Monday, 22 December 2008

Merry Christmas & A Happy New Year

As the big day approaches thought it would be nice to post a Christmas Message not only to Fran but to everyone who has been supporting her on her journey.

Hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas and New year and may 2009 brings you all health wealth and exciting opportunities.

Best of Luck to you Fran in the New Year and May there be many Great Opportunites for you in 2009.

(be sure to post any personal Christmas Messages in the comments).

Love & Best Wishes to you All

Monday, 15 December 2008

Message From Fran

Hi All Sorry for the delay in posting this message, this is due to technical difficulties ........ (a broken wireless mouse!) and also trying to find a new image but have to settle for a good old one for now as I think I've found all there are at the moment.

I recevied the following message from Fran last week after she received all her Birthday messages and flowers.

babe the flowers are absolutely amazing!!!! it was the most lovely suprise please please say a massive thankyou to everyone!!!!! and i was so touched by the cards and all the messages, i was lost for words!!thankyou so so much!!! xxx

AS you can see Fran is still as greatful as ever for all the support so be sure to keep supporting her here.

Monday, 8 December 2008

Fran News For the New Year

Good News - we don't have to wait an age for news of what's next

Fran will be involved in the following event on Sunday January 18th at "Kings Head Theatre" Islington/Highbury.

Primavera presents a one-off performance of one of the most popular thrillers of all time - The Woman in White. In his own time, novelist Wilkie Collins was as well known as a playwright as he was as the writer of The Moonstone and The Woman in White. His most enduringly popular novel has been adapted for the big and small screens, and even as a musical, but nothing proves as spine-tingling and haunting as Collins's own adaptation for the stage...

An exciting cast including Joanna Christie (Jill opposite Daniel Radcliffe in Equus), Francesca Jackson (Rent), and Anthony Howell (Foyle's War), present the LAST of Primavera's 'Forgotten Classics' rehearsed readings at the King's Head this year.

You can book tickets in advance from just £5 concessions (including Equity and students) and only £7 full price. Come along for what will be a fun night - the cast and audience always stick around for a drink in the theatre afterwards. The King's Head is easy to get to by bus or tube.

Facebook Page for The Woman In White

More Details Can Also Be Found @ the following link.

Kings Head Theatre Website

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Fran's Birthday is your one stop for Myspace Graphics
Happy Birthday Comments

As It's Fran's Day Today Just wanted to wish her Many Happy Returns from all of us here at the Blog. We all hope you have a wonderful time and enjoy your special day.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Radio Interview With Fran

Just found this little gem a radio interview for Radio Teesdale with our Fran

Another Old Article

And Another Old Press Article By our Fran.

I'd Do Anything star Francesca lands her dream job - About CSWY

I know this is an old article but I have only Just come across it  one of Frans first interviews when she got the role of Lucy in Can't Smile Without You.

Published Date: 17 October 2008 By LIAM RUDDEN
Arts and Entertainment Editor

TO borrow a line from her leading man, it appears Francesca Jackson was the one and only when West End supremo Bill Kenwright began his search for an actress to play Lucy in his new musical, Can't Smile Without You.
"I came out of the Nancy house on the Sunday and on the Monday was in his office singing songs for him to see if I was suitable for this job," smiles the 24-year-old, who got her big break when she was selected to appear as a contestant in I'd Do AnyADVERTISEMENT

thing, the BBC talent search to find a Nancy for Cameron Macintosh's new West End production of Oliver!

Jackson discovered that Bill Kenwright, who had been a judge on the BBC's second talent search, Any Dream Will Do, had been an avid viewer of I'd Do Anything and two weeks after she left the show, while the other girls were still battling it out, Jackson was signed up to her first national tour, which calls in at the Festival theatre next week.

"It was lovely. I just had to make sure that he was happy with me, and he was, and I was offered the part," she says happily.

All's well that ends well they say, but it could have been very different as Jackson was already an established West End performer when she opted to take the TV route.

"I'd done a three-year degree at Mountview drama school and had been in the ensemble for Tonight's The Night," she explains. "I'd also played my first lead in the West End, which was Joanne in Rent. From that I went straight into the Nancy house. So I was scared of the risks.

"What was going through my mind was the fact that if I was absolutely awful it could end my career. But at the same time it is the biggest and best audition you'll ever get. You'll never again get the chance for that many people to get to see and know you."

Although Jackson took advice from her friend Connie Fisher, who won How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?, she admits that the show wasn't quite what she had expected.

"My friend Connie won the first one so she'd kind of let me know what it was all about. However, I think I'd Do Anything was very different to How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria? because the BBC had worked out how to do it. They filled our days with more and more missions and knew what they wanted in interviews. They knew what questions to ask.
"It was a hell of an experience. It was terrifying and brilliant all at the same time. Very scary."

Luckily it paid off and next week Jackson shares the Festival Theatre stage with Chesney Hawkes as the 90s pop icon makes his musical debut in the show, which features more than 30 of legendary singer/songwriter Barry Manilow's best known hits.

"He is the nicest, down-to- earth person I have ever worked with. He has no airs and graces. He doesn't stress about anything. Just goes on relaxed, comes off relaxed, never changes," says Jackson of her co-star.

"When my mum said, 'It's Chesney Hawkes', I said, 'I don't know who that is'. When she said, 'You know, The One And Only,' I thought, brilliant."

Can't Smile Without You finds 37-year-old Hawkes playing Tony, the lead singer of an aspiring band on a visit to New York where they stumble across the latest TV auditions to find the next pop sensation. When Tony is offered a chance to perform, the other band members give him their blessing.

But before he can realise his dream, he is caught up in a tragic sequence of events which leave him fighting for his life. Left with no memory, his dreams are shattered. His only hope lies in the power of the music he loves and his feelings for a girl called Mandy – enter 23-year-old Siobhan Dillon, another How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria? graduate, as Tony's love interest.

"I play Lucy, Tony's fiancee," says Jackson, before explaining the apparent conflict in roles. "She is Tony's fiancee but she is cheating on him with his best friend. When Tony gets back from New York he gets in a fight and loses his memory. He can't remember that he's marrying her, so when she asks him if they can split up so that she can start seeing his best friend, he says yes.

"She does get nicer as the show goes on but I do get some boos when there are Chesney fans in, which makes it a brilliant part to play because I never know how the audience are going to take me."

With the book by Tim Prager and based on an original idea by Bill Kenwright, this new musical, which comes with Manilow's blessing, includes classic numbers such as I Write The Songs, Mandy, I Made It Through The Rain, Can't Smile Without You and of course, Could It Be Magic.
"I was a bit of a fan of Barry Manilow when I was a kid. He was on my i-pod already when I got this part," beams the actress. "Still, it was surprising when I got into rehearsal to discover how many songs of his I actually knew. Songs I heard but never realised were his. His writes incredible pop songs.

"We've been told that he's trying to come to see us. He phoned Bill Kenwright during a notes session after one of our previews and spoke to Chesney. He also wants us all to come and see him at the O2."

Although the viewing public only became aware of Jackson earlier this year, the Welsh-born actress – she originally comes from the village of Ystradgynlais – had already appeared in numerous stage productions, starting with the role of Percy the Polar Bear in a nursery school production.

Later she would join the Swansea Amateur Dramatic Society where she was noticed, and at 13 played Bet, Nancy's side-kick, in the London production of Oliver!

Roles in the National Youth Musical Theatre productions of Whistle Down The Wind and Bugsy! followed, as did Rod Stewart's Tonight's the Night and Rent.

She still has her ambitions however. "I'd love to play Linda in Blood Brothers, Fantine in Les Mis, Ellen in Miss Saigon, Elphaba in Wicked . . . there are so many musical theatre roles I'd like to do, but I'd also like to get into television and do some straight acting, without the singing for a bit."

And as for the role of Nancy? "I would still love to play Nancy," she admits. "If that show lasts on the West End for a few years then I would love to go back and audition in the normal way to see if I could get the job. Absolutely. So you never know, you might see me there yet."
And that would be magic.

• Can't Smile Without You, Festival Theatre, Nicolson Street, Monday-Saturday, 7.30pm (Thursday/ Saturday matinees 2.30pm), £8.50-£30, 0131-529 6000

It's all in the stars

FRANCESCA JACKSON admits that she lives by Cosmic Ordering, 'an art' she discovered while still a struggling actress working in a call centre to make ends meet.

"When I was out of work before getting a part in Rent, I was working in a call centre and waitressing," she says. "I worked at the call centre for just under a year. There were so many out-of-work actors there. It was so depressing because I was doing a 9am-6pm job and trying to see a light at the end of the tunnel and hoping to get an audition. My mum told me she'd found this Noel Edmonds' book about cosmic ordering and I started to read it. That's what I used to help me get through that tough time."

So how does cosmic ordering work? Well, every night, after a hard day's song and dance, Jackson pops a note under her pillow, hoping her dreams will come true. So far it seems to be working.

Steve Burbridge Can Smile Without The Show

A review thats about as welcome as a skunk at a lawn party, from Steve, reads like he was as happy as a fish in the desert

But hey for those fans of the show and the cast it's worth reading (as long as you take it with a pinch of salt) to make you laugh especially at how seriously Steve took the show instead of the way it was intended to be taken -

I'm sure the cast would like to see him up doing the show......... Then they could get there own back

Anyone got any tomatos they want to through I suggest Steve for the stocks.

Steve Burbridge Review (if you can call it That more like a Rant

Apologise to the cast but as I say it's worth a reading for a laugh....... Fran and co We love you and love the show unlike Steve

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Darlington First Review

Can’t Smile Without You, Darlington Civic Theatre
11:46am Wednesday 26th November 2008

CHESNEY Hawkes has been out of the spotlight since his 1991 smash hit, The One and Only, writing and producing music and touring with his band, and this musical, featuring 27 of Barry Manilow’s songs, could be the big break he’s waited all this time for.

The plot involves five British lads who go to New York to audition and meet Jeff, a glitzy showbiz entrepreneur (a nice comic turn from Howard Samuels). Jeff’s very taken with Chesney Hawkes’ character, imaginatively named Tony Lowiman (geddit?) but he wants to send the rest of the band home. Following a weekend spent solo at Jeff’s home, Tony strikes up a relationship with Mandy, but waiting at home is his fiancée Lucy, who’s really in love with his best friend Scott.
All’s well in the end, of course, and there are frequent breaks for Barry Manilow’s polished, schmaltzy pop. The band and the vocals are excellent, although I was a little concerned that Hawkes’ voice might not hold up. Manilow’s range is considerable and Hawkes is nearing the end of the tour and it shows. If Bill Kenwright takes Can’t Smile Without You into the West End as planned, Hawkes is going to have to look after those vocal chords.

Even if you’re not a fan of Manilow, he’s written so many decent pop songs it’s hard not to like at least some of them.

Hawkes lacks the charisma required for a romantic lead, but he’s a likeable chap and he sings well.

■ Until Saturday. Box Office: 01325-486555

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

A Couple More Pics Unearthed

Press Shot From Liverpool 

Fran And Ashley From Daily Mail Before Fran's Controversial Exit

Another CSWY Review

I've just stumbled across this review today that I thought you might like, along with a few different pics including Siobhan and Chesney, Edward Handoll, Howard Samuels and Our Fran.

Can't Smile Without You

Take two or three popular ingredients, including one of the world's favourite singer songwriters, the phenomenally favourite medium of the TV reality shows, two reality-TV show contestants, a 90's Popstar and Bill Kenwright's ideas, directorial and production skillsand what is the result?  In this case we get "Can't Smile Without You", the new Barry Manilow Musical.
Based very loosely on one UK bands attempt to enter a reality TV show in the USA. Tony Lowiman (Chesney Hawkes) and the members of his band whilst on a stag weekend in LA blag an audition for a TV show, but Jeff (Howard Samuels) wants a solo artist and that would be Tony.  Jeff's PA Amanda (Siobhan Dillon) dislikes Tony at first but his new song 'Mandy' melts her heart, this instant mutual attraction is shattered by Tony's return to the UK. Tony's fiancé Lucy (Francesca Jackson) believing the wedding may be off turns to Scott (Edward Handoll), band member and Tony's best man, for comfort. Returning to the UK Tony is attacked after the band's first gig, leaving him critically injured with a total loss of memory. His ability to play music and memory for most songs is however not affected.
How will Tony, Lucy, Scott and Mandy progress? Will Tony's memory return?  To which lovely lady will he say 'Can't Smile Without You'!
Chesney Hawkes, himself a singer songwriter is still touring with his own band. Probably most remembered for the pop song 'The One and Only' I had the pleasure of seeing him in the musical 'MacGregor's Trap' during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 1995. He makes a very handsome and musically talented Tony.
Leading ladies Siobhan Dillon and Francesca Jackson both experienced the buzz and hard work associated with Reality TV shows. Siobhan, in 'How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?' and Francesca, in the recent 'I'd Do Anything'. I had to ask both ladies what it is like to be ever associated with the set of the show they are working on having the dreaded bilateral stairs. After watching them sing live week after week there is no doubt both these ladies are superbly talented.
Edward Handoll as Scott has previously visited Edinburgh, like Chesney, whilst performing in the Fringe Festival. His tall dark good looks and dreamy voice are a perfect foil for Mr Hawkes, who needs to watch out for his co-star. Edward not only sings, he plays guitar and piano.
Howard Samuels as Jeff, provides most of the comedy, one scene in particular to look out for is The European Music Awards where they do a pastiche on 'Copacabana'.
The other members of 'The Romantics' are Michael Kantola as Dougie, Gavin Stenhouse as Flynn and Robin Johnson as Pat. Hats off to these ultra talented young men who along with Edward Handoll not only play live on stage they move up and join the band on guitars and drums. The other members of the band are MD, John Maher, AMD, John Rutledge, Matt Tubman, Rosie Nicholl, Mark Ferrell and Matt French.
The other performing members of the company are Reuven Gershon, Sam Palladio, Kate Ray, Jade Steele and Richard Taylor Woods.
'Can't Smile Without You' is a great fun musical enjoyable whether you like Barry Manilow or not. The superbly talented cast are well worth watching from an aesthetic point of view and also to enjoy brilliant musicality. For further information see for information on 'Can't Smile Without You' and all other current Bill Kenwright productions.

Monday, 24 November 2008

Congratulations To Jessie on Her Opening

For Fan Reviews and Further reviews of A Little Night Music be sure to check out the Jessie Buckley Blog.

Stephen Sondheim: A Little Night Music

Menier Chocolate Factory

London, 24 November 2008

Like many a great romantic comedy before it, from A Midsummer Night's Dream to The Marriage of Figaro, the sexual entanglements in Stephen Sondheim's A Little Night Music work themselves out as the characters go out into the garden. And as the sun sets on Trevor Nunn's elegiac new production for the Menier Chocolate Factory, I for one couldn't resist being moved by the resolution of the plot when the six main characters finally pair off into the right couples and dance the 'Last Waltz'.

If some of Nunn's large-scale productions of musicals in recent years have seemed unfocussed, here he seems to revel in the intimacy of the Chocolate Factory. It's extraordinary to experience such a vocally demanding piece so close to the performers, who, incidentally, make a highly-calibre ensemble. There again, the spatial limitation of the venue is very much to the benefit of retaining the domesticity of the work, which could seem overblown and less intense in a large theatre. Here, Nunn makes intensity the motivation for everything that goes on in the show – mostly the sexual frustration felt by the main characters, none of whom can have the person best suited to them in the beginning, but the inner tension of the young man Henrik and the tension caused by the repression of the Countess by her husband are no less important.
Nunn responds musically to the piece, too, understanding the waltz as the key signifier in the musical working out of the plotline. Lynne Page's choreography comes into play here with as hypnotic a staging of the opening tableau as one could hope for, in which she's helped by Hartley T A Kemp's imaginative and utterly outstanding lighting design. Though the main set is sparse, consisting of semi-mirrored doors that open out in Act 2 to reveal the garden, David Farley's designs use props efficiently to make the transitions between scenes, and the period costumes are exquisite. Some of the walls open outwards to create new divisions, too, for instance for the Egerman house, and items such as trees, a chaise longue and a bed enhance the sense of place, but for me Kemp's lighting was the cornerstone of the visual element of the production.
It was considered controversial to cast Hannah Waddingham as Desirée Armfeldt, but Nunn explains in the programme that the decision stems from Bergman's film Smiles of a Summer Night, on which the musical is based and in which the actress Armfeldt 'sees her fortieth birthday on the horizon and realises that the time has come for her to take all important life decisions concerning the future of herself and her child'. The tradition of casting someone closer to 50 than 40 in the role is therefore not necessarily true to the text, and by bringing down the average age of the cast Nunn has added energy to the sexuality that infuses the story.
It really works. Waddingham is totally glamorous in the part, a blonde vision in a creamy dress, but anyone worrying that she's too young need not fear. This Desirée still has her eye on the passing years, but the emphasis here is on transition rather than arrival at middle age. The connection between Desirée and her lover, Fredrik, is white-hot from the very beginning, and it provides the line that runs through the show. Waddingham's achievement is in creating the artificial veneer of charm and then allowing the cracks in her composure to show. At this performance, tears streamed down her face during a touching rendition of 'Send in the Clowns': the words come to the fore rather than the voice, and it's deeply moving.

Opposite her, Alexander Hanson is an ideal Fredrik: masculine, with a wonderfully firm baritone and the ability to be emotionally expressive throughout. Alistair Robins is brilliantly buffoonish as the stupid Count Carl-Magnus Malcolm, again a fine singer, but it's Kelly Price who stands out, as his wife, Countess Charlotte. Price ensures that Charlotte comes to the fore as the instigator or controller of several subplots yet always leaves one with the knowledge that deep down she just wants her husband to notice her. Maureen Lipman gave a scene-stealing turn as Madame Armfeldt – I'd gladly see the show again just for her comic timing – and in spite of some strain during 'Later', Gabriel Vick generated just the right amount of intensity as Henrik. Making her professional debut as Anne, Jessie Buckley (who came second in the BBC's I'd Do Anything competition) shows her prowess as an actress and gives a mature performance that belies her years; however, I sense that the high-lying tessitura causes her problems in places.

Jeremy Finch is a serviceable Frid, enjoying the chance to sing a number that was cut from the Broadway production: 'Silly People', in which the servant observes the overcomplicated sexual behaviour of his masters (more interesting for the incisive lyric than the music). Kaisa Hammarlund is excellent as Petra, the confidante of Anne Egerman and lover to both Frid and Henrik, but for me her rendition of 'The Miller's Son' at this performance just stopped short of making the impact it could; Grace Link was the surprisingly confident child actor playing Fredrika Armfeldt at the show I saw. Excellent support comes from the large-voiced Mr Lindquist of Lynden Edwards and Nicola Sloane's sharply-characterised Mrs Segstrom, and the rest of the ensemble – John Addison, Charlotte Page, Laura Armstrong and Florence Andrews – are equally talented.

I had worried in advance about how successfully Jason Carr would be able to reduce the orchestration for just seven instruments (piano, harp, violin, cello, double bass, woodwind and bassoon), because it's usually a string-heavy show that is favoured by symphony orchestras. But in fact he's done a great job: the orchestral passages sound perfectly full, and most of the detail of the originals is still present. Just occasionally there was poor coordination between stage and band, but on the whole Caroline Humphris's tempi were well judged at this performance.
In short, there are no major weaknesses about the Menier's production of this perennially appealing show, which runs until March. Don't miss it.

By Dominic McHugh

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Chesney Article About CSWY - Darlington

Although the following article doesn't mention Fran it's still quite a nice article that I thought people might enjoy

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Stoke Review of Can't Smile Without You

Theatre Review: Can't Smile Without You – The Regent, Hanley (PICTURES)
Tuesday, November 18, 2008, 09:20

THE thought of one-hit wonder Chesney Hawkes starring in a show based upon the music of Barry Manilow could be either a dream come true or the worst nightmare – depending on taste.
Thankfully, Bill Kenwright's production ensured Can't Smile Without You enjoyed a hugely successful first night at the Regent Theatre.

Chesney Hawkes as Tony With Siobhan Dillon and Jade Steele in Can’t Smile Without You at The Regent Theatre.

The story follows the fortunes of Tony Lowiman, played by Hawkes, and his band, the Romantics.

Their search for fame takes them to the U.S. where Tony falls for the conveniently named Mandy (Siobhan Dillon), but remains true to his fiancée Lucy (Francesca Jackson), who is meanwhile enjoying an illicit romance with Tony's best friend Steve. This love tangle is given a twist when Tony acquires a head injury and forgets about his romantic interests – both old and new.

The script is very much written around the music, resulting in an amusing, tongue-in-cheek introduction to the songs. For example, on their return to the U.S., the Romantics are faced with a crisis as cabaret singer Lola had ran off with Rico leaving the club Copacabana
in a bit of a fix.

Performances, all supported with a live orchestra, were consistently strong. Mandy (Dillon) sang with clear harmony throughout the show, including a poignant version of Could It Be Magic.
Hawkes also showcased his talents well as a solo artist in, for example, I Write The Songs, and as a band member in upbeat numbers such as New York Rhythm. Howard Samuels's portrayal of loud-mouthed talent-show host Jeff also stood out as he delivered an alternative version of the title song relating to lost profits rather than romance.

This contrast of styles provides diversity and a fresh edge to Manilow classics. However the production stopped short of being hilariously funny or as fully credible as a romantic drama. This was of little consequence as the audience clearly loved it.

Cheerful and cheesy, Can't Smile Without You provides a night of pure escapism, and is not just for Manilow fans. The show runs until Saturday. Call the box office on 0870 060 6649.

Fern Basnett

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

A Couple More Pics Unearthed

Fran - Acting or Giving The Other Contestants What For?

Fran Outside Bristol Hippodrome

Fran with Siobhan and Chesney 

New Poll

With the end of the first leg of Can't Smile Without You Tour is fast approaching, decided it was high time we had a poll for what other roles you would like to see Fran in.

If there is a role you think Fran would be great in and it isn't in the list no fear, add it in the comments or email me.

Multiple votes are allowed but please try not to select everything I know it may be difficult to decide as Fran would be good at anything.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Further Pics

It turns out that the last lot of IDA photos were care of Rachel Tucker Herself so many thanks Rachel for some great pictures. 

Rachel & Fran Looking A Little Nervous

Fran Meeting Laura Wells After a Performance of CSWY

Fran With Abbie Tabberer In Nottingham after CSWY

Guys keep the fan pics and reviews coming. 

Friday, 7 November 2008

Manilow Magic @ Theatre Royal

Published Date: 07 November 2008
If Barry Manilow is not appearing in person at Nottingham's Theatre Royal this week then his fans can revel in the next best thing.

Chesney Hawkes plays the lead role of Tony in the UK tour of Bill Kenwright's brand new musical love story Can't Smile Wihout You.

He meets a girl on his New York stag night, falls for her and then loses his memory after a fight when he returns to England.That's the plot but this is really a Manilow-fest, packed with more than 30 of his songs and backed by a class band under the direction of John Maher.

In support are excellent performances from 23-year-old Siobhan Dillon, who first came to the nation's attention as runner up in the BBC's hit TV show How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?, and Francesca Jackson,finalist from recent TV hit I'd Do Anything.

Performance Times: Evenings 7.30pm. Saturday matinee 2.30pmTicket Prices: £12- £30.50 Box Office: 0115 989 5555.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

New Pics

I know most of you have probably seen most of the Nancy images on the other blogs but for those of you who haven't enjoy - Also be sure to check out some of the new shots from the What's on Stage outing to Rent Remixed Last November.

Denise & Fran @ Londons Rent Remixed Press Night

The Nancies Have a PJ Party !!

The Girls Looking Glam - I think this was from the Final Stage of Audtions looking at the outfits

The Girls 

Fran Hiding In the Back

All Dressed Up - Fran Hiding Round the Back Again

The Nancies give there feathers a test run

The Cast of Rent Remixed

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Nottingham Review - This Time It's Good News

Review: Can't Smile Without You, Theatre Royal
Tuesday, November 04, 2008, 06:51

MAMMA Mia has a lot to answer for. Take a band's back catalogue, throw in a perfunctory story and stir. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't (Shang A Lang anyone?).

If you adopt the same thinking to Barry Manilow songs, just how far up the cheese-ometer will it go? Thankfully, not that far, because if you want a thoroughly escapist night out with some fine musicianship, top singing voices and a knowing glint in its eye, I urge you to beat a path to the Theatre Royal this week.
Can't Smile Without You, does exactly what it says on the tin. It's a night of pop tunesmith Manilow magic.
There may be a story about a singer meeting a girl on a his stag weekend in New York, falling in love, and coming back to Blighty, only to be injured in a fight in which he loses his memory.
But it's only a device to get us thinking about when the next hit will be played – and whether true love will find a way.

Chesney Hawkes takes the lead role of Tony Lowiman (crossword fans should be able to work that one out!) and he is more than ably accompanied by Francesca Jackson as fiancée Lucy and Siobhan Dillon as television executive PA Mandy (cue for a song perhaps?)
The band, under the musical direction of John Maher, are extremely tight, with some of the arrangements enhancing what Manilow has already given us.
The Theatre Royal audience for opening night lapped up this piece of musical theatre with many suggesting on the way out a return later in the week.
It's the next best thing to a concert by the man himself. What better endorsement do you need?

Comments (1)
It was as corny as a Kansas wheatfield - but I loved every minute of it!Chesney Hawkes' voice is PERFECTLY suited to the songs and there was some very fine comic acting by Howard Samuels.The supporting cast were all 100% believeable despite it being decidedly 'tongue in cheek' and the band were just wonderful. The rendition of 'Sweet Heaven' alongside another song was worthy of the closing act of Les Miserables.I thoroughly enjoyed it and quite frankly, if I weren't 46 years old, I'd have Chesney Hawkes' babies!Well done to all concerned.
Yvette, Mansfield Woodhouse

Saturday, 1 November 2008

2 New Pics

When the Nancies performed live at the Wicked Matinee during the competition avid theater fan Laura Allenby was on hand to get the following great shots that she has been kind enough to share with us.

Thursday, 30 October 2008


Below is the Whats on stage announcement for Northampton's showing of Can't Smile Without You.

Some New CSWY Pics

Official CSWY Pics of Fran

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Been A While

Finally there was a review posted on line from Edinburgh - Again it's not the most pleasant of reviews, but if the person responsible can't even get the character names right when posting an article in the newspaper....... At least they got Fran's name right and again she has come off well. 

See the article for yourself

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Fan Review - What A Star She Is

“Can’t Smile Without You Review”.

I went to see “Can’t Smile Without You” on Wednesday 1st October at the Palace Theatre in Manchester. I was there visiting my friend Rachel who’s recently gone to study Drama at the nearby University, & it had always been our intention to go and see Francesca in the show; ever since we found out she was doing it.
We arrived at the theatre at about 7:15 on the evening, only to find, to our delight, that our seats had been upgraded – we were no longer in the upper circle but the grand circle, with a perfect view to the stage. I didn’t know many Barry Manilow songs prior to the show, so I wasn’t really sure of what to expect; other than an amazing performance from Fran... which obviously I got!
It took a while at the beginning to develop the storyline, but when it started to build up I really enjoyed it. It must’ve taken Fran at least 15 minutes to come on, & I remember nudging Rachel every time somebody came on – just hoping it would be her. The story was about a man called Tony, played by Chesney Hawkes, going to New York with his band in order to make it big in the music business.
The audience were given the impression during the climax to Fran’s entrance that Tony was falling in love on his travels with a girl called Mandy (ironically I thought!), played by Siobhan Dillon. So at this point I’d started to feel sorry for Tony’s girlfriend Lucy, played by Fran, as she had no idea what was going on. However, when she appeared on stage snogging the face off Tony’s best mate Scott; I laughed. It was exactly the kind of character I imagined her to play, & she suited the role brilliantly. Rachel and I must have been the only teenagers there, as when I looked around the theatre I could see mostly older couples; not forgetting of course the mad group of Chesney fans sitting about 4 rows in front of us. They were clapping and waving excitedly to every song he sang, however slow! It really added to the cheerful atmosphere generated from the audience in the theatre. During the interval we spotted two empty seats even nearer to the stage at the front of the grand circle, so, seizing the opportunity, moved straight away – at the time we were yet to realise how loud the Chesney fans actually were, LOL!
A performance I particularly enjoyed was “Copacabana”, where Fran appeared in dazzling gold; & obviously the bright yellow feather made her stand out even more. I also liked the songs “Looks Like We Made It” and “Who Needs To Dream”; they really made me think back to the time all those months ago when I first heard her sing. Those four weeks repeatedly dialling her number, hoping my votes would be enough – it made me truly believe how worthwhile that was.
After two standing ovations & most of the audience on their feet in appreciation of the amazing actors and actresses that had taken part, the show finished. As soon as the lights came back on, we hurried downstairs & straight to the stage door – I don’t think I could have bared the thought of not meeting Fran; I’d have been devastated! Rachel & I had only been waiting a matter of seconds before she appeared. I literally couldn’t speak for about a minute I was so star struck, but told myself I needed to get a grip else she’d soon go. She seemed in a bit of a rush, so I asked her if she had to leave. She said that she had to catch the 10:20 pm train & it was ten past as it was! She asked my friend where Oxford Street station was, & all three of us found it amusing when Rachel pointed across the road to a huge sign indicating the station was right there. Even so, she stayed to have a picture with each of us, & then I suggested one of us all together. After that had been taken, she made us check it to see if it was alright; saying she was happy to have another one. Just before she made a dash across the road I asked her to sign my programme, where she wrote “To Claire, With Love Francesca J xxx”. Then, telling us she had to love & leave us, she left. I was so happy I’d met her that I shed a few tears; I just couldn’t believe I’d met her. I’ve waited at stage doors at a few shows before to see the cast, but I was determined that night, & I have to say I’ve never met anybody as genuinely nice & appreciative of support from her fans as Francesca. She had to catch a train in 10 minutes, but took the time to chat to until then at least.
I’m hoping to go & see the show again in mid-November when it is on in Stoke, & hopefully I’ll see Francesca again too. She is such a talented woman, & I can guarantee that I’ll continue to follow & support her in whatever she chooses to do in the future. Francesca Jackson is a true inspiration.

Claire Dorricott.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Glasgow Review

Don't be alarmed by the title the cast come off well.

REVIEW: Say cheese for a snapshot of Barry Manilow magic

by Sarah Swain

YOU would expect a musical based on the hits of Barry Manilow and starring 1990s popstar The One and Only' Chesney Hawkes in the lead role to be cheesy.

But Can't Smile Without You is mozzarella with extra parmesan.

It follows a band who go to New York to make it big. But the record producer only wants singer Tony.

He gives up his chance of fame to go back to gigs in Grimsby with the boys - but not before meeting a girl called Mandy of course.

Then an attack leaves Tony unable to remember anything about himself - all he can recall is music.

Manilow hits like Could it be Magic are woven into the plot as he tries to find himself - and his girl - again.

Hawkes has the voice and charisma to win over the Manilow fans. Plus, with Siobhan Dillon, and Francesca Jackson, a runner-up in BBC's Nancy contest, the show proves that though it is heavy on cheese, it's big on charm.

King's Theatre until Saturday. Call 0870 060 6648 or visit

Publication date 14/10/08

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Message From Fran

Hi Guys

Just received a message from Fran to pass on to everyone especially those of you who gave me messages to pass on to her.

I just want to say how AMAZING all of the presents were and especially the messages so many people left me!!!! made me cry when i opened it all in the car on way home!

please please say the biggest thankyou to everyone for me!!!! It really takes my breath away that people actually care that much!!

I think you can all see how overwhelmed Fran was but as we all know she deserves all the support she gets and much much more. I did say the intention wasn't to make her cry.

Keep the support coming and any more messages let me have them as I will hopefully be seeing Fran again at the end of the month.

Friday, 10 October 2008

Jessie News

Huge Congratulations must go to Jessie on landing her first London role, looks like all the girls are doing well since the show.  For full details of Jessie's great news be sure to check out her blog.

Roles So Far

Fran - Staring in No 1 Tour of Can't Smile Without You 
Rachel - We Will Rock You - London's West End - Meat - Scaramouch for Nov 3rd to 15th
Sarah - Several recent or upcoming events followed by Oliver ensemble and 1st Cover Nancy
Sam - Sally in Cabaret Tour
Jessie - Just been announced in A Little Night Music as Anne
Amy - After all Bob's Women went into Sound of Music
Niamh - Only the Brave at Edinburgh Fringe, Will be doing Panto in Eastbourne (Snow White)
Keisha - Scholarship to postgrad MT course at Mountview
Tara - Narrator in Joseph Tour
Jodie - Ensemble in Les Mis whilst waiting on Oliver Rehersals
Cleo - Ensemble for Dirty Dancing 
That Leaves Ashley - If anyone knows let me know and I'll update

Congratulations to all the girls and I'm sure this is the start of a wonderful journey and career for them all

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Poll Time Again

Decided it was high time we had a new poll on the site to try and gage the current site usage, to work out which Fans are visiting the site.

It will also be interesting to see for how long some fans have been following Fran.

Get voting.

Monday, 6 October 2008

Another Great Fan Review - Manchester

‘Me, my mum and my nana arrived at the Palace Theatre at 1:30, an hour before the show, so after having a picture in front of one of the many posters outside and sitting in the bar we took to our seats and awaited the lifting of the curtains. I was sooooo nervous and I know this might sound silly but it was in case I didn’t get Fran’s autograph lol.


            Anyway, the show started and I sat impatiently waiting for Fran to appear. Suddenly my mum started nudging me and pointing over at the left hand side of the stage and then I realised Fran was on stage but in disguise… I stifled a little scream. When Fran came on as Lucy, she blew me away with her singing, acting, everything! Her chemistry with ‘Scott’ was brilliant. She totally showed what she could do in this show, but I already knew that anyway! Her voice is so strong and captivating, I’m sure she looked at me during a song and smiled back at me, but I’ve a feeling she might not have been able to see anyway because of the lights, but I was only on the third row in the Stalls lol, who knows! Most of the time she was situated on the left on side of the stage (as you look at it), right in front of where I was! The show had its equal balance of seriousness and humour, an example of which would be ‘Copacabana’ which had the whole audience in stitches, including me; one of the only teenagers in the audience, if not the only one. I love Fran’s outfit/costume in Copacabana, it brings back memories of ‘I’d Do Anything’ and I’m so glad she took part!

This review would not be full without a mention of Howard Samuels; he is amazingly funny and makes the part of Jeff his own, just like the rest of the cast, though especially during Copacabana. Also, Siobhan Dillon is amazing, her singing and acting are brilliant and the rest of the cast and ensemble work really well together and are also brilliant, the show would not be complete without them! Humour was also added by reference to certain song titles and the ‘bus’ scene which was hilarious! Now, I have to admit to not being a huge fan of Barry Manilow, having only been to see the musical because of Fran, but those journeys home from school on the bus listening to his music persuaded my mind that he is actually quite good. ‘Can’t Smile Without You’ obviously played a bigger part in twisting me to like his music, sung by amazing singers and actors/actresses in the show!

            The audience participated a lot throughout, many of them being avid Chesney fans and this added to the enjoyment of the evening. After two standing ovations, it finished L.

We made our way to the stage door and waited. Chesney came out first, I asked for a picture and an autograph- blue pen on the blue front cover of the programme… Then Edward came out (plays Scott) and I had a picture with him. After about 20 minutes Fran came out and I didn’t realise at first. I screamed and she said hello, quite shocked at my reaction I think. I asked if for a picture with her and she did, she is so nice! I actually had a full conversation with her, she signed my programme in my other black pen on the page with her ‘credits’ included it reads, “To Emily, Millions of love Francesca Jackson xxxxx”!!! It’s going to go in a frame alongside my Lee Mead autograph, who cropped into the conversation and Fran agreed he is good-looking! We talked about various things, singing lessons, auditions and Can’t Smile Without You, but we let her go so she could presumably have her tea before the next show at half 7, the last show in Manchester. She wished me good luck with my future (hopefully musical theatre) and we wished her good luck and said we would look out for her in the future!

She is so pretty and amazing and such a genuine person! I mean, she didn’t have to stay and talk or say good luck to me but she did. Because she’s phenomenal and I will always remember it!

Emily xxxxx’

Many thanks to Emily for the great review and lovely picture. 

Friday, 3 October 2008

Win More Tickets for CSWY

For all of those up in Scotland or near the border it's your chance to try and win tickets to see Fran and Co

Check out the link below and Good Luck

Win CSWY Tickets Glasgow

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Some Fun Pics From Bristol

When I was waiting to speak to Fran in Bristol on Saturday She was asked if she would mind having her photo taken with a small rubber duck, to which she showed no hesitation. After having her photo taken she did actually ask why?

It turns out that Brian the Duck Travels all over the world and had been photographed with numerous famous people and in some great locations, these pictures can be seen on Brian's very own facebook page.

Thanks to Michelle Plowman and Elizabeth Banks the 2 photographers, here are the pictures of Fran posing with Brian.

Michelle's Pic

Elizabeth's Pic

As you can see Fran looks like she's enjoying posing with Brian. So if anyone else has any other ideas get out there and try it - Siobhan and Chesney were also good sports and posed with Brian Check out his facebook page below for those pictures.

Brian The Duck's Facebook Page

Natasha's Fan Review of CSWY - Bristol Sat 27th Sept

I arrived in Bristol with my family at about six, so incredibly excited about seeing Fran live for the first time. When I saw the theatre with its huge ‘Can’t Smile Without You’ sign I was even more so, and that was pretty excessive excitement! It was then that I discovered my camera wouldn’t work. Determined not let it ruin my evening, I smiled and attempted to suppress my frustration. After a few minutes, however, I realised the joy of mobile phones, and then I could relax – if I did get the opportunity for photos I wouldn’t have to miss it. As it had taken us nearly two hours to get to Bristol we had packed sandwiches and ate them sat on benches just across the road from the theatre. I was so excited I gobbled mine down in about 10 seconds and then had to wait for everyone else to finish eating. Eventually, when they had finished, we walked around the block to find the stage door so we would know where to go later...
The show itself was absolutely amazing! Whenever Fran was on stage I couldn’t take my eyes off of her – she has such stage-presence and of course that amazing voice! Fran’s part as Lucy has quite a wide variety of roles to fulfil and she coped with these very well. There was quite a surprise when she appeared in a very ‘Viva Las Vegas’ (for all those avid IDA fans) style costume for the Copacabana, which was thoroughly enjoyed by the entire audience! The rest of the cast were also truly excellent, and I was very impressed by the ensemble performers. Chesney Hawkes rose well to the challenge of musical theatre and you could definitely see the chemistry between Scott (Edward Handoll) and Lucy (Fran!).

When the show finished we were out of our seats very speedily and rushed to the stage door to hopefully meet the lady herself. It was my first stage-door ever, and I was so nervous. Armed with my frequent-stage-doorer friend’s lucky Sharpie I managed to get the best spot – right opposite the door. Chesney came out first and was very friendly, signing programmes and having photos taken. I waited in anticipation from Fran to come out. However when she did I almost froze and just stood there. Luckily my mum nudged me hard in the back and got me going. I was the first to speak to her and she was so incredibly lovely to me... I was so happy! It wasn’t until a bit later that I managed to pluck up the courage to ask her for a photo and she realised I had been waiting all that time and was so apologetic, even though it was by no means her fault!
I was so impressed by Fran’s incredible talent and of course her wonderful kindness to her fans and, miraculously, she managed to surpass both my unbelievably high expectations of her, and my even higher hopes! Wow!

Many thanks for sharing your experience's and photos with everyone Natasha. And for anyone else who would like to contribute please feel free to email me.