Michael has been an admirer of Fascinating Aïda since discovering their songbook in Chelmsford Public Library in his teens. Some *cough* years later, he finds himself brimming with pride to join these National Treasures onstage. Did someone say Damehoods? Oh yes, he thinks it’s overdue. He is particularly looking forward to some decent backstage banter and larks on their tour in the new year. From recent experience he knows that Ms. Keane throws a serious Holiday Inn Gin Party, and he’ll be sure to pack the velvet rope to keep out the paps, of course. He comes to F.A. as a performer and writer of comedy cabaret. Ask many singers in the capital about him and they’ll roll their eyes and say “Oh yes… he gets around”. It’s true he has played with an awful lot of people. Here’s a small selection…
Accompanying Dillie Keane’s solo show they enjoyed two UK tours, Brits Off-Broadway Festival, Adelaide Cabaret Festival and Galle Literary Festival, Sri Lanka.
With Sarah-Louise Young he created the double act ‘Roulston & Young’ which has played various shows at Adelaide Cabaret Festival, Dubrovnik Midsommer Scene Festival, Kuala Lumpur and recorded three albums of original songs. They also have toured their show ‘Julie Madly Deeply’ far and wide; a UK tour, and runs in The West End, Australia, Canada and Off Broadway. Their performances have won a London Cabaret Award, the Three Weeks Editors’ Award, The Stage Edinburgh Award and an Argus Angel Award.
With Dusty Limits he has produced, arranged and co-written two acclaimed albums of original songs, 2015’s ‘Grin’ and 2018’s ‘Life & I’. Their live shows earned nominations for a TimeOut & Soho Theatre Cabaret Award and a Melbourne Green Room Award for Original Songwriting. For TV impressionist Jess Robinson, he has co-written several musical items for BBC Radio 4’s The Now Show and two live shows; ‘No Filter’ and ‘The Jess Robinson Experience’. For many years he has accompanied the marvellous Chanson Française interpreter Christine Bovill in her show’s ‘Piaf’ and ‘Paris’ in the UK and Europe. The former show been endorsed by Charles Du Monde, writer of “Je Ne Regrette Rien”.
Previous Members, in Order of joining
Canadian actress Lizzie Richardson was Dillie’s best friend from her drama school days. In the early 80’s they teamed up again to sing in various London venues. For some gigs they were joined by Marilyn Cutts and various other performers, working under the name Shame. The group split in September ‘81 when both Lizzie and Marilyn returned to their acting careers. Lizzie returned to the fold in March ‘83 when Fascinating Aïda was founded. She left the group after the Dublin Theatre Festival in October ‘83 to return to her native Canada.
Marilyn gained an English Literature BA (Hons) and a Diploma in Drama from Manchester University. Upon graduating she embarked on a career as an actress/singer by working in Derby as part of their Theatre-in-Education and Studio companies. This was followed by spells working in rep at Crewe, touring the country with many other companies and enjoying stints in the West End before beginning a long, if sporadic, association with Fascinating Aïda. With the group from its’ genesis in the early 1980s until ‘86 making only brief appearances in 1989 and 1995, Ms. Cutts returned, in the guise of super-hero, as a permanent member in 2000 having completed a run in Toronto playing Mrs Sowerberry in Oliver.
As a member of Fascinating Aïda Ms. Cutts’ numerous credits include not only tours of the UK but also Australia; the recording of two cds and one video; appearances on TV programmes such as Wogan, The Bob Monkhouse Show, Saturday Night Live, TVAM, After Hours and the BBC documentary Forty Minutes as well as the Radio shows Start the Week, Stop the Week and Loose Ends.
Regionally Ms. Cutts has performed in productions of Anyone Can Whistle, The Red Balloon, Nymph Errant and Goodnight Mr Tom; played the title role in Piaf; appeared at the Wolsey Theatre in Ipswich as the Baker’s Wife in Into The Woods and Lady Capulet in Romeo ana Juliet; worked with the Bristol Old Vic playing Mrs Lovett in Sweeney Todd and Mrs. Moriarty in Sherlock Holmes: The Musical. She played a variety of roles in the Original Stephen Joseph Theatre production of Honk! in Scarborough before reviving the characters for the RNT’s national tour. Other UK tours include Lady Raeburn in Salad Days and Conchita in Copacabana.
In London, Ms. Cutts has appeared in numerous plays including Design for Living and See How They Run as well as musicals; Godspell, Oliver, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, What a Performance, Showboat and in 2000 she played Queen Exilona in La Cava. Naturally her association with Fascinating Aïda has also led her to tread London’s boards many times.
In the world of Opera, Ms. Cutts has performed in Cosi Fan Tutte and played Annina in La Traviata which was, incidentally, also filmed for German TV. Most recently she returned to The Music Theatre London to play Mistress Quickly in Falstaff.
Most recently she has been spotted touring the country playing Mrs Potts in Disney’s highly successful, and magical, adaptation of Beauty and The Beast after completing a run with the Royal Shakespeare Company in their productions of Alice in Wonderland and Alice through the Looking Glass. Having concluded working with Ms. Dillie Keane, Ms. Adèle Anderson and Mr. Russell Churney on the first UK leg of the Fascinating Aïda’s farewell tour; One Last Flutter, Marilyn Cutts was seen playing Vi Moore in the new national tour of Footloose: The Musical followed by a tour as Nancy in The Shell Seekers.
Currently, Ms. Cutts is appearing as Mme de Rosemonde in Adam Cooper’s new dance drama Les Liaisons Dangereuses
Elsewhere in the the theatre world Ms. Cutts has worked for Equity, is a reader for one of the most experienced theatre producers in the UK and has recently been appointed a Trustee of the Theatres Trust.
Glenda originally studied opera at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Dance. She joined Fascinating Aïda after spending the summer working as a redcoat at a Butlin’s Holiday Camp. Glenda Smith kindly provided this update on her career since leaving Fascinating Aïda:
“I’ve had a very interesting career including a fairly rapid rise within the Civil Service alongside a continuing singing/acting career! Work all over the UK has included rock recordings (including single), advertising jingles, live radio work, Maggie Smith’s technical understudy and Jazz gigs by the bucketful.”
Denise Wharmby was born in Tasmania, and met the girls (as they were then known!) on their first night in Sydney back in 1986. She showed them where to party, took them out on wild nights of drinking and gambling, and finally threw a barbie for them just before they headed off on their Outback Tour. Fatefully, someone started a bit of a sing-song, and wouldn’t ya just know it, but Denise launched into the big aria from La Traviata. Dillie was completely bowled over – not just by Denise’s superb voice, enormous range and all round musicianship – but by the extraordinary throw of the dice that had landed them all together. For the truth was that Adèle and Dillie had been touring with a heavy heart, as Marilyn had decided that she needed to spread her wings and escape the somewhat claustrophobic world of touring, touring, touring. This was to be her swansong with Fascinating Aïda, and it appeared that there was no-one to replace her. Auditions had been held, and suffice it to say that much drowning of sorrows had been attempted as a result of said auditions. However, there in Sydney on that fateful day in February 1986, whilst they munched their blackened shrimps and stood beside a Kawai grand piano, Adèle and Dillie found their saviour.
The rest is history. Denise left a promising career on the musical side of Australian showbiz to come to England, and didn’t leave out shores for many years.
Then another piece of fate lead Denise to her third continent. In 1984, Fascinating Aïda had been pipped at the post for the Perrier Award, Edinburgh’s famous comedy trophy. The winners that year (quite deservedly) were the wackiest quintet of musicians ever to toot a horn on a stage -The Brass Band. As huge fans of The Brass Band, Fascinating Aïda found it no trouble to be galnat losers, so they took the bottle of champagne they had bought around to share it with the five crazy Californian boys. The guys looked somewhat puzzled at this act of quixotic magnanimity, but sufice it to say that they recognised in the girls the unmistakable signs of schoolgirl adulation (not to mention infatuation) and a real and abiding friendship was struck.
Then when Denise joined the group, she naturally came across the guys – firstly at the Perth Festival in 1988, then in San Francisco in 1989. Of course, all the guys lived in SF, so there was quite a bit of socialising, etc. etc., and naturally she got to know them all fairly well.
Cut to some years later – about 1994 or so… Denise was passing through San Francisco on her way to Oz to see her family, and decided to look up the old friends. The Brass Band had by then disbanded (no pun intended!) but the individuals weren’t hard to find. And lo and behold, she and George Wallace (no relation to the right wing senator, nor to the African-American comic of the same name) looked into one another’s eyes – and found the experience more than pleasant.
So there you have it. Denise is now living in the Bay Area of San Francisco, a contented mother of a little boy. George is doing all sorts of things – he turned out to be a bit of a whizz as a builder and decorator, so that’s his main occupation. However, he’s still conducting and doing all sorts of things with his music, and Denise is teaching. That little boy is sure going to be musical!
We wish her well, and Denise, if you’re reading this, send a photo of the family to the website!
Issy van Randwyck
Issy was the longest serving of all the FA sopranos. During her five years with the group she won the hearts of many fans from all round the world. Born in Hong Kong to Dutch parents, naturally. Lived in Japan, South Africa and then back to Hong Kong. Aged 9 was sent to Prep School in England then on to boarding school – after a mutual parting of the ways between Head Mistress and pupil – Issy decided it was time to move on, which she did, to London for a year of ‘A’ levels at Queensgate.
Having done a lot of singing and acting at school… Amahl in Amahl and The Night Visitors, St Matthews Passion at the Festival Hall, conducted by Sir David Wilcox… Issy discovered the joys of Vodka and Marlboro cigarettes and decided the life of an estate agent was for her, until a timely run in with the Chelsea police. She had dabbled with cooking, secretarial work, travel agency and interior design on her voyage of discovery.
At this time, Issy was suffering withdrawal symptoms, from lack of performing and found herself in a band performing at all sorts of events, from private parties to the Hammersmith Palais – The Sweatband.
She put her money where her dream was and still is, and when offered a recording deal with an American record producer in New York – three tracks later, wiser, poorer, but richer in experience, she returned to London.
Back in London and having shed many tears and a boyfriend, she went to celebrate the New Year in Delhi performing, in cabaret, for the Taj Group of Hotels – squeezing in a quick trip to the Taj Mahal.
Soon after that, she was asked to join the line up at Madam Jo Jo’s, for six weeks, as the only real girl – eventually, after 18 months, they managed to prise her out of Soho with the false promise of a glittering tour of Manchester and Los Angeles.
Suddenly appearing on the scene, Larry Adler, whisked her off to the Edinburgh Festival where they performed together and have been ever since – The Glory Of Gershwin Album, a tour of Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Barbados and The Jazz Cafe, Camden!
Her baptism of fire into the wondrous West End Theatre life came with the marvellous Norwegian hit musical [albeit in Norway alone, she is thrilled to still receive her residual cheques from the cast recording and video] – Which Witch stunned London’s discerning theatre audiences, several years ago. Even with the support of the entire Norwegian football team and their Royal Family, they could not save this rather poor musical – but everyone has to have at least one on their CV.
She then went on to perform in various musicals – Moll Flanders, Love Life, Music In The Air, By Jupiter, as well as numerous performances of her own show around the country and in London, at Pizza On The Park.
In 1994 she joined forces with Dillie Keane and Adèle Anderson to reform Fascinating Aïda on instructions from Victor Lownes [the former Head of Playboy in the U.K. – the discerning musical critic that he is!], they had two sell out U.K. Tours, a sell out run at the Lyric Hammersmith and The Garrick West End, culminating in an Olivier Nomination for Best Entertainment.
Having found she had two months off, in the midst of all this, she accepted a short run of Lysistrata for the Peter Hall Company at Richmond Theatre Royal and Epidorus Amphitheatre, as part of the Athens Festival.
She received a phone call from her dear friend Christopher Biggins asking whether she would like to play the part of Hortensio in a production of the Taming of the Shrew in Barbados, which, naturally, she accepted like a shot. When she later discovered that she would be playing a man, she still didn’t have the heart to say, No (and, word has it, she was rather good)!
She then went off to Australia and New Zealand, with Larry, to tour the Gershwin album to sell out venues where the album had gone platinum – it might have also had something to do with a few of the other up and coming artists on the album – Jon Bon Jovi, Sting, Elton John, to name but a few.
She spent the next twelve months playing the part of Petra, the free thinking and liberal maid in Stephen Sondheim’s award winning musical, A Little Night Music, at the Royal National Theatre, also starring Dame Judi Dench, Sian Phillips and Patrica Hodge – due to popular demand, the show was extended. During her hectic year at the National Theatre, she managed to squeeze in the recording of the acclaimed cast album of A Little Night Music as well as her own album It’s Oh So Issy – which was a cathartic experience, a lot of fun and extremely satisfying.
When the show closed, Issy went on to do her sell out show at the Purcell Room, plus various other ventures, such as Joy To The World [Royal Albert Hall], Glory Of Gershwin [Berlin], Late & Lyrical [Jermyn Street] etc etc etc.
The new year brought Fascinating Aïda back together for another sell out run at the Vaudeville and the subsequent transfer to the Apollo Theatre, due to popular demand, with their hit show, It, Wit, Don’t Give A Shit Girls.
1997 saw Issy’s much lauded performances for the New Shakespeare Company in both Kiss Me Kate [as Bianca / Lois] and A Midsummer Nights Dream [as Helena] at the Regent’s Park Open Air.
The cast album of Song of Singapore, starring Issy van Randwyck, is now available from Dress Circle. Click on the above link for full details.
Sarah is a Tony Award winning Orchestrator, Composer, Musical Director and Pianist.
Most recently, Sarah has Orchestrated and Musical Supervised ‘Fiddler On the Roof’, a UK Tour, directed by Craig Revel Horwood.
Other recent shows as Orchestrator include: ’The A to Z Of Mrs P’ (Southwark Playhouse), ’Jungle Book’ (Glasgow Citizens) and ’Dear World’ (Charing Cross Theatre).
Other shows as Orchestrator and Musical Supervisor include ‘Chess’ (UK Tour), ’Sunset Boulevard’ (Comedy Theatre) ’Spend Spend Spend’, ’Copacabana’, ’Martin Guerre’, ‘Hot Mikado’, ‘Ten Cents A Dance’ and ‘Carmen’, (all at The Watermill Theatre), ‘Mack And Mabel’ (Criterion), ’Gondoliers’ (Apollo Shaftesbury Ave).
She won a Tony and Drama Desk Award for her Orchestrations on 2005/6 Production of ‘Sweeney Todd’.
Other Musical Director Credits: ‘Anything Can Happen’ (Stiles and Drewe Workshop, St James Theatre), ‘A Song Cycle For Soho’ (Soho Theatre), ’Greeks At the Gate (Gate Theatre), ’Sunnyside Of The Street’ and ‘Dottie Lottie’ (Jermyn Street).
She has recently composed music for ‘The Secret Garden’ (Chester Performs), and has composed for many Pantomimes at Chipping Norton Theatre, ‘A Star Danced’ (Watermill),’Tales My Lover Told Me’ (Kings Head),’The Marriage Of Figaro’ (Watermill), ‘The Last Fattybottypuss In The World’ (Regents Park), ’Peter Pan’ (Oxford Playhouse).
As pianist, she has worked with Julian Clary, Lily Savage, Fascinating Aida, Issy Van Ranwyck, Dillie Keane, Barb Jungr, Alvin Stardust, and The Drop Dead Divas.
Charlotte’s time with the group was tragically brief. Shortly after she flew in from California in January 2000 to join the girls, she was struck down by acute laryngitis and lost her voice. She partially recovered her voice and was able to perform in just four shows before losing her voice again. She opted to leave the group to give her voice the chance to recover.
Russell was born in Liverpool in 1964. He was educated at Merchant Taylors school and Trinity College, Cambridge. He spent seven years as MD/pianist for Julian Clary, touring extensively in Britain and overseas, and appearing in two series of ‘Sticky Moments’ for Channel 4. He then worked as MD/co-deviser with Barb Jungr on the music theatre shows ‘Songs From the Heart’ and ‘Killing Me Softly’ among others, and co-wrote with her the songs for a new musical, ‘The Ballad of Norah’s Ark’. He composed original scores for various films including ‘Return Trip’ and the Bafta-nominated ‘The Alcohol Years’ (both Channel 4), and most recently for ‘One Minute Past Midnight’, released in 2004. His later work as MD/performer included ‘Portraits in Song’ with Elizabeth Mansfield (Drill Hall and tour), ‘Darkness and Disgrace’ with Des de Moor (Pentameters Theatre), ‘Barb, Bob and Brel’ with Barb Jungr (Jermyn Street Theatre and tour), ‘The Lonely Fate of the Femme Fatale’ with Sandra Lawrence (Soho Theatre and Rosemary Branch Theatre), ‘Big Night Out, at the little palace theatre’ (Palace Theatre Watford), ‘Chanson: the Space in Between’ with Barb Jungr (Pleasance Edinburgh, tour and album), ‘Cabaret Whores’ with Howard Samuels (Edinburgh Fringe and Pleasance London), and ‘Straker Sings Brel’ with Peter Straker (Pleasance Edinburgh).
Russell worked on and off with Dillie Keane from 1995, came to Berlin with her solo show Back With You and was an essential part of that work all along. His involvement in Fascinating Aïda itself grew and grew. He features in the albums ‘Back With You’ and ‘One Last Flutter’.
Tragically, Russell was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer at the end of 2005, and died on 27th February 2007. He is still deeply and dreadfully missed by everyone who ever worked with him. His contribution to Fascinating Aïda’s work was both subtle and brilliant, and he had just started writing songs with Dillie. Funny, deadpan, clever, modest, moral, well-read, loyal, honest to a fault: he was that rare creature – a supremely talented artiste and an outstandingly nice man.
Sarah-Louise is an actress, singer and writer. Named one of Time Out’s Top Ten cabaret artistes of the year, she has performed her solo show, CABARET WHORE, to sell-out crowds at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival, Edinburgh Fringe, Soho Theatre and Off-Broadway, winning critical acclaim and awards. As and actress she he has appeared at the Royal Exchange, National Theatre Platform Space, numerous number one tours as well as guest leads on television. She is also a member of SHOWSTOPPER! The Improvised Musical, featuring in their BBC Radio 4 comedy series and in the West End.
She collaborates regularly with composer Michael Roulston including commissions for the Terror Season at the Soho Theatre and Southwark Playhouse. She is thrilled to be joining Fascinating Aïda for their Edinburgh show, Autumn tour and West End run.
‘Engages the brain as well as the funny-bone’ ★★★★★ Times
‘Quite simply, Fascinating Aïda are the tops’
The New York Times
‘One of the most exquisitely polished shows you are ever likely to see’
News of the World
‘Aïda can clearly still surprise as well as fascinate’ ★★★★ Evening Standard
‘The satirical blows are dispatched with the sweetest of smiles’ ★★★★★ The Times