Phantom Fun

During my years working in radio I have met and worked with many fantastic people. I am delighted that I am still in contact with lots of my former colleague’s. And also some super talented people, who I have met, when they were guests on my show. I enjoy following their careers and catching up with them from time to time. One of them is the amazing Mike Sterling.

I first met him when I was working at Ivel fm in Somerset. He was also then living in the area. One day he came to the studios while I was on air to get some publicity for a show that he was involved with at the excellent Octagon Theatre in the town. My boss pretty much brought him straight in to me and I interviewed him about his career and the upcoming performance.

He made his name singing in the pubs and clubs of his native Wales. There he was spotted by a producer of the television talent show New Faces. He made it to the final in 1987 being narrowly beaten by a comedian called Joe Pasquale. I wonder what happened to him. He impressed a few certain well known musical theatre producers with his performances. This led to him ultimately playing The Phantom of The Opera in the West End and also a stint as Jan Valjean in Les Mis once again in the capital.

He has appeared in countless other musicals and plays all over the country since. Including the last UK and International Tour of Evita in which he played Juan Peron. He has also regularly performed as a vocalist all over the world. My favourite fact is that he did appear in Allo Allo as one of the Italian Soldiers. Anyway he came in told me about the show in Yeovil. I went along to see it and his voice blew me away.

Mike Sterling and Neil Quigley

We stayed in touch from that moment. He ended up helping us judge lots of local talent competitions at The Chicago Rock Cafe. Plus he once very kindly performed at the Christmas Lights Switch on in the town for me. In fact he sang at my Fortieth Birthday party, a couple of years ago. As part of the mini variety show I put on. I did actually kind of sing with him that night, as we did a version of the classic Morecambe and Wise song “Bring Me Sunshine” to end the show.

He has his own show at the minute that he takes all over the world called “Stars of West End”. In which he and fellow West End stars perform hit songs from lots of different musicals. I went to see this show last Sunday at The Kenton Theatre in Henley on Thames. It was the first time I had been there. It is a lovely, cosy and friendly place. It has a comforting feel to it. The Staff there were all great.

As well as Mike Sterling of course, the cast included the legend that is Shona Lindsay. She has played Christine in The Phantom of the Opera and Sandy in Grease to mention but two of the huge roles that she has portrayed. She was actually Christine when Mike was The Phantom, so they know each other so well. This shows when they perform together. She has an amazing voice, just so talented.

Next there was the ridiculously sublime Jenny Fitzpatrick. She has been in The Lion King and most recently played Tina Turner in “Tina Turner – The Musical” I was lucky enough to see her in that role and she was sensational, such a powerful voice and a fantastic actor. Add to that the fact she is one of the nicest people that you could wish to meet. She will be playing big roles in big shows for years to come, in my opinion.

The final singer was the amazingly versatile Ross William Wild. He has been in We Will Rock You, Grease, The Million Dollar Quartet and up until recently was the lead singer with Spandau Ballet after replacing Tony Hadley. He is now fronting his own Rock band called Mercutio. He has a fantastic voice as you would expect from a young man with all of that already on his CV.

Jenny Fitzpatrick

They were backed by an all-star band made up of current West End musicians under the musical directorship of Duncan Waugh. Who is Sir Tim Rice’s MD. The show was totally brilliant from start to finish. It kicked off with the whole cast performing One Night Only. It was then a mixture of duets, group numbers and of course solo songs from each of the four cast members. They all performed some of the huge numbers from the shows that they had starred in. Everyone was on fire. It looked and sounded great.

The whole audience were on their feet singing, clapping and dancing by the end. They received a very well deserved standing ovation. I totally loved it. There was a small after show party at a restaurant in Henley called Hoff’s. That I was lucky enough to have been invited to. I got to hang out and celebrate with Mike, which was great. I did also manage to have a chat to the talented Jenny Fitzpatrick and wonderful Ross William Wild.

Do keep an eye out for any shows featuring these stars individually, you will not be disappointed. They are all top quality. Also it is hoped that they will be able to do more of these “Stars of The West End” performances. If you like songs from the musicals in West End quality at your local theatre, then go and see this show, if you get chance to. I had a brilliant night. It always makes me very proud seeing a mate kill it on stage.

Mike Sterling

Previously you may remember me mentioning a quiz show that I am helping to develop. Well we had another run through of it to try to sell it to a television channel, to get it on screen. I am still waiting to hear how this went and if it will be commissioned.

It was once again a lot of fun to step in as a contestant to show off some of my general knowledge skills. It was hosted by the lovely Gabby Roslin, who is a top presenter. If it gets on television, I will at that point be able to say that I helped to get it there, well at least a little bit.

Gaby Roslin and Neil Quigley

I spent around three fun years working as a Tour Guide at Wembley Stadium. For somebody like me who loves music and football it was a great place to be. I got to visit every important part of the place and take thousands of fans from all over the word around to experience the home of English Football.

I have walked out of that tunnel more times than David Beckham. Although unlike him I only got to play on the hallowed turf once, while I was there. But that was an amazing experience.

Neil Quigley
Neil Quigley

The other great thing about my time there was the other people that I worked with, a fantastic bunch. We worked hard but we had a lot of fun in the process. It was great being involved when the NFL came to town. I met the England manager a few times. And had to help out when we had to sneak David Beckham and his children through on a private tour hiding him from the public one weekend.

Sadly one of my former colleagues has recently passed away after a short illness. And another was leaving. To mark both of these events a friend of mine organised some drinks. Last Friday we met up in a pub just round the corner from Marylebone Station. He had hired their function room. It was really nice to see so many people who I knew there. It was brilliant to catch up with everyone, reminisce and have a good old laugh. I am very proud to have worked for both the Football Association and the BBC in my career so far.

NFL Dolphins v Raiders
NFL Dolphins v Raiders The Team

I am still watching Strictly Come Dancing this year. I have not really got a favourite couple as yet. But there are quite a few of them who I do like. He is not the best dancer but he is trying hard and he is very funny. Chris Ramsey is doing great, I met him a few years ago after a gig in Aylesbury. He is a top bloke. I also like Karen Hauer his partner for her dancing and the fact I think she is a little bit crazy. I did have a small bit of Twitter banter with them both the other week about him teaching her how to speak “Geordie”.

It is nice to see Anton Du Beke doing well this year with his partner Emma Barton. She seems lovely and can clearly dance a bit. I do like Mike Bushell and Katya Jones. I fear his time could be up soon but I hope not, as he lives not far from me, so I feel it is right to support the local person. It does seem pretty even at the moment with the top of the leader board changing every week. It will be a good one this week as it is the Halloween Special. The costumes and make up are always unbelievable for it.

Neil Quigley
Neil Quigley

I was back at White Hart Lane after the International break to see us rescue a draw against bottom of the Premier League Watford last Saturday. We once again were not very good in this game and were lucky to get a point from it.

As you can imagine this did not fill me with confidence going into our big Champions League game at home to Red Star Belgrade last Tuesday. I had managed to get my dad a ticket for the seat next to mine, so he could come and watch his first ever match in the new stadium.

Dad and Me at Spurs

We got to the ground nice and early to avoid the queues. We then grabbed a bite to eat and a drink. It was fun to show him the place for the first time on a match day. We took our seats in time to see the teams walk out and hear the Champions League Anthem. We then happily went on to produce our best performance so far this season and ended up winning five-nil. It really could have been more. But if you had offered me this result before kick off, I would have taken it.

I mean it did help us not conceding a goal in the first ten minutes and then us scoring early ourselves. It was nice to get a decent win. Plus it was good to see a few players returning from injury. Tomorrow we have the small matter of trying to tame the league leaders as we go to Liverpool. They remain unbeaten in the league this year and we really need the points. I do have a bit more hope after the last game than I did before it. Fingers crossed we put on a really good display.

Neil Quigley

Tomorrow I am hoping to visit the stables of top horse racing trainer Paul Nicholls’. To see one of the horses that I have a small share in called “Force Ten”. It all depends on the weather. If it does happen I will tell you about it next time we speak.

Force Ten

Have fun and we will catch up again in a couple of weeks. Cheers Neil.

The Game of Life

The end of the summer and the transition to the autumn can be a difficult time. The days are getting shorter and the weather colder. Not to mention a lot wetter at the moment. What you need at this time of the year is a day out with your mates. Which is handy as this is when the now annual boys’ day out at the Ascot Beer Festival and Racing Weekend occurs.

Now in its third year, it is very much an established event. The first time we went we just got normal admission tickets before we found out that for an extra five pounds we could get into the King Edward VII Enclosure, if we wore a suit. As this is the only racing event that we can get anywhere near these facilities, we now do this. It gives us all an excuse to dress up for the occasion.

It is always something I look forward to, as there are not many times during the year nowadays that we all get to spend the day together having a laugh and of course a couple of drinks. I was staying at one of their houses, so we arrived together and met the rest of them at the entrance. There had been a slight issue the previous year when one of the group had not got a tie, happily there were no such issues this time.

Ascot 2019

Apart from the six horse races, there is as the name suggests a Beer Festival to. They do have an impressive selection of Ales and Ciders there. Fortunately for me they had my favourite IPA there from the Marlow Brewery Rebellion. I did manage to have a couple of glasses of that while I was there, which was a nice bonus. I also managed to introduce it to my friends, which was good.

We all had a pretty successful day. All of us won some money back at some point during the afternoon. I must admit it did not seem quite as busy as previous years but that just made it easier for us to get around the place and get served. After the racing was over we went to one of the pubs on Ascot High Street for a bit before all calling it a day and heading home.

Ascot is a wonderful course and it was another fantastic day out. It is always great to properly catch up with good friends, which generally means you spend the entire day laughing, as we did. Unfortunately a few people could not make it this year, which was a real shame. But I hope they will be able to next year, when we do it all over again. As rest assured this staple in the calendar will be back in 2020.

Ascot 2019

Talking of catching up with people my cousin and I had been trying to meet up for months. We both work in London a lot so the plan was to see each other there. However every time he was in town I was not and vice versa. After four months of missing each other we ended up having a quick drink in my local Wine Bar.

It does seem so hard to try to make appointments to see people currently. It did seem easier to do so before mobile phones and now social media, possibly because if you wanted to talk privately to someone the only way was to see them in person.

Neil Quigley
Neil Quigley

I had not done this for a while but the other week I got invited once again to help a Production Company with the development of a new quiz show. It is always a fun thing to do. I go to their offices and act as a contestant, so they can see how a new idea works and so they can I guess give it a robust test with an “outsider” playing the game. I am quite a decent general knowledge quizzer, if I do say so myself. I have a lot of useless information stored in my brain, which does seem to be handy in these situations.

As this idea is still in development and they are trying to sell it to TV companies to get it made and on our screens. Obviously I cannot say too much about it. The show does involve teams. It is a clever idea in which the audience and people watching at home can all play along. Gaby Roslin hosted it and is actually involved in the development of it. It was fantastic to meet her, she was lovely, a total professional. I have been a big fan since Motormouth and The Big Breakfast. I may be going back to see them again soon. But I cannot say anymore at this point. If anything comes of it, I will let you know.

Neil Quigley
Neil Quigley

We are well and truly into the latest series of Newsjack on BBC 4 Extra. It is the topical comedy radio show that anybody can write for. I have had material on it myself in the past. I would recommend that you give it a go if you enjoy writing comedy.

They are very good at using it to help new and upcoming talent to progress. It is currently presented by Kiri Pritchard- Mclean who is doing an excellent job. If you have never heard of it give it a listen.

BBC Radio Theatre
BBC Radio Theatre

I did not watch the whole thing but I did see quite a bit of Britain’s Got Talent “The Champions”. Which featured seemingly random acts from the UK versions past, as well as its sister shows from all over the world. There were no public votes towards it. The winners of each heat and the final were chosen by a specially selected group among the audience, which in equal measure seemed sensible and odd. There were a lot of people I had completely forgotten about on it, who re-appeared. One of which became the eventual winners.

It did just highlight how certain types of acts seem to fair better in that environment than others. It proved once again how hard it is for comedians to stand out and be successful in these kinds of variety shows. I am not sure why this is, but singers, dancers and even the novelty acts seem to fair better and stand more chance of winning over the audience.

One thing that it did prove for me is that when they next do the normal BGT. They can just put the best performers through to the semi-finals and not worry about the out there and strange acts. I know why they do it, to mix the shows up and give everybody who is thinking of auditioning the following year some hope. But what “The Champions” version proved is that people will accept more of the same type of acts in the same line up, as long as they are the best of the best.

I like Twist and Pulse a lot and feel they were of course deserving winners but if you look at the quality acts that did not even make the final including Paul Zerdin, Paul Potts and Jack Carroll. All of whom have carved out very steady careers. You have to question how good this process is for finding and promoting the best acts. It does seem that statistically the BGT audience does favour a certain type of act or is it the previously held suspicion that an interesting back story can help an act to go sometimes may be a little bit further than they should.

BGT London
BGT London

I am once again enjoying a bit of Strictly Come Dancing this year. It is a very well produced programme. Visually there is possibly not much that compares to it from a live perspective. The bond the celebrities build with their dancer is a beautiful thing to witness in itself.

The first two celebrities have left and to be honest so far it has been spot on. They were clearly the two worst dancers on the nights they went out. Last week was a shame as I really like Anneka Rice but her performance sadly was not very good. It is a real shame to lose Kevin Clifton so early, as I think he is a terrific dancer and choreographer.

Neil Quigley
Neil Quigley

I went to see The Man in the White Suit at the Wyndam’s Theatre in London last week. A new version of a classic comedy play. It is very fast paced and there is a lot going on to enjoy and digest. This new take includes original songs written by Charlie Fink from the band Noah and the Whale.

It stars the wonderful Stephen Mangan in the title role. He is excellent in it and works very hard for his cash. There is a fair bit of physical comedy and running around from him as the story unfolds.

The Man in the White Suit

It also features the fantastic Kara Tointon. She is brilliant and puts in a top performance. Plus she gets to display some of her dance skills that served her so well on Strictly. She is a great dancer. Then you also have the legend that is Sue Johnston. She plays her role expertly and gives a masterclass in comedy timing. The whole of the cast are quality and bring this very silly, yet very clever comedy to life getting plenty of big laughs.

The songs in it fit perfectly with the time it was set plus are really catchy, which works well. There are lots of classic” scene” set ups that are executed with such precision. It is not quite a farce. It is probably just a step up from that. But it is lots of fun, if you fancy a giggle and I guess a more old fashioned type of comedy show with an excellent cast. Then go and see it. It is a joyous experience.

The Man in the White Suit

I am a season ticket holder at Tottenham Hotspur. We are not having a brilliant time at the moment. I was at the Stadium in my normal seat when we were beaten seven-two by Bayern Munich in the Champions League. Needless to say that is the worst defeat I have ever seen in person. In general our results and performances this season have been very up and down. I was hoping the next league game after the European disaster would see us bounce right back. However we produced the worse display that I have seen for years and deservedly lost that game to.

It is a tough time for the team at the minute. I am a hoping that when the going gets tough, the tough get going. And we can show the fight and character we need to get out of this situation to improve our current position. I have supported this team all my life, through the good times and the bad, the highs and the lows. I would not have it any other way or change anything. It is all just part of following your team. Enjoy the successes and manage the disappointments. Just like in real life. That said I am going to enjoy the current break for the Internationals more than usual this time.

Neil Quigley

A week tomorrow on Sunday 20th October my friend Mike Sterling is performing in the ace Stars of The West End show at the Kenton Theatre in Henley On Thames. He has an amazing voice and is a top quality performer.

As well as singing at my fortieth birthday party he has also played the Phantom of The Opera in the West End and the iconic Jean Valjean in Les Miserables.

Mike Sterling and Neil Quigley
Mike Sterling and Neil Quigley

The rest of the cast have all performed in some huge productions in London to. There are four of them in total. They will be doing the big numbers from shows such as Phantom, Les Miserables, Evita, Chess, Grease, Cats, We Will Rock You and many more. There are actually two performances on the day. I have seen this show several times before and it is sensational.

There are also VIP Tickets on offer which include front row seats, a drink, a two course meal and a meet and greet with the cast. I will be there and I am really looking forward to it. The live West End band is conducted by Douglas Waugh, who is only Sir Tim Rice’s Musical Director. For more information and ticket details just follow the link here.

Stars of The West End

Have fun and we will catch up again in a couple of weeks. Cheers Neil.