Music Preview: Into The Groove – The Ultimate Tribute To Madonna, Empire Theatre, Liverpool

Image Source: Entertainers

Are you ready to strike a pose? Join us as we celebrate the incredible 35-year career of the best-selling female artist of all time. This dazzling and colourful production features all of Madonna’s greatest hits such as Holiday, Like a Prayer, Papa Don’t Preach, Material Girl, Vogue, Music, Hung Up and many, many more!

Recreating highlights from her breathtaking live tours, this show pays tribute to the classic songs, spectacular costumes and iconic dance routines that have earned Madonna the title Queen of Pop. It’s generating such a buzz around the country that Madonna fans everywhere are digging out their lacy gloves, conical bras and cowboy hats and preparing to get Into The Groove!

Into The Groove was created by Madonna fans for Madonna fans. To include everything that’s awe-inspiring about Madonna in one show would take a lot longer than two hours. More like two days. Or probably even two weeks! So, we researched, hard. And we listened to the people who love Madonna the most. We hope that we’ve incorporated many of your favourite memories of The Material Girl, along with a few surprises!

Celebrating Madonna’s incredible life in music, film and fashion, Into The Groove stars Elly Jarmain, who has successfully dedicated her entire profession to performing as a world-leading Madonna impersonator. This fast-paced, high-energy show particularly focuses on Madonna’s explosion into popular culture during the 80s and early 90s, and features fourteen songs from her critically acclaimed album, The Immaculate Collection. This was the soundtrack to the childhood and teenage years of many Madonna fans who copied her distinctive style.

The musicians of Into The Groove are delighted to be given the opportunity to share their passion with theatre audiences. They have been together for over ten years and have performed Madonna’s music all over the world, so as you can imagine they know each other very well! If you would like to get to know them better, you’ll find more information in the ‘All About The Cast’ section. In the meantime, here’s a bit about what’s been happening behind the scenes…

Costume designers Lyn Bambrick and Sue Pavey have been creating their own versions of iconic looks originally designed by Jean Paul Gaultier, Dolce & Gabbana and Riccardo Tisci for Givenchy. Many of Madonna’s most famous fashion moments are included in the show… the pearls, lace and crucifixes of the 80s, the conical bra corsets of the 90s, the cowboy and geisha styles of the early 00s, the disco streetwear of later that decade and the more recent Super Bowl gladiator attire.

West End performer and LA choreographer Karin Bello has been capturing the look and feel of Madonna’s dance routines in detail. This has been quite a challenge, as the show flows through styles from the running man to Vogueing to kung fu! Karin is a force of nature and has really put Elly and the dancers through their paces!

Prop designer RJ Designs were invited to replicate the pulpit used by Madonna during her Blond Ambition tour. (The tour was extremely controversial, with highly sexualised imagery alongside Catholic iconography leading to the tour being boycotted by religious groups).

Entertainers AV designer, Grant Witton, has been producing backdrops for the Into The Groove video screen. He has studied Madonna’s material in depth to come up with scenes and themes which really bring each song to life and transport the viewer back to her live concerts and videos.

The cast have had some big decisions to make about which musical arrangements to feature in the show, for example, Madonna has performed many different versions of Like A Virgin… dressed as a bride holding a bouquet, as an equestrian displaying her X-rays of a riding accident, in a tuxedo paying tribute to Marlene Dietrich (complete with German accent), writhing around on a velvet bed in her infamous gold corset… and the list goes on! Sometimes they just can’t make their minds up, so musical arranger/bass player Robin Firth has to find ingenious ways of combining two versions together. Madonna fusion!

Hardcore fans may recognise moments from many of Madonna’s live tours and performances (The Virgin Tour 1985, Who’s That Girl? 1987, Blond Ambition 1990, The Girlie Show 1993, Drowned World 2001, Re-Invention 2004, Confessions 2006, Sticky & Sweet 2008, MDNA 2012, Super Bowl XLVI halftime show 2012, Rebel Heart 2015).

Here are a few stats that may interest you…

Number of different costumes worn throughout: 43
Number of different Madonna songs featured: 27
Average total calorie burn per show: 6958
Number of times that Elly has performed the song Holiday (2000-2018): 1621
Number of countries that the cast have visited together: 19

Now let’s take a look at the cast!

Elly Jarmain (lead): Born into a family of professional performers, Elly fell in love with the piano at age 6 and by the age of 12 had attained a scholarship to the Royal Northern College of Music to study piano and operatic voice as a junior student. As a huge Madonna fan from an early age (her first single was ‘Get Into The Groove’) Elly turned her attention to pop music when she produced and fronted the stage show Vogue Madonna, which for the past 19 years has toured all over the world supporting acts such as Go West, Roachford and Musical Youth and entertaining the likes of Prince William, Richard Branson and the Sultan of Oman. She has performed for fashion houses Versace and Givenchy and industry giants Microsoft, as well as at festivals, theatres and prestigious venues such as The Royal Albert Hall.

Matt Watts (guitar/vocals): Matt hails from the beautiful city of York and moved to London several years ago to enjoy the vibrant music scene. His unique, soulful voice combined with over twenty years of honing his guitar skills have given him the opportunity to front many live outfits, also, his creative and visionary approach to music means that he will always throw in an unexpected curveball! When he’s not performing with Into The Groove he can often be found in the lotus position as he is a fully qualified Kundalini yoga instructor.

Robin Firth (bass/keys/vocals/musical arranger): Robin is a multi-instrumentalist from Sheffield who has spent many years working as a musician and vocalist in a variety of projects both on stage and in the studio. His live performance skills are legendary, but he is also sought after as a sound engineer, programmer, producer, remix artist, writer and composer. In the early 00’s, Robin toured as a solo artist alongside Super Furry Animals and The Levellers before concentrating on session work with tribute acts covering acts as diverse as The Beatles, Iron Maiden, Prince, David Bowie and The Scissor Sisters.

Dave Williams (drums): Dave’s knowledge of musical styles stretches from rock, pop and soul to latin, jazz and world music, which makes him the perfect rhythm man for Madonna’s wide spectrum of influences. His recording work includes sessions for industry leaders Sony Music, and when not on the road Dave enjoys imparting his experience to others through the drum tuition centre that he runs in Derbyshire.

Hanna Berhane (dancer): Hanna’s extensive experience includes TV performances on Top Of The Pops, Pepsi Chart UK and with Shaggy on Record Of The Year. She trained at Birds College of Performing Arts in London before embarking on a life of touring the world with various different productions. She then took a break from dancing to travel in a different guise as cabin crew for Virgin Airlines before returning to the stage with Into The Groove.

Jess Murphy (dancer): Since graduating from Addict Dance Academy in Leicester, Jess has become a regular feature with the Entertainers group. A highly versatile ballet trained dancer, she spent last year touring with the successful Bee Gees tribute show ‘You Win Again’, and performing in Dubai, Germany and Romania with The American Divas. Jess is the baby of the band and has enjoyed being introduced to lots of crazy 80s moves!

Shelley Hayes (swing): Shelley is a powerhouse of a dancer with an incredibly funky style that suits Into The Groove down to a tee! Having spent much of her working life cruising around The Med and the Caribbean, Shelley also has a strong and melodic voice and throws herself wholeheartedly into every performance. She is a big fan of physical fitness and is affectionately known by the cast as ‘Diamond Eyes’.

Into The Groove – The Ultimate Tribute To Madonna runs at the Empire Theatre on Saturday June 22. To buy tickets, visit or call 0844 871 3017.