Patrick Downes

#BringtheNoise Disney fan, vlogger, Blogger, Radio presenter and former socialmedia nightmare. On a sunny day you can see forever #MyView

Review: Passenger #FoV2018 at Wales Millennium Centre by Patrick Downes

REVIEW: Passenger 14 June 2018 Wales Millennium Centre

I’ve been a fan of Mike Rosenburg (Passenger) since 2012 and Let her go, plus having seen him perform at Cardiff Uni in 2014, was curious to see how he’d progressed. I’m a little embarrassed to say that I’ve not really kept up with his music, but he’s got that kind of distinctive voice that you know for sure when he’s being played on the radio.
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Fast forward 2018 and the Festival of Voice at Wales Millennium Centre. A place I know so very well having seen many musical and theatre productions there in the past few years. It’s not really the kind of place I’ve seen live music at, albeit James and Only Men Aloud is the exception to this fact. A sold-out gig in one of the most incredible auditoriums I’ve bore witness to, could this be the most perfect night?

Well, let’s start with the support, Stu Larsen. Hailing from Australia, and with just his guitar to boot, the Donald Gordon Theatre was filled with an amazing sound of quiet, and music, with even the sound of a door in the upper circle closing, could be heard. It felt the right kind of support for Passenger, with the voice and storytelling within his music, you could see how good at his craft he was. You often wonder with support acts, are they going to be good – or are you going be heading back to the bar. Needless to say, I didn’t see anyone leaving during Stu’s 45 minutes, and quite right too.

Then onto the main event. The Festival of Voice 2018 was an international arts festival in Wales’ capital city that celebrated the voice in all its forms. It featured Gruff Rhys, Billy Bragg, Charlotte Church and Passenger. If you’ve not seen Passenger or heard his music, I think the only way to describe it would acoustic guitar driven folk story telling.

As I mentioned previous, the Donald Gordon Theatre is acoustically perfect, as was the audience. I’ve never been to a gig with such respect for the musician. Maybe that’s due to the location, or maybe due to the person. Whatever it was, the sound reverberated around the auditorium with little effort. With a setlist that featured acoustic tracks from Whispers, All the little lights, plus of course the better-known hits of Hearts of Fire (featuring Stu Larsen on harmonies), Holes and his number one single, Let her go.

Each song had a back story, and within each song then performed, you gained a better and proper understanding of it. From Riding to New York to David, I felt I left the gig with some food for thought. Anyone can write a hit record, but it takes a special kind of person to write a song that will make you think.

I just hope the next time I see Passenger, it’ll be a venue like the WMC (top 5 gigs he’s ever done apparently), and I’ll keep my musical education a little more in tune. In fact, I’ve had the last 3 albums on the iPod on repeat in my car since the gig. I just close my eyes, and I’m back there (obviously I’m not driving at the time).

In a few days, another guitar wielding male singer songwriter will be descending on Cardiff, now Passenger may not have the loop pedal, but for what he lacks in technology, he more than makes up for in heart.

Review by Patrick Downes

Review: Titanic The Musical by Patrick Downes

At first sight, and if you didn’t know any better, the idea of Titanic The Musical might sound a little off-key. The most tragic maritime event in history being told through the medium of song? Well, that’s what I thought but then I did a little digging (thank you Mr Google) to find this musical is not what you first think. It’s nothing to do with any Celine Dion song (thankfully, my heart can go on), nor Jack and Rose, but at its heart it tells the story of a ship and the three classes of people that boarded, each with their own hopes, dreams and reasons for wanting to go to America.

There are four couples the story highlights, one from each class – first, second, third, plus another couple who were first and are now second, together with the hierarchy that was the captain and crew. Sometimes in review it’s easy to avoid the ending, for obvious reasons on this occasion you should know already. If not, google it.

This musical though is something special, having won five Tony awards in 1997 including best musical, it’s the kind of musical that’s seemingly rare these days in terms of how it’s written and performed. It feels like a classical musical opera, and I think for some people, this might be a little bit of a stumbling block. But if you stick with it, it has the power to move you in ways you don’t really expect.

The sound that filled the auditorium is immense, not just the voices, but everything. The orchestration, and the general feel of the piece. Act one is all about introducing each character and their place on Titanic, this takes us to the end of act one and the iceberg. The first half of act two is then a frantic nonstop piece as the ship slowly succumbs to the Atlantic.

There aren’t any star names in this musical, not that I realised anyway, but that just means the entire cast are the star of this musical. They tell the story with heart, compassion and an amazing all-round performance.

Whatever version you know of Titanic, be it the James Cameron film, or the ITV miniseries, it all comes down to a story of humanity, and how people can be flawed, and how some love stories don’t have happy endings.

Officialpoptart Score: 8/10

You can see Titanic The Musical at Wales Millennium Centre till May 5th 2018 and it continues around the UK afterwards

Review: Patrick Downes

Review: Shrek The Musical at Wales Millennium Centre by Patrick Downes

Imagine for a moment you’re back in 2001 and the only kind of computer animated films were Disney’s. They’re good but once you get past the age of 12, there seemed to be a gap in the market. That gap was filled by Dreamworks and Shrek which gave enough simple plot and humour plus additional jokes that adults would get, you have the starting of what I witnessed tonight in Wales Millennium Centre – Shrek The Musical.

Returning to Wales Millennium Centre on the latest UK tour bringing Donkey, Lord Farquaad, Princess Fiona, Pinocchio and a cavalcade of fairytale characters together with the main man himself Shrek – played by Michael Carolan. If you’re not sure of the story of Shrek – well, spoiler alert – they live happily ever after, but getting there is a rollercoaster buddy movie type comedic spectacular.

If the original Shrek had references to other cartoons, well, Shrek the musical has references to other musicals – you might just spot a Wicked reference, a Lion King bit, and Cabaret all receive some mention in passing.

The music and staging is amazing, and before those reading that previous line mock in saying “it’s no Les Misérables is it”, well, it’s not meant to be. It’s the perfect musical for children from eight to eighty. A great introduction into the world of the musical, and a fab night out for all the family.

Special mention to Samuel Holmes (Lord Farquaad) who as the baddie of the piece pretty much stole each scene he was in – wonder how the knees will cope for the rest of the run though. Laura Main as Fiona had the right balance of comedy timing and exceptional vocals, as did Michael Carolan who played Shrek at the performance I saw. Joseph Dockree as Pinocchio was another performer who seemed to steal each scene he was in – yes, he is a real boy!

For a few hours you’ll transferred to a land far far away, wonder if you know the muffin man, and in the morning, you’ll be making waffles.

https://www.wmc.org.uk/Productions/2018-2019/DonaldGordonTheatre/shrek2018/

Review: Frozen The Musical NYC 28th Feb 2018 by Patrick Downes

Another musical my girlfriend and I saw whilst in New York recently. Bear in mind, we saw the preview so by the time it opened a couple of weeks back, much may have changed.

Some trivia for you, Elsa is the first Disney princess to be crowned Queen20180409_220255366_iOS, it’s been translated into 41 different languages, plus Walt Disney wanted to produce a cartoon based on the Snow Queen for over 70 years. These are just some facts behind the highest grossing animated film of all time, which has now become a musical in its own right.

As I started this review, we saw the preview, but I can’t see much changing as what we saw was epic.

If you’ve not seen Frozen (seriously?) here’s a basic plot; Fearless optimist Anna teams up with rugged mountain man Kristoff and his loyal reindeer Sven and sets off on an epic journey to find her sister Elsa, whose icy powers have trapped the kingdom of Arendelle in eternal winter. The rest, well, go watch it on DVD.

St James Theatre is steeped in Broadway history, just recently it was 75 years since Oklahoma was first premiered there, and now another piece of Broadway history is being made with Disney’s Frozen playing out to packed houses each night.

Having watching the film once or twice (maybe more), the first half of the performance seemed to use all the songs – I couldn’t remember what songs were supposed to be in what place, but ending on Let it Go is definitely a show stopper into the interval.

There are several new songs for this production, and they help flesh out the story. True Love and What do you know about love will certainly stay with me, as will Hygge which opens act two. My only slight disappointment, is not being able to have a cast recording – needless to say, it’s being released in June 2018!

Caissie Levy plays Elsa, and Patti Murin, Anna. Both are extremely talented performers and will certainly leave you with goosebumps during certain sections. Olaf is played Greg Hildreth, and it might be a little unfair to say, but he’s so much like Josh Gad in his performance and vocals. You can close your eyes and think it him. Young Anna & Elsa were played by Mattea Conforti and Ayla Schwartz the performance we saw, and let’s just say I believe they’ll will be names to watch for in coming years.

The ensemble, the effects, and the orchestra all played a part in bringing the most beloved in car karaoke soundtracks of recent years to life, and then some. Like I saw previous, the only thing that I’m disappointed about was not having the cast recording, so for now I’ll have to make do with youtube clips – suppose in terms of a soundtrack, it’s a little bit of a fixer upper….

There is talk of it coming to London, but not for a little while – so in the meantime, get a flight to NYC, walk around Central Park, go see Starry Night at MOMA, and most important of all, believe in true love and spend an evening with the fair folk of Arendelle. Hold onto your ticket as you won’t want to lose it…or let it go.

REVIEW: Patrick Downes

Review: Waitress Musical #NYC 2nd March 2018 by Patrick Downes

IMG_5243So whilst in NYC for a few days myself and my girlfriend went to see Waitress at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre. The main reason for this being the theatre was 50 metres away from our hotel (honesty being the best policy I believe). That aside, it also had an extra bonus in that Sara Bareilles – the composer & lyricist was appearing as Jenna.

If you don’t know much about Waitress, it was a quirky little film from 2007, written by the late  Adrienne Shelly and starred Keri Russell in the lead role. It was bought by Fox Searchlight pictures for about $6 million, and went on to make $16 million, winning plaudits along the way.

It tells the story of a young woman trapped in a little town, a loveless marriage and a dead-end job as a waitress, who falls into the next trap of an unwanted pregnancy. Escape beckons when she falls in love with her gynaecologist, but he hesitates to leave his practice and his wife.

Staging wise it’s like nothing I’ve seen before. There’s not the effects like Wicked, or Frozen, but in its own way, the Brooks Atkinson Theatre is a small venue and that adds to the cosiness of the musical. It’s a little piece of small town USA in the big city.

Musically, it feels right – with lyrics written and performed by Sara Bareilles. It has a country contemporary feel that oozes emotion with each note. Till seeing it, I’d not heard any of the score, but once was enough and it left me wanting more – so much so, upon arriving back in the UK I bought the original cast album and Sara’s album of songs from the musical.

As a lead character, Sara Bareilles is able to inhabit the role quite well – considering she wrote the music and lyrics – there were moments that left me speechless – “She used to be mine” certainly has left a lasting impression.

NaTasha Yvette Williams as Becky (a role once taken by Keala Settle – her that now is part of The Greatest Showman), together with Caitlin Houlahan as Dawn provide the perfect harmony and backing to the main story, and both excel with their own story arcs.

Drew Gehling as Dr Pomatter plays Jenna’s love interest with brilliant comic timing, as does Christopher Fitzgerald as Ogie for Dawn. His “Never ever getting rid of me” performance ranks as one of my favourite musical theatre moments – ever!

My one slight problem with the production lays in the fact, will it transfer across the pond to the UK? The musical style is intrinsically American country – so would audiences in the UK buy into it? I don’t see why it shouldn’t work – Leann Rimes, Shania Twain, and Taylor Swift are all country music based – and they’ve done quite well over here.

I hope it does, because I’d say you need to see it. If you’re a fan of Sara Bareilles, the film Waitress, or a beautifully written musical that will send you away with a song in your heart, and the taste of pie in your belly, this is for you.

REVIEW: Patrick Downes

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Review The Band, The Musical, Wales Millennium Centre by Patrick Downes

Firstly, let’s get this straight. Yes, I love pop music, yes, I love Take That (seen them live 4 times), but no, this won’t be a biased piece.

So when the it came about that the BBC did the show “Let it Shine” to discover the next big boy band for a musical I was curious to see what or how it would all turn out. The band that was created, in probably not too dissimilar a way to Take That (without Saturday night telly) was Five to Five. At the start, people weren’t too sure how this musical would pan out – would it be the story of Take That – or something like Never Forget the other Take That musical – which by the way, premiered at Wales Millennium Centre in 2007!

Actually, it was neither – It’s Manchester in 1992 and its based around five 16-year-old girls for who ‘the band’ is everything.  They then reunite 25 years later, and you see how life has taken each girl down a different road.

Written by Tim Firth – who also penned Calendar Girls The musical with a certain Gary Barlow, it’s story is nostalgic and funny. You can’t call it a Jukebox Musical like so many of its type before. It has the same feel as Mamma Mia – the songs you’ll know, but the arrangements can be quite different. The nostalgia you feel could easily equate to how your own life has panned out in the last twenty-eight years. There’s a warmth to each character, and something familiar that feels real.

Production wise it’s brilliant. From the Ceefax screen at the start (How many bands did you get in the word search?), to the aircraft taking off, there’s something new you may never have seen in a touring production before – so much so, there was a technical hitch during the performance that delayed things by about 10 minutes. In all the times, I’ve been theatre going I’ve only seen this happen once before, and it’s a bit of a pain, but sometimes technology is a bugger – and as they say, the show must go on – which it did!

As “The Band”, Five to Five’s performances were good especially the harmonies. They maybe a band created for this production, but afterwards, who knows what the future holds.

Going back to what I said about the warmth in each character, each performance was flawless for both the old versions and young counterparts of each character – just might be possible though for Andy Williams as Dave to have stolen the show with his little moments at several points, and Rachel Lumberg’s performance as Rachel – there was something quite special about that too.

Now, if you do go and see this, which I will heartily recommend, don’t expect what we had at the encore – an actual Take That performance. Mark, Jason and Gary all on stage performing Hold up a Light (one of my favourite TT tunes!) together with the entire company. It made the first night in Cardiff that extra bit special.

Now I could be a little bit cheesy and include some Take That song titles in recommending this musical, but you’d wait for life for that. Okay Babe, are you happy now I found heaven? I might just end up all night, and then never forget to do this review pray-sing The Band. You do what you like, I’d love to hold up a light and come back for good to see this again! Patience, then you’ll rule the world.

Did I love “The Band Musical”? Sure!

Catch it at Wales Millennium Centre till January 20th 2018 – after which it’s UK Tour continues.

REVIEW: @ImPatrickDownes

The Radio One Breakfast show and Radio One by Patrick Downes

In January 2013 I wrote a piece comparing Nick Grimshaw to Chris Moyles, it’s nearly four year on, so time to revisit that and see what’s changed. Has Grimmy turned in Moyles’ yet?

The old copy will stay in italics – additional as nornal script

Oh what great writing have I got for you this time? Well. Back in September 2012, a certain Chris Moyles left the Radio 1 Breakfast Show.  He was the longest serving R1 Breakfast jock – even longer compared to Tony Blackburn.

Now, Moyles is what you would call radio marmite. You either loved or loathed him – just like the yeast extract based spread. Now after a full three months since Nick Grimshaw took over the hotseat, how do they compare and contrast? Do you miss Moyles and co in the mornings?

The reasoning behind Nick Grimshaw being R1B was to lower the age of the station. In the past 20 years, Radio 1 has often been accused of being “too old”. Presenters and the music has been tweaked several times, and Chris knew his time was coming. There is a train of thought that says you are only as old as you sound, and if what you talk about is still relevant, why not stay. There is also another route to take in that once become older than your target audience, you’re passed it. Radio1’s target demo is 15-24 year old. If the latter is to be believed, then you do a disservice to the audience as if you’re still relevant, and can pull in the numbers, why shouldn’t you be there. Ultimately, it’s a decision on you by management. In commercial radio, it’s also what your value is to the advertisers of the station. Do you bring in the core demo that an advertiser who pays £££’s to get a certain type of person to buy their product. Anyway, I digress.

Moyles’ realised it would be sooner rather than later, so left rather than be pushed. But in the past three months, have you been listening to Nick?

It’s interesting to note in the early days of Grimmy’s tenure, the core figures were on the increase – R1 had managed to move some of their older listeners away.

I’m not core demo for Radio 1 – but I still like listening to new music, and current chart stuff without it being on a 3 hour 15 minute loop (a track on Radio 1’s Alist is about 4 hour 15 minute recurrence I think). I wake up listening to Radio1 and listen sleepily for about 30 minutes. The first thing to note is how many songs an hour Grimmy’s plays compared to Chris. In that 30 minute section I regularly listen to, I think I used to count about 2 songs with Chris, but with Grimmy, you get about 5 – and he still manages to slip in the old showbiz antidote of his & Harry Styles’ night on the tiles….

Is Grimmy trying too hard? Some presenters, TV and radio, suit different types of programme. Just because you can do a show on the telly, doesn’t necessarily mean you can present radio, and vice versa. There are a few who can do this with such ease it makes it look like a walk in the park. Wogan (Terry), Schofield (Phillip) , Evans (Chris) have all started their careers within radio before moving to tv. But to do it in reverse hasn’t really been done  (although I expect to be told differently…).

Chris Moyles is described as marmite, but surely Grimmy is the same? You’re never going to please everyone all of the time. I realise they both have completely different styles, and for some Grimmy is the perfect way to start their day. Some also mourn the loss of Moylesy in the morning, and await his return to Radio 1.

In saying that, will Moyles return to Radio1? Yes, his contract runs till 2014, but whilst he’s not on air, he’s not being paid – but it also means he can’t work for a rival commercial station, or “gardening leave” as it’s known. He’s doing quite well on the tour of Jesus Christ Superstar – which might even tour overseas yet.  He has gone on record as saying he misses radio, and the ability to sound off, so don’t completely rule out a return for Chris Moyles.

Ironically, it took a while for Chris to return to mainstream radio – and he’s still on Radio X now.

But what of his successor, and the very reason for this article? Well, RAJAR Q4 2012 was published today. RAJAR is quote “RAJAR collects information on behalf of over 300 BBC and Ofcom Licenced commercial radio stations, ranging from very small local services to the national networks. Station listening by time, duration, platform (AM/FM, DAB, Online/APP, and DTV) and location (in car, at home, at work & elsewhere) is recorded and published on a quarterly basis.”

Who listens to what and for how long, in simple terms.

Many a radio person will tell you “oh, it’s flawed”, “it’s not a true indication of who’s listening” – but the truth of the matter is, it’s all we have and as a comparison tool to other radio stations goes, it works – not very well some might say, but it gives people the ability to measure audience.

Here’s the headline from Daily Mail Online today “Chris Evans trounces his ranting rival: Radio 2 breakfast show sees boost in listeners after ratings slump for Radio 1’s Nick Grimshaw. Older men turned off by Grimshaw’s immature banter tune in to Evans”

On reading that you may think “wow, Grimmy is losing listeners”, but further into the article is a quote from Ben Cooper, Radio 1’s boss ‘ What a fantastic quarter for Radio 1, I’m delighted with the figures and they have exceeded my expectation for a brand new breakfast show. This has been the biggest schedule change in a generation which has resulted in the station’s audience getting younger.’

In another article online today “Grimshaw attracted an average of 6.7million listeners to the breakfast show in 2012, a drop of 40,000 listeners from Chris Moyles when he departed the station. The station as a whole dropped its average reach from 11.7 million listeners to 11.1 between 2011 and 2012, according to new Rajar listening figures.”

And back to the Daily Mail online….

Grimshaw’s figures were down by 43,000 on the previous three-month period, which was mostly fronted by Moyles, and dropped by almost 550,000 on the same time last year.

Sources at the BBC claimed that Grimshaw had attracted 250,000 brand new 15-24-year-olds to the show. It was added that the overall average of the listener to the station has dropped from 33 to 32-years-of-age.

Now, tell me if I right or wrong, but that last paragraph… that’s what Radio 1 wanted to do?

My point being, is that the figures can be read/spun however you want them to be spun. A station might be losing listeners, but if those listeners are 42 year old men, and the station is aimed at 23 year old women, it’s not a bad thing. Plus, if someone is listening to your station longer, but there’s not as many of them, this too can be spun positively. The adage goes, there’s no such thing as bad press, and in terms of radio listening figures, this is true – unless of course you lose a lot of reach and hours – reach is the percentage of listeners you have in an area. If you’re a big station and you’re reach is less than your competitor, it’s a warning sign to see what can be done to put it right. All the signs I’m reading about Nick Grimshaw is that he’s there for a while yet.  The timing of Moyles’ leaving couldn’t have been worse I suppose.  If Scott Mills was about 5 years younger, he’d have been the natural successor, or if Greg James had been a little more settled within daytime Radio1, he too could’ve taken the job. Who knows, this might even be the plan now. Have Nick do the show for a year or 18 months, then Greg James can naturally succeed him as the next big Radio1 breakfast host.

Bearing in mind this is written 4 years later – Greg James is still on Drive and possibly the natural successor? And what of Scott Mills?

Comparing and contrasting Moyles & Grimmy isn’t easy, and I’ve probably failed (like I used to in English when asked to compare and contrast), but I hope I’ve shed some light onto the workings of radio, and await derision from some American that I called a technical term a “thingymebob” instead of a “dooferswitch”. I can only write to what I know.

What next for R1? With the way streaming is now included into the Official Charts, how we listen to our music is changing.

Do we need something inbetween Radio’s One and Two? An idea for several years has been Radio 1.5, as there are many people over the age of 25 who aren’t really ready to want to listen to Popmaster or Jeremy Vine. Has Chris Evans on Radio Two bridged that gap? And what next for Scott Mills – he’s the oldest daytime presenter at Radio one at the age of 43.

So the main question for this revisit. Has Nick Grimshaw turned into Moyles? To an extent yes, but you’re never going to be liked by everyone, all of the time – unless you’re Phillip Schofield.

Patrick Downes is a former head of music, producer, and commercial radio presenter with 21 years airtime, and is now part of the  community radio station at Bro Radio in Vale of Glamorgan, UK. Check out his facebook page at www.soof.co.uk

Review Snow White and the Seven Dwarves New Theatre, Cardiff by Patrick Downes

 

Let me start off by saying this one fact about me; I’ve never been to a pantomime before. I’ve seen them- ITV did a few about 10 years ago – but as for seeing one up close and in person, never before. Although I can remember something resembling a pant in the Park and Dare in Treorchy when I was about 4 years old, but in terms of being an adult I have no memory. So what to expect? Well, pantos are as part of Christmas as the Queen’s speech and James Bond on telly. They’re just good fun for all the family, and Cardiff’s production of Snow White certainly falls into that category. There’s childish humour, for the adults, and grown up humour, for the kids. A good pantomime is always the way to introduce theatre to young minds, and with a brilliant ensemble cast, this one does not disappoint.

A good panto always has the following;

A dame – played brilliantly by Mike Doyle (alrighttttttt)
A prince – It’s Chico time (You may remember him as having a number one single which knocked Madonna’s Sorry off the top of the chart)
The Wicked Queen – Harsh to say this but Samantha Womack played a blinder!
For every Wicked Queen, they have a henchman – Oh Alfie Thomas, the day you finished playing rugby, was a sad day, but the upshot is, you get to play on stage a role well suited for anyone who’s faced the All Blacks.
The faithful friend – Tam Ryan has this comedic role as his own. Warm and very funny – watch for his reactions when he’s not centre stage.
And good, I mean, if there’s an evil witch, there has to be balance, and Stephanie Webber as Snow White is as perfect as the version of the cartoon version of Snow White that we know and love, that you will get.

If I was to be slightly critical, it would be the sound mix on the night. The voice mics sounded too pitchy – but that takes nothing away from the performance of all the cast.

I’ve seen Sam Womack twice this year, earlier at Wales Millennium Centre when she played Morticia in The Adams Family, and then tonight as Queen Lucretia (Excretia – nice touch Alfie). Her singing voice maybe a shock to many, but for me, it’s just something I’ve come to love. Cracking version of I put a spell on you – nice little Hocus Pocus touch! She seems to revel in being bad – and she’s so good at it. Funny, yet evil.

Stephanie Webber as Snow White suited her brilliantly, as did Tam as Muddles. Mike Doyle is Panto Royality having performed for the past 27 years, he truly knows his art and is a master at it. If you want to see how it’s done – you won’t go far wrong watching him.

I could quite easily talk about each person, but I think where this panto mainly succeeds is the family feel of the performers. It doesn’t feel like a “one person topping the bill” kind of show. Everyone is equal, and everyone brings something special to the show – yes, even Chico with a song that probably no one under the age of 14 would remember – yes, “It’s Chico time” is from 2006 – where has that time gone!

So, my first proper pantomime, and no doubt not my last. Go and see Wales’ number one pantomime as it’s at the New Theatre till January 14th.

And in style of panto speak – what about a rhyming review?

They said see a panto, and say what you think
Hopefully, you’ll love and not think it stink

To Cardiff I went, parked by the museum,
Two twenty it cost, well worth it to see them

The theatre is old, and has lots of history
The entertainment it holds, is great, no mystery

The cast is fab, the dancing is tight,
It’s fun just to hear Mike Doyle say “Alright”

Tam is great, Tam is funny,
Comic timing a must, now where is my money?

Alfie’s hacka is a sight to behold,
The AllBlacks humpty, another story of old

Sam Womack’s voice, majestic, amazing, and strong I will say
She put a spell on us all, from the theatre to the bay

A review in some rhyme, might happen some day
Until it does, I’ll do things my way

Because a panto they say, is old hat, not very cool
Well, in Cardiff as such, they’re breaking those rules

It’s fun, joyful and oh very happy
Snow White’s time in the capital, won’t last long – so be snappy

Make sure you get some tickets to see,
Wales’ number one panto, recommended by me

REVIEW: @ImPatrickDownes

Review Miss Saigon, Wales Millennium Centre by Patrick Downes

Cameron Mackintosh’s acclaimed new production of Boublil and Schönberg’s legendary musical Miss Saigon – a recent smash hit in London’s West End – is now embarking on a major UK tour, and has stopped off in Wales Millennium Centre for their annual Festive offering.

Previous Festive shows include The Lion King, Phantom of the Opera and Mary Poppins, and this year they bring the winner of a record-breaking nine Whatsonstage Awards 2015 including Best Show.

From the same partnership that brought Les Misérables, brings this epic love story that tells the tragic tale of young bar girl Kim, orphaned by war, who falls in love with an American GI called Chris – but their lives are torn apart by the fall of Saigon.

For the sheer spectacle, this production needs to be seen. For the lighting, the sound and the effects are some I’ve rarely seen outside of London, you soon realise this is something special.

The cast brings such depth to the story, which without realising, the first twenty minutes feel so much shorter – such is setting the story up. Red Concepcion’s Engineer is brilliant – a slightly comedic but evil twist on a character – The American Dream brought the house down. It’s such a stand out moment.

Sooha Kim as Kim brings the vulnerability to the role, and with an amazing voice. Her duet with Ashley Gilmour (Chris) on The Last Night of the world, is another stand out moment.

Be warned, it’s not for younger people – the themes are quite adult, and there’s some swearing in the first 20 minutes – and it’s also dotted through the rest, but it’s not without reason.

For me being a little bit of a theatre techy, I spent most of the evening in awe at the sets, lights and sound. It’s one of the best I’ve seen in Cardiff. The helicopter scene is probably the most impressive piece of set and engineering I have ever seen on a stage! You find yourself completely immersed into the sights, emotion and sounds of the end of the Vietnam conflict. If musicals were football leagues, Miss Saigon would be Chelsea.

The word triumph is often used to describe musicals, and in this case, it’s spot on.

Don’t dare Miss Saigon this Christmas

You can catch Miss Saigon at Wales Millennium Centre till January 6th 2018.

Review: @ImPatrickDownes

Patrick Downes

Review Tiger Bay The Musical, Wales Millennium Centre by Patrick Downes

It’s quite fitting that just over 30 years since the redevelopment of the south of Cardiff began that Wales Millennium Centre presents Tiger Bay The Musical. Since 1987, what was the docks of Cardiff, and in particular, what was Tiger Bay, has changed dramatically, and this musical is a celebration of the diversity that is Cardiff now.

What’s it about? Set in 1900’s Cardiff, it follows a young woman’s determination to challenge society’s injustices, follow her heart and realise her dreams. Extreme poverty meets supreme wealth. Gangs of street children roam the docks. Coal is king. A revolution is brewing in the dark and restless world beneath the genteel surface of Cardiff’s Butetown. You could say there’s a level of current social commentary running through this.

The staging and sound are possibly the best I’ve ever seen at WMC, everything moved seamlessly on stage from one scene to another. The cast sound amazing, helped no doubt by the scoring of Daf James and the lyrics of Michael Williams, this production in association with Cape Town Opera has romance, drama, revenge, and some amazing ensemble pieces.

Back in 2011, I saw Noel Sullivan in We Will Rock You at the WMC. It was my first proper musical (that wasn’t on telly or in the cinema), and now six years later via some Dirty Rotten Scoundrels I see him again, and his voice has improved and matured. Hard to believe the same person sung an album track from Girl Thing that in turn went on to become the biggest song of 2001 (Trivia fans… that was of course Pure and Simple by Hearsay)

There is a tendency with some reviews to rave about everything – this might just end up being one of those. With talent such as John Owen Jones and Suzanne Packer, plus the aforementioned Mr Sullivan, it’s quite difficult to select a few stand out moments. Dom Hartley-Harris as Themba was just sublime. The emotion of his character was stunning to watch. But there’s no doubting tonight I saw two stars born.

Star number one is Vicki Bebb. The programme says she hails from a small village in South Wales. Well, let’s sort that out for starters. She’s from Cilfynydd, which is 3 miles outside of Pontypridd town centre. The same place that gave the world Sir Geraint Evans and Stuart Burrows – two amazing Welsh singers. Change that entry Wikipedia, there’s a third. Her name is Vicki Bebb, and going by tonight’s performance, the world is her oyster. I can say I was there the night I saw Vicki Bebb shine for the first time.

Star number two is Ruby Llewelyn who plays Ianto Louise Harvey also plays the role, but not tonight). She’s quite a little powerhouse of a vocalist and pretty much stole the show – even against John Owen Jones. In fairness the child cast were all brilliant, but for me, Louise is another one to watch for the future (once she’s gotten all her exams sorted first).

I am quite sad writing this review because it means my involvement in TBTM is now over. After blogging and talking about it for the best part of the last nine months, it’s time to say tara now – not goodbye, because I’m sure this little piece of Cardiff will travel and fly.

My advice is, if you like the likes of Oliver, Les Misérables, or even Wicked, you will love this. It’s a little piece of Cardiff past, with lot of the passion the city always had, and always will. Just imagine Les Miserables with a Kardiffian accent, and you’ll realise this is more than just a half tidy musical mind.

Tiger Bay-The Musical is on at Wales Millennium Centre till 25th November 2017.

REVIEW: @impatrickdownes