27 June 2024

From the Screen to the Stage: Come Dine With Me The Musical

A new musical is coming to the Norwich Theatre Playhouse, and chances are, you’ve seen its inspiration time and time again! That’s right, the iconic daytime television show, Come Dine With Me, is hitting the stage. And if that doesn’t pique your curiosity, we don’t know what will!

It’s part Norwich Theatre’s Festival of New Musicals at the Playhouse – a series of three short musicals coming to Norwich this July (they’re only an hour long each!). The best bit is, if you see them all in one day, you can save up to £21 on the ticket price! Now that’s a day out at the theatre like no other. Here, we sit down with co-creator and TV producer of the on-screen series, Nell Butler, to talk about her new show on-stage – Come Dine With Me, The Musical which arrives at the Playhouse between 23 July – 28 July.

The question you must be asked the most, Nell, is – how did you come up with the concept for Come Dine With Me?

“Back in 2003 I gave an absolutely disastrous dinner party.  My couscous congealed into a solid lump and the chicken breasts were overcooked and dry.  My posh cousin Carolyn was witheringly unimpressed.  At the end of the night, once the guests had gone, my husband slumped in a chair and said:  “Well, that wasn’t fun…  I’m scoring it a 3…”   And BINGO!  A whole new TV format was born!”

Was it a hard sell to get it commissioned?

“I initially pitched it to ITV and the commissioner rejected it without a second glance… but Adam Macdonald, the new daytime commissioner at Channel 4 was much more receptive.  He interrogated it hard, made some improvements and was always hugely supportive.  I owe him a lot.”

How much fun has it been and were you surprised by its popularity?

“I am endlessly curious about other people’s homes, and their lives.  I love seeing how people entertain – all the little details like the serving bowls they use and the dishes they serve up.  I’m still fascinated by the endlessly varied ways in which people interarct in social situations.  The smooth, the awdward, the sincere, the superficial…  So yes – it’s been a lot of fun and I’m so pleased it’s also been popular.”

So, when did you think let’s take it to the next level and make it a musical, and what happened next?

“My friend Gen Welch and I had talked about a musical for ages, but we’d done nothing about it.  Then, during lockdown, I mentioned the idea to a young, dynamic librettist and writer called Sam Norman.  Within weeks he’d brought in composer Aaron King and they’d written a sample song.  We loved it!  They’re an immensely talented duo, and have done an absolutely brilliant job turning the TV show into a funny, charming musical.  It’s never easy taking an existing idea and re-imagining it in a new way, but they’ve added a real freshness and zest to the project. I’m full of admiration for what they’ve created.”

Come Dine With Me The Musical stars, Sam and Aaron, are sure to have you laughing out loud!

What should audiences expect from your stage version?

“It’s a heartwarming tale of four classic Come Dine with Me contestants thrown together to cook up a storm.  But to add spice to the mix, in the musical version you also get to meet the Producer and Crew.  There’s skulduggery afoot, and our under-appreciated sound man initially jumps to all the wrong conclusions… Can he sort out the confusion and win the heart of the girl before the producer calls CUT?  Yep – that’s it in a nutshell, and I hope audiences will walk away with a spring in their step, having had a life-affirming, entertaining evening.  Come sing-a-long with Us!”

Finally, if we were to cook you dinner Nell, what would you like to see on the menu? Would you challenge us or give us an easy ride? And what is the one thing every host should do for their guests to make it a memorable occasion – for all the right reasons!

“Ooh, I love this question… I always like a soup starter – cold in summer, hot and warming in winter.  I think I’m often thirsty when I get to a dinner party, and soup stops me drinking too much wine!

“For the main course I’ll be delighted with a cheese souffle, accompanied a couple of delicious salads (courgette strips and roasted pine nuts, pink grapefruit and watercress – you know the kind of thing!).

“Pudding can be anything chocolatey, and don’t forget to give me more cheese at the end of the meal – a good Stilton, or a Comte.  Something to nibble on with my final glass of red.  That’s not too challenging is it?

“The one thing every host should do is have good lighting.  I never want to be in a brightly lit room when I eat dinner.  Lamps, candles, fairy lights – these are the things that add a touch of magic, and create a convivial atmosphere.  The problem is you’ll never get me to leave!”

And there you have it! From the inspiration for the series on our screen, to what you can expect on the stage, Come Dine With Me The Musical is sure to be a great laugh, so don’t miss it! To find out more and book your tickets for this brand-new musical, visit the Norwich Theatre website.