop and will discuss the different types of dementia, behaviour changes in loved ones, and tools for effective communication.

Carers are also encouraged to bring their loved ones along to the event, who will be able to take part in a range of activities delivered specially by Cavell Court’s lifestyle team.

After the event there will be a Q&A session with Gina and the opportunity to meet the friendly team at Cavell Court, as well as take a closer look at the care home.

Cavell Court home manager, Jennie Rodger, said: “Here at Cavell Court, we strongly believe that being informed and sharing experiences can make a real difference to those caring for a loved one, and it can often be a great comfort to hear that others understand your situation.

“Our free advice events always prove to be incredibly popular with local people so I’m hopeful that our first Communication for Carers workshop will also be a success. We look forward to welcoming Gina to Cavell Court for what promises to be an interesting and inspiring afternoon of information and guidance.”

For further information on Cavell Court, or to book your free place, please call customer relations manager, Samantha Woods on 01603 856 835, or email samantha.woods@careuk.com.

Cavell Court.