Thursday, 25 September 2008

Catch Up From The Last Week

Sorry It's been a week but was not able to get online very easily whilst I was away but please see below some reviews for Can't Smile Without You that came out whilst I was away.

Many Thanks To David Lamour and Natasha Douglas for letting me have the links.

Broadway World Review

Croydon Today Review

Wirral News Review

Also Congratulations to Rachel Tucker on starting her first West End Role in We Will Rock You this week long may her success continue.

Saturday, 13 September 2008

Exclusive - Fan Interview With Fran

After World Premier and first 10 days of the national UK tour of The Barry Manilow musical of Can't Smile Without You in Bromley, decided it was time we heard from Fran again as to how things were going so far and what her expectations were in respect of the rest of the tour.

Hows the first week of the tour been?

Fran: It’s been exhausting! We’ve been rehearsing every day since we opened, but great fun at the same time!! The audiences in Bromley have been fab as well!

What's it like working with the rest of the cast?

Fran: It’s brilliant! Everyone is so lovely! It’s also a very small cast, which makes it really easy for everyone to get to know each other really well! They’re great!

What do you expect from the rest of the tour?

Fran: To carry on having loads of fun and hope the audiences stay as enthusiastic as they have been in Bromley!

You mentioned previously that It's been an ambition of yours to create a role in an original cast has this opportunity been everything you dreamed it would be?

Fran: Yes it's great! It’s just really rewarding to be able to create something from scratch!

Any promotional interviews for the rest of the tour lined up - not really seen any reviews or promotion about?

Fran:  I’m not sure actually! I think our main press night is Liverpool but we will get reviewed by local papers in each venue! I think I’m doing an interview with Swansea Bay radio while we're at Bristol.

Have you seen or spoken to many of the other Nancy or Oliver contestants since the show - have any of them been or got plans to come and see you?

FranI speak with Samantha all the time; She’s a really great friend!! And we're both trying to watch each other’s matinees when we're close enough to do so on tour!

And Amy came to watch the show this week, which was such a lovely surprise!! She’s having an amazing time on The Sound of Music! It was so so lovely to catch up with her!

Have there been any funny incidents on or off stage so far that you can tell us about?

Fran: Well I think the funniest moments on stage for me are when we have loads of Chesney fans in and I get booed for cheating on Tony ( Chesney ) I find it very hard not to corpse at these moments! 

How much are you enjoying being back on stage? 

Fran: More than ever!! I'm just so so grateful and lucky to be working and to adore every minute of my job!

Whats your favourite song from the show and why?

Fran:Ooo, well favorite Barry Manilow song is Weekend in New England and Chesney sings it so beautifully! But in the show I just love singing my duet with Siobhan (Old Songs/If I Should Love Again), it's just a really lovely arrangement of the two songs!

When the tour hits Bristol will you still be doing the Saturday night show as your performing in Cardiff on Sunday night in the Three Phantoms Concert?

Fran: Yes absolutely!!!

Can you give us a hint as to what you might be performing in Cardiff?

Fran: To be honest nothings been confirmed yet but I will let you know as soon as I know

Are you involved at all in ALW 60th Birthday concert?

Fran: No sadly I’m not :(

When you’re not working or on a day off what do you like to do to relax? 

Fran: Watch all my recorded episodes of Coronation Street, Eastenders and the Simpsons! 

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Fran for her time in answering these questions and wish her all the best for the rest of the tour and hope we hear further updates as and when she has the time, as the rest of the tour schedule looks incredibly busy.

Theatre World Review of CSWY



BOX OFFICE: 020 8460 6677

Can't Smile Without You

Book by Timothy Prager

Now playing at The Churchill Theatre, Bromley, until Saturday, September 6th, 2008.

It's been a long time since I have felt anticipation such as this, an excitement within the atmosphere of a Theatre. It's been a long time since I have seen the Churchill with it's HOUSE FULL sign proudly on show.

The reason? The combination of Bill Kenwright and an idea he had to produce a musical show featuring the music of Barry Manilow. It was always going to be good, and the delayed start on this opening night simply added to the charged atmosphere.

I had, prior to this, never heard of Chesney Hawkes. With a name like that, he should be in old tyme music hall, I thought. When I saw him, he didn't resemble star quality - more like the young fellah who fixed my computer a few weeks ago from PC World...

But what an inspired bit of casting. He actually sounds like Manilow on a lot of the songs and I really was quite impressed. He plays Tony, leader of a band who goes off to NY to take part - or they at least think they will take part - in a musical reality TV show. But they arrive too late, somehow manage to impress Jeff at the studio, but Jeff only wants solo singers, Tony of course. Jeff is played by Howard Samuels who gives better support than the Dartford Bridge. Wonderful stuff.

The music of Manilow flows through this show like gold plasma....I can't think of any song of his omitted. It's a Miracle, I Don't Want To Walk Without You, Could it Be Magic, Somewhere in the Night...they're all here.

Due to the delayed start, a certain Bill Kenwright addressed the audience and said Manilow's music had got him through so much "emotional stuff". True for a lot of us, I'm sure. Trouble is, hearing all these amazing songs just brings it all back. Mandy, Let's Hang On, Weekend in New England, (by this time I was blowing my nose) Looks Like We Made It, Tryin' to Get the Feeling Again, I Write the Songs.

Ok, so there were lots of arm waving BM fans not interested in the story line but it's strong enough and as a bonus has two of the most gorgeous and capable ladies you could possibly imagine - lets start with Mandy. Siobhan Dillon from How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria? and more recently, her West End debut in Grease, plays Tony's true love. She is sensational. Wonderful voice amongst other things...! But she is pipped - just - by her rival in love, Francesca Jackson as Lucy. Francesca plays Tony's fiancee' but she doesn't really love him and instead falls for Scott, Tony's best mate, played by Edward Handoll.

Francesca was an unlucky finalist recently in BBC's I'd Do Anything - and to think I voted for Jessie..!! She just stood out for me with her confident poise and smashing voice.

When tragedy strikes, Tony loses his memory and can't even remember who Lucy is (idiot)! let alone the mysterious Mandy from across the pond. But slowly Tony starts to remember and piece things together. By this time Manilow mania has us twisted into the story like a snake around it's prey. We have Copacabana, the very apt Ready to Take a Chance Again, This One's For You, Who Needs To Dream (this is such a good song) and of course, Can't Smile Without You, whose lyric writer was in the audience, too.

As I said, this was the opening night of this Churchill Bromley Production but it will be some time before it plays for the final time. Yes, there were one or two minor technical hitches but come Press Night and the tour ahead, this company will be buzzing like a swarm of bees, producing sweet honey wherever they go.

As for Chesney, apparently a one hit wonder from 17 years ago, I want to know where he's been hiding himself. He's no Laurence Olivier but he has a voice to die for and a clean cut personality that is refreshing enough to suggest more musical theatre if he so wishes.

At the end of the show, a massive bouquet was brought onto the stage and a message was read out from the sender - "Thank you for keeping my music alive, Love, Barry Manilow. Neither Manilow or Kenwright need to worry - best not put that "House Full" sign back in store just yet.

Reviews by Geoffrey Billingsley for Theatreworld Internet Magazine

Friday, 12 September 2008

Competition Time

All Fran fans in the Liverpool area it's your chance to win tickets to see can't smile without you,

See the following article to be in with your magical chance to win one of 3 pairs of tickets

Liverpool Empire Ticket Competition for CSWY Tickets

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Fan Pictures

Fran being a star and giving an autograph

Fran with Emma Jane Smith outside Dartford Theater 
Can't Smile Without You Tour Monday 8th Sept 2008

Thanks Emma for allowing me to post these pictures. Anyone else who has any pictures from meetings with Fran that they wish to donate for everyone to enjoy contact me.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Chance to Win Tickets to CSWY - Bristol

For those who wish to try and win tickets for Bristol it's getting close to the deadline see link below and for those entered Good Luck.

Weston Competition for CSWY Tickets

Review of Dartford First Night Performance

REVIEW How Manilow fans warmed to Chesney Hawkes

Chesney Hawkes

Can't Smile Without You.Orchard Theatre, Dartford, until September 13Box Office 01322 220000

It would be fair to say that Barry Manilow fans do have a certain image and many of them had made their way to Dartford’s Orchard Theatre last night (September 8). They were accompanied by husbands who looked resigned to the fact that they had been dragged along to yet another concert.However, this time they were not actually going to see their hero in the flesh but a musical constructed from his well known hits.Can’t Smile Without You is a production which started its life at Bromley’s Churchill Theatre. The star of the show is former pop star Chesney Hawkes, who I have to say does have a passing resemblance to the great big nosed musical legend.

He was supported by a young cast that included two former stars of recent Andrew Lloyd Webber TV talent quest shows. Siobhan Dillon, from BBC1’s How Do You Solve a problem like Maria?, played the main love interest and Francesca Jackson, from the Beeb’s follow up talent scout show I’d Do Anything, played the other woman in the love triangle.

On the face of it would seem that Manilow’s back catalogue is fertile ground from which to create a musical. However, the success of the show depends on whether it can appeal to a wider audience than the dedicated Manilow fan. The plot of the show is convoluted, but it has to be to fit in all of Manilow’s well known hits into the narrative. I know that plots in musicals are rarely sophisticated but this was a weak point. It’s a boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy also loses his memory and former fiancĂ©e, has massive pop success and then finds girl again tale. (I said it was complicated.)

The performances from the cast were excellent. They had to be good all rounders for the show that required many of them to play instruments as well as sing. Chesney Hawkes’ more laid back pop singer style made an interesting contrast compared to the belt them out approach of his two female co-stars.

Siobhan Dillon does have a fantastic voice and Manilow’s songs gave her a chance to show it off to its full potential. All of the hits were in the show even Coco Cabana which added some up tempo glitz to the proceedings. Although the cast could not be faulted on their performances, I think this production did highlight the problems that come with this kind of musical.

The script lacked enough decent jokes and because they feel obliged to put in every well known Manilow song at times it felt that we were just ticking them off a list. However, if you are a Manilow fan, I am sure you will love it. The audience was swaying away to the tunes by the end and there is plenty to attract you, even if you are not a fan.It’s just a shame that at the moment, it seems that genuine new musicals, written just for that purpose are few and far between.

On the horizon is a David Essex musical. Who is next on the list-Nick Kershaw?Can’t Smile Without You is at The Orchard Theatre until September 13 for more info go to

First Official Review - The Stage

Can't Smile Without You

Published Monday 8 September 2008 at 13:25 by James Green
Billed as the Barry Manilow musical, this is a Mamma Mia!-type show lacking Manilow and his life story, but jam-packed with all the veteran pop star’s hits. To be exact - 27 of them. I Write The Songs indeed.

Chesney Hawkes as Tony in Can't Smile Without You Photo: Keith Pattison
So it’s a must for Manilow’s fans and an entertaining night for others. More than that, if, as hoped, it transfers into the West End, it is an assured career boost for Chesney Hawkes who with The One And Only (no pun intended) has appeared something of a one hit wonder.
The story concerns a five-piece band from London arriving at a New York audition seeking fame, a contract and fortune. Hawkes as Tony is the lead singer about to marry Lucy, but having his doubts. She is played by Francesca Jackson, owner of a really belting voice, who also wants out as she has fallen for Scott, the band’s No 2. That’s Edward Handell, another powerful singer who has played Buddy Holly.
Blonde No 2 is Siobhan Dillon, a New York PR named Mandy, of course, who is romantically drawn towards Tony. On her stiletto heels, she has the figure and face to win any man, and a voice that carried her into the final week of BBC1’s How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria? contest, plus a Lloyd Webber record contract.
With plenty of songs and complications along the way, the framework is there for a switch of love partners. Cue for It’s A Miracle.
While the quartet are sorting themselves out, Howard Samuels as a cheapskate American showbiz manager/agent/whatever-pays-the dollar windbag is putting on a show-stealing performance. Whether singing, dancing, or dispensing one-liners, he is a natural joy - a rogue with an eye for the main chance and a percentage.
In keeping with an essentially musical production, there is a first class band, nine strong at times, under the command of keyboard player John Maher.
It helps that Chesney Hawkes, Manilow-style and looking not unlike him, can sing to his own piano accompaniment. With as many script lines as lyrics, he is making demands on his vocal chords. But with a break like this hopefully his voice will hold out.
Production information
By: book by Tim Prager
Management: Bill Kenwright and Churchill Bromley
Cast: Chesney Hawkes, Siobhan Dillon, Francesca Jackson
Director: Keith Strachan and Bill Kenwright
Design: Andy Walmsley
Lighting: Ben Cracknell
Choreography: Carole Todd
Musical direction: John Maher
Production information can change over the run of the show.
Run sheet

Churchill Bromley August 28-September 6
Orchard Dartford September 8-13
Empire Liverpool September 15-20
Hippodrome Bristol September 22-27
Palace Manchester September 29-October 4
New Hull October 6-11
King's Glasgow October 13-18
Festival Edinburgh October 20-25
Theatre Royal Nottingham November 3- 8
Derngate, Royal & Derngate Northampton November 10-15
Regent Stoke-On-Trent November 17-22
Civic Darlington November 24-29

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Wales Evening Post Article

Smiling Fran's Musical Delight

Posted on: Sunday, 7 September 2008, 00:00 CDT

Former Tv hopeful Francesca Jackson has landed a starring role in the new Barry Manilow musical.

She shares the stage with 1990s pop heart-throb Chesney Hawkes in Can't Smile Without You.

The show, about a reality TV contestant who loses his memory, is the first major role Ystalyfera-raised Francesca has bagged since featuring on BBC show I'd Do Anything.

Francesca's mum Mel is more than proud, and can't wait to see her daughter, who has previously appeared in the West End, back in the limelight.

She said: "It's a great opportunity for her. The show opened on August 28, and Fran has really been enjoying performing.

"It's a shame it isn't coming to Wales, but I will be travelling to Bristol to see her perform. There will be a party of us going in a minibus."

Can't Smile Without You, produced by Blood Brothers Bill Kenwright, runs until Saturday, November 29, and takes in 11 UK venues.


(c) 2008 South Wales Evening Post. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.

Source: South Wales Evening Post