Katy Wheeler’s Pick of the Year continued – theatre TV and bloopers

Dirty Dancing Comes to Sunderland Empire:  Hannah Vassallo and Martin Harvey
Dirty Dancing Comes to Sunderland Empire: Hannah Vassallo and Martin Harvey
Have your say

Echo Entertainments editor Katy Wheeler presents the second part of her round-up of her entertainment highlights – and some lowlights too – of the past 12 months.


Olympics and Paralympics, BBC and C4

Coverage of the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics had TV audiences on the edge of their seats and jumping for joy as the UK claimed medal after medal in our most successful outing for more than a century.

Iconic London locations and impressive new venues provided the backdrop to first the BBC’s saturation coverage of the Olympics, then Channel 4’s unrivalled Paralympics programming - the latter proving a runaway success as millions tuned in to see our disabled athletes do us proud.

With first Team GB then Paralympics GB striking gold again and again, this truly was the greatest show on Earth for those tuning in.

Grayson Perry’s In The Best Possible Taste, C4

Turner Prize-winning artist Grayson Perry visited Wearside on his quest to explore British taste and class.

He visited Heppies club in Hylton Castle and had a girls’ night out in the city centre as inspiration for tapestries which are based on his experiences of Wearside culture.

Now, for the first time, the eccentric artist’s work will go on display in the city it was inspired by, when the pieces come to Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens in June.

Mrs Biggs, ITV

Sheridan Smith wowed as the wife of the infamous train robber, Ronnie Biggs.

I wasn’t aware of the tale behind Ronnie’s wife Charmian before this drama, but the true story was brought to life beautifully.

I shed a tear at the death of their eldest son and cheered for Charmian as she strove to carve a life of her own in the epic aftermath of the 1963 crime.

Hebburn, BBC2

Though some people have criticised Hebburn for its “stereotypical” portrayal of the North East, I found it to be an affectionate ode to this South Tyneside town.

The humour strikes just the right balance between being true to life while not patronising to the Hebburn residents which have inspired the show.

South Shields comedian Chris Ramsey is perfectly cast in the lead role, but it was Lisa McGrillis as his character’s sister who consistently tickled my ribs throughout the series.

Superstar, ITV

Jesus was given a Mackem makeover as former Thornhill School pupil Ben Forster emerged victorious in this talent show aimed at finding a new lead actor in Jesus Christ Superstar

The Millfield lad came out top in the competition and the 31-year-old went on to play the title role in Jesus Christ Superstar when it hit the country’s arenas.

Ben dazzled the judges in the tense final with a show-stopping performance of Who Wants to Live Forever by Queen.


South Pacific at Sunderland Empire – May

This reinvention of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic was simply glorious.

Audiences were transported to tropical climes on a wave of toe-tapping tunes, excellent acting and superb staging.

Star of the show proved to be former EastEnders actor Alex Ferns who was a compelling watch as womanising sailor and loveable rogue, Luther Billis.

Matthew Bourne’s Nutcracker at Theatre Royal, Newcastle – May

Fantastical and festive, Matthew Bourne’s interpretation of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker was a feast for the eyes.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from my first Bourne ballet experience but it blew my socks off – and then some.

Bourne, the controversial darling of the modern ballet, took the 120-year-old tale of a young girl who enters a dream world and gave it a Tim Burton-esque twist.

Dirty Dancing at Sunderland Empire – September

I hold my hands up – I am a huge fan of the 1987 film which spawned this musical.

Thankfully, the producers of the show didn’t tinker too much with this tale of Baby, who enters Kellerman’s as a girl and leaves a hip-swivelling woman.

She has, of course, Johnny Castle to thank for that and Paul-Michael Jones gave audiences the time of their lives with his athletic prowess in the iconic role.

9 to 5 The Musical at Sunderland Empire – October

I’d gone to see this show with my sceptical hat on but this new musical ended up being one of my favourite shows of the year.

Toe-tappingly good tunes: check. Witty one-liners: check. Top-notch acting: check. This show had it all.

Queen of Country Dolly Parton, who starred in the 1980 film and penned the musical’s score, sets the scene, appearing on a giant clock face like a pneumatic fairy godmother, sprinkling the show with wit and charm.

Sleeping Beauty at Royalty Theatre – December

Panto is always the best show of the year at the Royalty – oh, yes it is.

Sunderland’s oldest community theatre came alive this year with enthusiastic performances from a passionate cast.

At the helm was Andy Barella as the show’s chief rib-tickler, Tickles, and Lee Stewart as the court jester’s sidekick and love interest Amonia Goodbody.

The pair were lovably crackers and were a highlight of the show.


TOWIE live episode, ITV

Remember when we thought Eldorado was the worst thing to ever be shown on British telly? Step forward the new title holder: Towie live episode. This was so excruciatingly bad, it was good.

The premise was that Arg was staging a variety show, but it ended up being a horrid hotchpotch of scripted scenes, fake laughter, uncomfortable pauses and attempts at ‘acting’ that were so bad I don’t think my retinas will ever recover.

Geordie Shore, MTV

I moan about Geordie Shore all the time for its portrayal of North East youth – but I still watch it every week.

That’s the key to the success of a show which stars former Sunderland schoolgirl Charlotte Crosby: you love to hate it.

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn: Part Two.

I know daring to list Twilight as a blooper will incite the wrath of Twi-hards, but I’ve done it anyway.

I have to admit I haven’t read the books and that’s where my issue with the films stems from.

The film-makers of this saga assume everyone is fanatical about the novels and will understand what’s happening in the film.

My friends had to explain the whole “imprinting” thing to me which seems slightly creepy. And don’t get me started on that ridiculous computerised baby.