Chester Theatres~ the latest updates




A local theatre company is looking for the “purrfect” performers to cast in two key roles for its production of one of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s most famous musicals.
Following a successful round of auditions, local theatre company Tip Top Productions have announced that they have cast all except two key roles for their production of the iconic West End and Broadway musical CATS which will be staged at Theatr Clwyd in March next year.
The show’s producers are now looking to cast the principal roles of Grizabella & Old Deuteronomy, famously played by Elaine Paige and Brian Blessed in the original production.
Speaking about the iconic roles up for grabs, Tip Top’s Artistic Director Steve Davies said “After two very successful auditions last week we have a very talented cast of 28 performers raring to go but we’re still on the lookout for two of the principals to complete the line-up.

Elaine Paige as Grizabella in the original production of CATS

The parts of Grizabella & Old Deuteronomy, played by Elaine Paige and Brian Blessed in the original production, are still available and the production team are inviting anyone who is interested in auditioning for them to come along to Park Street Studios, Wrexham on Tuesday 7th December at 7.30pm.
Steve added “Grizabella is a survivor and was once a very glamorous cat but now her beauty is fading with age, she sings the song most associated with the show, “Memory”. Old Deuteronomy is the leader of the Jellicle tribe of cats and during the show he has a number of solos too”.
For further information and to receive the audition pieces get in touch with Rob Stevens, director & choreographer, via the email address


Paul Crofts

A Chester based Youth Theatre is celebrating a return to staging large-scale West End style productions for the first time since Lockdown.

On The Mark Youth Theatre(OTMYT) which is based at Christleton High School near Chester have announced that they will be staging a production of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical “Whistle Down The Wind” in March next year. It follows the lifting of restrictions earlier this year which have allowed the group to return to running its normal drama classes and staging large scale productions again.

Set in 1950s America, “Whistle Down The Wind” is a fast-paced show featuring full on power ballads with a score written by Andrew Lloyd Webber with lyrics by Meatloaf and Bonnie Tyler songwriter Jim Steinman and also featuring the smash hit ballad “No Matter What” made famous by Irish boy band Boyzone.

Tickets are now on sale for the show which was first produced by The National Theatre in 1996 before transferring to the West End. The musical is based on the novel of the same name by Mary Hayley Bell, wife of legendary Actor Sir John Mills. Set in Louisiana, USA, it tells the story of a group of children who stumble across an escaped killer hiding in a barn. The children become convinced that this man is in fact Jesus Christ. Whilst the townspeople set out to hunt the fugitive down, their anger is in complete contrast to the innocence of the children who believe in and trust the escaped prisoner. The production will give the Youth group the opportunity to work alongside adult actors for the first time.

Speaking about finally being back in the rehearsal room and being able to stage a full-scale musical again following the easing of lockdown restrictions,  On the Mark’s Artistic Director Simon Phillips said

“We are absolutely delighted to be back working on producing a large-scale show again after 18 months of working without an audience. It is particularly pleasing for us to have the opportunity to stage this somewhat underrated Andrew Lloyd Webber musical. It is great to be able to invite a number of adults to join the company to make the storytelling even more exciting. Once again, we have the talented Claire Thompson onboard to provide us with some fantastic costumes and we have assembled a 14 strong live orchestra for the production which will be staged to the usual high standards which our audiences have come to expect.”

Full details of “Whistle Down The Wind and On The Mark Youth Theatre can be found at

Paul Crofts




Full details at


Cestrian Male Voice Choir

(Photo credit: Will Hay Photography)

2021 marks the 80th Anniversary of the choir which was originally formed in 1941 as The Cestrian Male Voice Choir and the management committee is currently working on plans to celebrate this major milestone with events being staged throughout 2021/22, including a special 80th Anniversary Concert with Foden’s Band at Chester Cathedral on 16th July next year.


Members of one of Chester’s top male voice choirs have re-dedicated an oak tree in Chester’s Grosvenor Park as part of special events to celebrate the choir’s 80th Anniversary.

The tree, planted 30 years ago to mark The Cestrian Male Voice Choir’s 50th Anniversary had all but been forgotten about until John Walsh, Chairman of the choir which is now known as Chester Male Voice Choir, was told about it by long-serving member Lance Howie.

The Cestrian Male Voice Choir pictured with Town Crier Mike Chittenden at the 1991 commemorative tree planting ceremony.

To John’s amazement, Lance presented him with a photograph of the tree planting ceremony in Chester’s Grosvenor Park which was held way back in 1991. Luckily for the choir, Lance remembered the oak tree’s location in the park and so members set out to find it and make plans to provide a new commemorative plaque as part of its current 80th anniversary celebrations.

Current members of the choir Geoffrey Hewson, Peter Walsh, Aled Jones, Joe Shields, Andrew Horne Blair Wilson and John Walsh were joined at the unveiling of the new commemorative plaque by the Choir’s former accompanist Dennis Jones and Second Tenor Norman Harvey who were both present at the original tree planting ceremony 30 years ago.

John Walsh said “Despite having been a member of the choir since 2010 and being Secretary and Chairman over 5 of those years, I was not aware that we had a 50th anniversary commemorative oak tree planted in Grosvenor Park until earlier this year when I was given a photo of the planting ceremony by long serving member Lance Howie. Lance was there but took the photo so he’s not on it! He told me where the tree was located and we went to find it. We hadn’t imagined how big it would be 30 years later! – it’s now a beautiful mature tree over 10 metres tall.”

The Commemorative oak tree in Grosvenor Park.

The original planting ceremony was led by the founder and leader of the then Cestrian Male Voice Choir for 50 years, Fred Warren. John added “It was thought that a plaque identifying the tree had indeed been fitted after the planting but it has long since disappeared. It seemed a great opportunity, in our 80th anniversary year, to replace it. Cheshire West and Chester Council were contacted and were very helpful in advising what form it needed to take and agreeing that it could be done. I’m very pleased that we were able to complete the exercise with a commemorative photograph for the archives before Autumn took the leaves off. We are delighted with the outcome and hope that the plaque will serve as a point of interest for park visitors for years to come.”

The choir is now looking forward to filling its diary with concerts and events post lockdown including a special 80th Anniversary concert at Chester Cathedral on 16th July 2022 with special guests, the famous and world renowned Foden’s Band.

Full details of the choir and how to get involved can be found at Alternatively, contact choir Chairman John Walsh on 07894 509529 or email

Paul Crofts



A Chester based Actor and Drama Teacher has appeared on national television in a dramatic reconstruction of a police investigation into a shocking murder which saw pioneering DNA mapping technology used for the first time to help crack the case.

Chester based Actor Stuart Evans who has appeared in an episode of “Judge Rinder’s Crime Stories” on ITV.

Actor Stuart Evans appeared recently in an episode of the popular TV series Judge Rinder’s Crime Stories. The episode which aired on ITV saw Stuart playing Senior Investigating Officer Kevin Flint of Nottinghamshire Police in a dramatised reconstruction of the events surrounding the investigation into the brutal murder of 87-year-old Mansfield resident Gladys Godfrey in 2002. The show told how the use of a technique known as familial DNA mapping helped to bring Mrs Godfrey’s killer to justice, resulting in the handing down of a life sentence.

Stuart 39, originally from The Wirral travelled from Chester to the ITV Studios at Salford’s Media City to film the episode back in April last year. Speaking about filming for the show, Stuart whose previous TV credits include the classic BBC comedy “Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps” said “It was a great experience to work at Media City. The feeling in the studio was difficult to explain, it was strange, we were filming scenes about this awful crime, yet we were having a great time on set. I think we were all trying to lift each other, being very aware of the sensitive nature of what we were portraying”.

Actor Stuart Evans (left) with Against The Grain colleagues Mark Newman, Marian Newman and Paul Crofts together with writer Jan Bengree.(photo credit: Molly Stedman)

Stuart, a graduate of the Liverpool Academy of Performing Arts(LIPA) and a drama teacher with Wirral Academy of Performing Arts (WAPA) is also well known to theatregoers for his stage appearances with companies including Tip Top Productions and Chester Little Theatre. Last year, Stuart co-founded theatre company Against The Grain with colleagues Mark and Marian Newman and Paul Crofts. The company made its debut at Storyhouse in Chester in 2019 with a production of “Worldly Women” written by popular Chester based writer Jan Bengree for the Storyhouse Women’s Festival. Other projects to date with Against The Grain have included a sell-out out production of Jan’s “Small Tales” which saw Stuart both acting and directing. Stuart’s numerous theatre credits include “Bouncers”, “Flint St Nativity”, “Fawlty Towers”, “The Homecoming”, “The Killing of Sister George” and “Glorious!”.

Stuart Evans as Luke in a scene from Jan Bengree’s “Small Tales”, staged by Against The Grain at Chester Little Theatre in 2019 (photo credit: stephencainphotography)

Most recently Stuart filmed scenes for “It’s A Sin” (formally “Boys”), a 5-part CH4 drama series by acclaimed Doctor Who and Years and Years screenwriter Russell T Davies OBE starring Olly Alexander which follows the lives of three young gay men in 1980s London as they cope with the start of the AIDS epidemic. In March, prior to Lockdown, Stuart appeared in a production of the classic Ealing comedy “The Ladykilllers” at Chester Little Theatre.

Amongst Stuart’s upcoming projects post Covid will be the staging of brand-new twisted comedy “Mr Dumpling” penned by his good friend and colleague Mark Newman for Against The Grain. The play was due to have been staged by the company at The Forum Studio Theatre in Chester in July this year but sadly had to be postponed due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking about the impact of Covid restrictions on the arts and his desire to perform in front of a live theatre audience as soon as restrictions are lifted Stuart said “I don’t think people fully realise the impact that the restrictions around the closure of theatres and other venues continues to have on the industry. It’s not just the actors, the directors, the people we automatically think about when we hear theatre or film and TV, it’s so much more, the dressers, the props team, the set designers, lighting, sound, ushers, box office, caterers I could go on and on. I miss being in a theatre or on set, there’s a creative energy there. I miss my students, my colleagues and just being in that environment. My hope for the new year is that things will improve and the industry will bounce back.”

Further details of Against The Grain, the theatre company co-founded by Stuart, can be found at


Paul Crofts





“Tip Top Productions staging of the BBC comedy masterpiece “Fawlty Towers” featuring 3 of the most famous episodes from the classic series.”

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The 2014 production of “Avenue Q” – staged at The Forum Studio Theatre, Tip Top staged this sell out production to great critical acclaim.

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The brash, disco fuelled campfest “Priscilla Queen of The Desert – The Musical” which Tip Top staged at Theatr Clwyd in 2018.

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Tip Top Productions 2013 staging at The Forum Studio Theatre of the classic Noel Coward play “Blithe Spirit”.

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Chester Male Voice Choir at a Chester Town Hall performance last year with the late Bob Cunningham on the front row fifth from the right. (Photo credit: Will Hay Photography)

Long serving members of one of Chester’s top choirs have been honoured with special awards celebrating their contribution to music making spanning 60 years.

Special badges and awards of Honorary Life Memberships have been conferred on 10 long serving members of Chester Male Voice Choir with 5 of the awards being made at special presentations held outside members’ homes in order to comply with the Covid-19 restrictions in place at the time.

The presentations were made by the Chairman of the choir John Walsh accompanied by Committee members Ron Webster and Blair Wilson. Recipients included Norman Harvey for 37 years’ service, Mike Hendy, 44 years, Roy Gallimore 48 years, Geoff Hewson, also with 48 years’ service and Mike Heathcote, 50 years. Unfortunately, due to travel and other restrictions, presentations have yet to be made to some members including Lance Howie, 30 years’ service, Gerry Smith 36 years, and Howard Millington and Derek Hewson 40 years’ service. The presentation of a posthumous award in memory of the late Bob Cunningham in recognition of his 60 years’ service with the choir was also made to his wife, Sheila.

Speaking about the special presentations, John Walsh said “2021 will be the 80th anniversary of the choir’s formation. Not surprisingly, we have members who have given long service and we felt it appropriate to give them the recognition they richly deserve with the award of the status of Honorary Life Membership. Special ceramic badges were designed for recipients to proudly wear on their uniform and certificates signed by our President Her Grace The Duchess of Westminster were printed and framed. The qualification level chosen was 30 years and every subsequent 10 years. We found we had no less than 10 members who qualified with, amazingly, one at 50 years and one at 60 years! It is testament to the pleasure gained from membership that choir members stay so very long. Most of those recognised have been Committee Members, Chairmen Secretaries and Treasurers during their tenure. Under normal circumstances we would have held a special awards evening for all members and families but that wasn’t possible due to Covid. So, with colleagues Ron Webster and Blair Wilson who developed the scheme, we donned our uniform suits and took to the road to make presentations on our award winners’ doorsteps! Blair’s son Thomas made a video of the whole process which we shared online with all our members.”

Proud moment – Chester Male Voice Choir member Mike Heathcote accompanied by his wife Bernie (centre) receives his 50 years long service award from Chairman John Walsh (right) accompanied by Committee members Blair Wilson and Ron Webster (left) (photo credit: Thomas Wilson)

Amongst those to receive his award at one of the special doorstep ceremonies was Mike Heathcote of Saughall. Mike 82, a former Chairman of the choir has been a member for an impressive 50 years and was instrumental in organising some of the groups many concert tours throughout the UK and oversees, including one to South Dakota USA in 1980.

Speaking about receiving the special honour, Mike, a retired Police officer said “I was surprised and delighted by the award of Honorary Life Membership. The fellowship of the Choir has played such an important part in my life and that of my family. There have been so many highlights over the last 50 years, not least singing in the great cathedrals of Europe including, amongst others St. Vitus in Prague, Notre Dame in Paris and Cologne Cathedral. It’s also been a privilege to share the Chester concert stage with several world-famous stars such as Sir Bryn Terfel, and Sir Willard White, and to have participated in several massed Male Voice Choir concerts at the Royal Albert Hall. Most of all, I value very much the many friendships that myself and my family have made as a result of my being a member of the choir, that is something really special.”

Although unable to currently perform in public due to coronavirus restrictions, members of the choir have been keeping active during the pandemic, rehearsing via Zoom and recording a special arrangement of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” in tribute to the NHS and front-line workers. Full details of Chester Male Voice Choir and how to get involved can be found at

Paul Crofts