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New NE musical play to tour this autumn

Published: 8 September 2018

In 2016, a new NE theatre company, Baby Love Productions, toured its revival of Jarrow-born and Blaydon-based writer Tom Kelly’s 2004 musical two-hander, Baby Love. Now the company, husband and wife team Helen and Jonathan Cash, are to tour Kelly’s latest musical play, Love Songs.

“We had a great time working with Tom on Baby Love,” said Cash, “and had the joy of experiencing at first hand the emotional impact his writing has on audiences.

“When he said he was writing a new piece especially for us, we were, naturally, delighted. It’s a privilege to have a play written for us by one of the region’s foremost playwrights. We’re just extremely lucky he happens to be our friend.

“Also living just next door makes it really easy to get together for rehearsals!”

“After the success of Baby Love’s tour,” Tom Kelly said, “I wanted to write something to capitalise on the talents of Helen and Jonathan and, as they are both singers as well as actors, it seemed a shame not to use that.

“I love these songs and of course tribute tours are the bread and butter of many of our local theatres nowadays. It seemed very current to use that as a background to address subjects like mental health and the impact of domestic abuse in a believable and ultimately positive way. I believe audiences will respond to that.”

The show features songs such as "Bridge Over Troubled Water", "Somewhere", "True Love Ways", "Love Me Tender" and "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" and are performed by the two protagonists as part of a '60s tribute tour.

The tour opens at the Customs House in South Shields. As we wrote in our review of the original production ofBaby Love in 2004, “Tom Kelly is one of the North East's most prolific playwrights and the Customs House is almost his second home: a season at the theatre without a Kelly play is almost unthinkable!” That may have been something of an exaggeration but the theatre has produced more than 14 of his plays, musical and otherwise, together with a number of revivals.

His most recent production, apart from the revival of Baby Love, was the musical The Dolly Mixtures in 2016. In June 2017 Jonathan Cash directed a script in hand performance of a new work, Jobling the Musical, based on a famous historical Jarrow murder case. He has written for Paines Plough, co-wrote Kelly, a play about Hebburn-built HMS Kelly, with Alan Price which became the subject of a BBC Arena documentary and was drama lecturer and eventually head of department at South Tyneside College for 25 years. He is also a well-established and popular NE poet.

Love Songs premières at the Customs House on Monday 15 October before going on to Arts Centre Washington (18), Middlesbrough Theatre (23) and Seaton Delaval Arts Centre (27).

Peter Lathan