The Victoria Wood Songbook

Thank you to Malcolm Prince and Shobna Gulati for the best run-up to the start of our Looking For Me Friend spring tour that we could have ever imagined (tickets details for all spring tour dates can be found here).

Check out this wonderful new show, The Victoria Wood Songbook, at 7pm on New Year’s Day 2023 on BBC Radio 2.

In a special programme, Shobna Gulati, who played Anita in Dinnerladies, revisits some of Victoria Wood’s unforgettable songs.

Plus, we hear from Victoria herself thanks to some archive Radio 2 interviews which haven’t been heard since their original broadcasts.

Looking For Me Friend announces extended 2023 tour dates

BroadwayWorld has confirmed that Looking For Me Friend: The Music of Victoria Wood, writer and performer Paulus’s celebration of the music of the late comedy genius and national treasure, is extending its tour of theatres and cabaret venues, with shows now on sale until May 2023.

As Stephi Wild writes, “Following an Autumn tour and an acclaimed run at Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2022, the nostalgic evening of entertainment heads to The Old Joint Stock Theatre, Birmingham (14 Jan), The Old Courts, Wigan (18 Jan), Square Chapel Arts Centre, Halifax (19 Jan), Chichester Festival Theatre, Minerva Theatre (20 Jan), The Albany Theatre, Coventry (21 Jan), Upstairs at the Gatehouse, London (22 Jan), The Electric Theatre, Guildford (28 Jan), Theatre Severn, Shrewsbury (3 Feb), Aberystwyth Arts Centre (7 Feb), The Theatre Chipping Norton (9 Feb), Saltburn Arts Centre, Saltburn-By-The-Sea (10 Feb), The Wardrobe Theatre, Bristol (14 Feb), Cheltenham Town Hall (16 Feb), Haverhill Arts Centre (17 Feb), Sonata Piano & Cabaret Lounge, Manchester (19 Feb), Salisbury Arts Centre (25 Feb), Theatre@41, York (26 Feb), The Studio, Bradford (4 Mar), Crazy Coqs, London (5 Mar), The New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich (7 Mar), Waterside, Sale (9 Mar), Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff (11 Mar), The Town and Gown, Cambridge (18 Mar), Beccles Public Hall & Theatre (13 Apr), Corn Exchange, Newbury (21 April), Studio at New Wimbledon Theatre, London (11-13 May), Norman Bragg Studio, Aylesbury (18 May) and Epstein Theatre, Liverpool (20 May).

[Buy tickets for all shows here]

Written and performed by Paulus (BBC1’s All Together Now and ‘King of Cabaret’ The Stage), and directed by multi-award-winning cabaret artist Sarah-Louise Young, the show is filled with love, laughter and fabulous memories for Victoria Wood fans as well as the ultimate ‘beginner’s guide’ for audiences new to her work.

Many of Victoria’s best-loved songs through the decades are featured including ‘It Would Never Have Worked’, ‘Reincarnation’ and, of course, the classic ‘Ballad of Barry & Freda (Let’s Do It)’, as well as some of her lesser-known and more poignant compositions.

The highly acclaimed Musical Director Michael Roulston* joins Paulus on stage, proving what many have known for decades: that it takes two men to do the work of one woman – half as well! (*an alternate MD plays certain performances).

Looking For Me Friend: The Music of Victoria Wood is written and performed by Paulus, ‘The Cabaret Geek’, who is an entertainer and educator specialising in cabaret. Best known for his appearances on BBC1’s All Together Now as a talent judge, his musical tribute to Victoria Wood premièred in London in 2020. For fifteen years, Paulus had close ties to the cult London cabaret venue The Battersea Barge, producing many cabarets for them including the hugely successful talent contest Cheese ‘n’ Crackers, Diva Nite and their annual adult pantomimes. For ten years, Paulus ran the entertainment agency Excess All Areas (formerly Better Chemistry) and under this banner he spearheaded the annual Cabaret Convention and London Cabaret Awards. His expertise has been sought to judge many talent competitions including National Burlesque Awards, Drag Idol for Royal Vauxhall Tavern, Pride’s Got Talent, Musical Comedy Awards and Burlesque Idol at The Hippodrome Casino.”

* Michael Roulston is not the pianist for all of the show dates listed.

Victoria Wood tribute Looking For Me Friend, Upstairs at the Gatehouse

The Ham & High has announced that the musical tribute to the late, great Highgate comic Victoria Wood, Looking For Me Friend, comes to Upstairs at the Gatehouse in January.

As Bridget Galton writes, “Looking for Me Friend sees cabaret star Paulus performing Wood’s songs such as It Would Never Have Worked, Reincarnation and of course Ballad of Barry & Freda (Let’s Do It).

Directed by cabaret artist Sarah-Louise Young, it’s a nostalgic canter through Wood’s best known and lesser known compositions, that also serves as the ultimate beginner’s guide to her work.

Wood, who died of cancer in 2016, gave the stamp of approval for her 1978 debut play Talent to be revived at her local theatre Upstairs at the Gatehouse in 2008.

She got her first break on TV talent show New Faces, and fittingly Paulus has appeared as a judge on BBC1’s singalong contest All Together Now, and run numerous talent contests for drag and burlesque acts.

Looking for Me Friend: The Music of Victoria Wood features Paulus on stage with Michael Roulston* on piano. The show arrives in Highgate on January 22 as part of a nationwide tour.”

Buy your tickets here.

* * Michael Roulston is not the pianist for all of the show dates listed.

Where To See Pantomime In London This Christmas

Londonist features The Wizard of Poz in its round-up of where to see panto in London this Christmas!

From the makers of Pilates in the Caribbean and Alice in Poundland comes the Wizard of Poz, an adult-only panto, which prides itself on having ‘a filthy mouth and a big heart’. The timeless Judy Garland movie gets a tongue-in-cheek makeover, featuring characters like The Wicked Witch of West London and a Friend of Dorothy (Dorothy herself got Covid so can’t make it).

Dates: 7, 8, 9, 14, 15, 16, 21 & 22 December. Venue: The Two Brewers, Clapham

Presented by The Cabaret Geek, it’s the ‘filthy-mouthed show with a big heart that unpacks the myths surrounding HIV with levity and love’ and you can buy your tickets at OutSavvy.

Or if you’re a group of 12 or more, you can buy your tickets at Universe and save £5 on each ticket!

And now, you can buy your set of 3 Wizard of Poz badges ahead of the show in the Cabaret Geek Shop! Are you a Good Witch, a Bad Witch or a Friend of Dorothy?!

It’s Panto Season! Oh Yes It Is!

And The Wizard of Poz is featured in the All That Dazzles round-up of this season’s 60 pantos around the UK!

Dates: 7, 8, 9, 14, 15, 16, 21 & 22 December. Venue: The Two Brewers, Clapham

Presented by The Cabaret Geek, it’s the ‘filthy-mouthed show with a big heart that unpacks the myths surrounding HIV with levity and love’ and you can buy your tickets at OutSavvy.

Or if you’re a group of 12 or more, you can buy your tickets at Universe and save £5 on each ticket!

Read all about it in Theatre Weekly too!


Paulus on the Ingram Noble Show

Paulus joins Ingram Nobel for the very first episode of The Ingram Noble Show!

They chat about the origins of the podcast’s title, their shared experiences of Drama School, growing up as an “other”, the issue with using trauma as material and performing that “material” for your therapist, small town mentalities, Paulus’ musical homage to Victoria Wood, his YouTube channel, buying a new kettle to save on our energy bills, being political, what a pure cabaret is, Kathy Griffin v Donald Trump, the arts being vital, the Free Fringe, why Ingram now doesn’t like Linda Robson, being a judge on BBC One’s All Together Now, how Paulus got his ‘character’ on the show and Ingram’s ideas for TV shows.

Check it out below on Spotify or Apple Podcasts.

The Two Brewers 2022 Annual Adult Panto – The Wizard of Poz: Defying Bigotry

Theatre Weekly reports that The Cabaret Geek will present The Wizard of Poz: Defying Bigotry at Two Brewers in Clapham this Christmas, with a festive run at the popular Clapham cabaret venue from 7-9, 14-16 and 21-22 December 2022. Buy your tickets here.

From the same creative team who brought Pilates in the Caribbean, Alice in Poundland, Hairy Poppins and Dial M for Death to The Battersea Barge, this filthy-mouthed show with a big heart will unpack the myths surrounding HIV in the 21st century with levity and love.

It’s the 1980’s in Ashby De La Zouch. Kevin is transported by tornado in place of his friend, Dorothy (who got COVID and had to cancel). There he meets the wrath of The Wicked Witch of West Acton (Ealing-Adjacent), whose only wish is to own her sister’s comfy High-Top trainers – oh, and to destroy any living being having an active sex life.

Can Kevin save the sex lives of his friends from doom? Can he protect the red High-Top trainers from the witch? Is there anywhere you can park your broom in West Acton – and is that really the price of butter in the 80’s? Aided by Grrrlinda the Good, The Tin Scarecrow (cost of living crisis, we’ve all had to make sacrifices), and a Lion who is obsessed with Greggs the baker, Kevin embarks upon a quest to visit The Wizard of Poz and to discover finally whether that brick road is more ‘Sunflower’ or ‘Babouche’.

The Wizard of Poz promises musical numbers from The Wiz, Wicked and the beloved Judy Garland movie, performed by a fabulous line-up of top cabaret and theatre performers.

The cast is led by Paulus, ‘The Cabaret Geek’ – BBC’s All Together Now judge (as The Wicked Witch of West Acton) with Poz Daddy’s Jamie Anderson (as Grrrlinda The Good), C J Hopkins (as Kevin, A Friend of Dorothy), Paula Brett (as The Tin Scarecrow), Emma Maywood (as Lion), Annemarie Lewis Thomas (as Auntie Em) and Nathan Evans (as The Wizard of Poz).

The creative team is Annemarie Lewis Thomas (Musical Director), Jamie Anderson (Director), Paulus, ‘The Cabaret Geek’ (Writer/Producer), Paula Brett (Dance Captain) and Belle De Beauvoir (Costumier/Choreographer). The production team is Sean Mooney (Company Manager) and Nathan Evans (Technician).

Buy tickets:

Paulus: Songs 2

Paulus and music director Jordan Clarke took their show Songs 2 to Pizza Express Live in Holborn on October 16th and Gavin Brock was there to review the show for Cabaret Scenes. Read the full review here.

“You say I’m what’s wrong with the world,” a defiant Paulus sang through scarlet painted lips, his bulbous smoky eyes lined with thick mascara. “There’s a rip in the fabric. Let’s tear it down, make me a dress!” This blistering refrain from the opening number, “Queen Clown,” could hardly have better set the stage for the themes of belonging and cheerful nihilism that peppered Paulus’ self-penned songs. Nor could they have better complemented the performer’s visually arresting black-and-red, semi-drag ensemble, which consisted of rubber leggings, stilettos, sequins, and pearls and rhinestones, all topped off with an oversized fascinator.

As one might gather from the show’s title, this outing represented the piece’s second incarnation, the first having been (by his own concession) “a bit dour.” This was Songs 2: The Revenge, and it found Paulus in a playful spirit: “We’re in a much better mood now Boris is gone.” Dour this evening certainly was not. Even musical numbers with titles such as “Everything Is Shit and We’re Going to Die” were surprisingly upbeat, with the audience encouraged to joining in the “la-la-la” chorus with aplomb.

Commenting on the spontaneous nature of cabaret and the lowering of the fourth wall (Paulus doesn’t refer to himself as “the cabaret geek” for nothing), he effortlessly drew joy from the unpredictable and unscripted: microphone mishaps, biting repartee directed to individual attendees, and slips of the tongue. All of these were folded into the proceedings with the panache of an expert showman who had than 30 years’ experience on the international stage.

The dozen or so songs he performed (penned in collaboration with his staggeringly accomplished music director Jordan Clarke) were by turn wistful, scathing, and achingly poignant. With a Sondheimian ear for harmony and musical storytelling, Clarke’s satisfyingly complex piano arrangements perfectly matched the bravura wit of Paulus’ disarmingly specified lyrics. Each number was a carefully stitched patchwork tapestry of images that combined to paint a portrait of life at an angle, tinged with sardonic humor and genuine pathos. The songs “Tribe” and “The Theatre Book Song,” in particular, expressed the yearnings of a misfit for a sense of belonging; they betrayed a sincere vulnerability beyond the flamboyant exterior that could not fail to move the listener.

With its catalogue of songs five years in the making, Songs 2 was a stunning accomplishment that represented a welcome addition to the list of cabaret songs certain to outlive their creators. If Paulus really was looking to find his tribe, he need look no further than to the adoring crowd that hung onto his every word with sincere adulation.

‘Oh, how we miss Victoria Wood. This show deftly and daftly fills the void.’

The Reviews Hub went to see Looking For Me Friend at the Bombed Out Church, Liverpool and posted this 4-star review:

The late, great Victoria Wood apparently loved the word poncho. How fitting then that members of the audience at the closing event of the Liverpool Theatre Festival were provided with the rather undignified rain cloaks before enjoying an evening with cabaret legend Paulus?

It’s hard to imagine a more British scene. The night closing in, torrential rain pouring down on the Bombed Out Church and a group of Victoria Wood diehards chuckling about chippys, reincarnation and middle-aged sex (or the lack of it).

On one hand, Looking For Me Friend: The Music of Victoria Wood does exactly what it says on the tin. An hour or so of laugh-out-loud comedy and the hilarious music of the much-missed Northern comic. However, it’s also surprisingly poignant and touching. For two reasons:

Firstly, for the deeply personal reflections of both Paulus and Musical Director Michael Roulston. The pair’s friendship flourished when they discovered their shared love. And it isn’t just them. Quoting Victoria Wood is like a key or code for many gay men who grew up in a less accepting age. It’s hard to disagree with the Polari comparisons made in the show.

It would have been good to hear more stories of how people discovered or came to love the woman from Prestwich. It’s clear many people in this audience had their own tale to tell.

The second surprise is just how emotional some of these ‘comedy’ or ‘novelty’ tunes are. Crush would not be out of place in a teen tearjerker movie: a beautifully-penned rendition of the pain of unrequited love, an understated performance that brought a tear to the eye. Or was that rain dripping off the poncho?

Looking For Me Friend focuses on the strengths of its creators: the music. But the banter and sharing of sketch quotes between the two men on stage are joyous. The audience is left wanting more.

Paulus describes his show as proving what many have already known: that it takes two men to do the work of one woman, half as well. Oh, how we miss Victoria Wood. This show deftly and daftly fills the void.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ ‘Unmissable!’

Not only has Everything Theatre described Looking For Me Friend as ‘an affectionate tribute to the great Victoria Wood that matches her warmth and talent and brings personal reflections’, they give the show 5 stars and say it’s unmissable!

Here’s the full review:

‘It’s been six years since we lost Victoria Wood, the gentle comedy genius whose songs and scripts captured the angst, awkwardness and fixations of everyday people and scarily familiar characters that leapt off the screen. Paulus was one of many Brits transfixed by the 1985 series, Victoria Wood: As Seen on TV, which sparked a lifelong love of Victoria’s work; Looking For Me Friend is his melodious love letter to the great lady with the “Bambi-like eyes”.

Like Paulus, I’ve long been a fan of her work (a Victoria Wood photo print from the National Portrait Gallery sits above my desk), so this was a no-brainer choice for my Edinburgh Fringe, but you could easily enjoy this show with little prior knowledge of her famous quotes or her delightfully daft songs. The set list includes ballads such as ‘Go With It’, inbetween up-tempo numbers like ‘At the Chippy’ and, of course ‘Let’s Do It’ (a.k.a. ‘The Ballad of Barry and Freda’), changing the tone but always carrying the audience along.

Paulus sings with a rich timbre, his cabaret roots shining through, accompanied by pianist Michael Roulston. Their friendship started with Victoria Wood quotes, which felt “like a secret language… a modern Polari”. They slip into easy banter and Wood one-liners between songs, and it feels as though you’re joining two of your own friends, albeit with rubber gloves in their breast pocket as a nod to Acorn Antiques, another Wood classic.

Paulus even managed to keep the mood light when an audience member’s phone started ringing, and he ad-libbed about his time at drama school (a time which, he explains early in Looking For Me Friend, contained his most personal connection to Wood). He tells us how his appreciation of Wood wasn’t just about a funny woman – it was also about representation; from strong women to larger figures, and “gay characters that weren’t a punchline”. Though Victoria Wood was notoriously shy and self-deprecating, I’d like to think she’d be proud of this warm and wonderful show.

Written by: Paulus
Directed by: Sarah-Louise Young
Music composed by: Victoria Wood
Musical direction by: Michael Roulston

Looking For Me Friend: The Music of Victoria Wood plays at EdFringe 2022 until 28 August 2022. Further information and bookings here. The show then tours throughout 2022 and into 2023, dates and booking information here.’