Rhys Payne

Review Heaven on their minds, Calvary Baptist Church By Rhys Payne

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

This is the best concert-style show that I have ever seen in my entire life! This was an incredible show vocally but on top of this everything about the show was well throughout and planned. Ben Smith who organised this event had a very clear idea for the type of show he wanted and was able to execute this perfectly.

This show ran inside Calvary Baptist Church which firstly provided a beautiful backdrop for each singer. Secondly the whole premise of this concert was songs that had a connection to religion whether this was through lyrics or songs from musicals that have religious connections (eg Joseph, Godspell, Jesus Christ Superstar etc.) having a concept that ties together the whole show just makes for a consistent, easy-to-watch show that the audience can follow in a logical way. Ben had come up with a very clever theme for the that allowed a wide selection of songs to be sung as well as being relevant to the venue itself which is incredibly clever.

The name itself together tied the two ideas of ‘church’ and musical theatre as ‘Heaven on Their Mind’ is a song from the faith-based musical Jesus Christ Superstar which is again the entire concept of the show. I can’t express how impressed I am with Ben and the other organisers who managed to come up with this incredible branding and theme of the night as it is tremendously clever so they should be proud of this. Despite the importance of musical theatre in this night, it was made explicitly clear that this is not a musical theatre night. The show had a mixture of songs from popular shows that everyone would know to shows even the most theatre crazed people would struggle to name. Some people there would know all the musicals the songs are from as some would know none and so it was not a celebration of musical theatre rather the overall concept of the show being executed. Even those you had never heard of a musical would be able to enjoy the songs which made the show more accessible to a greater range of people.


The standard in this show was already incredibly high set from the opening number from Godspell and it seemed to just increase constantly as the show progressed. In a non-competitive way, each performer appeared to listen to the previous song and then try and top it which helped to keep the audience engaged. Every person was amazing and managed to play perfectly to their strength and so the person who chose the songs should be proud they were able to fit the songs to every singer so perfectly. This was like a west-end level show for the price of a local show, actually, this show was higher quality than many of the west-end professional shows I have seen. The talent was only aspirated as the focus was solely on the performer and their vocals. This show had no dancing, no props, no fancy lights and no MC instead the focus was just on the singers and so each person was able to fully showcase their ability and amazing talent. Even from a non-performance aspect, each individual was dressed in their smartest attire which helped elevate the event and made the audience feel as if they are witnessing an exclusive and high-calibre event (which they were.) I am not sure if this a part of a stated ‘uniform’ as such but if so, then this worked as it should have and gave the right effect to this effect while still making it visually accessible to everyone.


Ben-Joseph Smith, who is a recent graduate from the Welsh academy of music and drama, sang the opening solo of this show which was a beautiful city from the musical Godspell. This song was sung beautifully and he managed to blend the softness and intensity of the song in the most perfect way. Later on, we had a section from Les Mis where Ben sang a very intense version of Stars which again sounded incredible.


Simon Jennings, who is a pastor and worship leader based in Eden Church Penarth also graced the stage with his operatic and powerful voice. His Rendition of Close every door to me from Joseph and his amazing technicolour dream coat was incredibly moving and in fact, I was in tears by the end of it. Being able to create such strong feeling from this song is an incredible act and only goes to show Simon’s talent and ability. Simon also was involved in the Les Mis section were he sung Bring him Home which is perfectly in his skill set. His powerful voice worked perfectly within this song and he was able to easily achieve the range of this song. He also covered a song I didn’t know about titled ‘why God why’ from Miss Saigon which is a song that I now have to listen to more as it is so moving and relevant in today’s society.


The biggest highlight for me was the rendition of Gethsemane from Jesus Christ Superstar which was sung by Ashley. Ashley is known for recently playing Jesus Christ in Everyman Cardiff’s open-air festival which is regrettably missed this year. To cover such an iconic and difficult song is a very big task but Ashley seemed to not even flinch at this mammoth song. I have listened to a wide range of people covering this song from local people singing a somewhat shaky version to Ben Forester in the arena tour to John Legend in the most recent adaptation but this cover was the best I had even heard. He blew spots off even the most established and professional performers who had taken on this role and he received a standing ovation from the crowd which is even more astonishing as it was the end of act one. Ashley visibly poured everything into this performance which led to an out of this world cover. This song on its own was worth more than the price of admission and now I am devastated that I missed JCS over the summer.

The opening group number from Godspell was a little shaky as people did look visibly uncertain about entrances and parts etc but it was so bad that it affected the show. In my personal opinion, the solos in this show we’re better than those in groups or duets etc as it allowed each person to fully showcase their skills and so possibly next time this should be the focus. Also, there were a few tedious links within this show to tie the theme of the show and the actual songs sang such as certain songs from Les Mis as it contains the words ‘God’ in them but this is a tiny issue that can be sanded out possibly in the next show.

Overall this is a phenomenal concert that demonstrated the skills and talents of each performer which led to a fantastic evening of performances. In all honesty, I would probably prefer to return to this event over many of the professional shows I have seen. The show itself was well thought out and constructed which was the ‘icing’ on the already ‘incredible cake’ which helped with constancy from the audience. If this show returns with a similar cast I would strongly recommend you buy a ticket as it an evening of West-end quality singing for a fraction of the price. I would rate this show 5 out of 5 stars and would give it 6 out of 5 stars if this was possible.

Review Playhouse creatures, Everyman Theatre By Rhys Payne

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Playhouse Creatures, which landed at Chapter Arts Centre and will remain there until the 26th October, is an interesting play that follows the lives of the first women to be involved with English theatre after Charles the second became King and reinstated theatre in mainstream life. This is a very clever play which is influenced by and includes references to Shakespearean classic theatre which give the play multiple layers which makes it very interesting for the audience. As this was a play all about women being ‘allowed’ to participate in the theatrical arts the show contained an all-female cast which is fantastic. What complicates this play is there are men involved in the story but they never actually appear. The focus of this play is on these women, so I think this creative choice to not have any male actors in the scenes helps with the female centred theme of the show and is fantastic.

The staging of this show mostly stayed the same throughout, which again helps keep the focus on these women, the set involved a ‘stage’ on the stage. The story gets a little complicated as it follows these women as they perform in plays. This means from the audience perspective they are watching a play within in a play and the reason for the stage on a stage was to allow the play-caption to occur in an easy to follow the way from the audience. On top of this, cleverly the light designers had devised a light arrangement to again signify the difference between the ‘audience’s play’ and the ‘actors play.’ As the lights were constant throughout the whole play, the lightening and creative team have done something clever that benefitted the experience of the audience.

Another, lighting design that was significant was the lights during the witching scene towards the end of act one. This scene was incredibly scary and the red lights were incredibly striking and unsettling which was fantastic. The colour ‘red’ itself shows danger but the same effect was used during fire scenes which were again very clever. The costumes used in this play were amazing. Not only were they visibly appealing and looked nice but also they blended traditionally female costumes with conceptual ideas of the thoughts of women in theatre at the time. One of the underlying ideas of the play was that women were objectified and seen as something people can try to take home and have their way with. The way they managed to combine all these ideas is insanely clever and so the costume team on this production should be proud of this. This idea helped inspired the companies branding and advertising for the show itself. On the programmes, there is a corset which helps carry the female-centric show and the sexualisation of women (through clothing) which fits perfectly with the show.


Most of the characters in this play are based on real-life actresses of the time which helps with the authentic feel of the show. Nell Gwynn, who is based on Elanor Gwynne who was a long-time mistress of Charles the 2nd, who was played in this production by Lucinda Curley who played a relatable and common character.

Doll Common is the only character who is not inspired by real-life people but in my opinion, was one of the best characters in this play. This character was played by Linda Vickers who debatably was the strongest person in the play. While being the most common character (as the name suggests) she also created the majority of the comical moments in the play which had the audience rolling in laughter. Linda nailed every aspect of the character and fitted the role perfectly.

Mrs Rebecca Marshal, who was played by Sarah Green in this play, is based on the sister Anne and Rebecca Marshal who famously had many issues with ‘annoying men in her audience.’ Mrs Marshal carried a fan for the majority of play which fitted the character perfectly. This prop managed to combine the sass and fierceness of the character which was an excellent choice. Having seen Sarah Green take on many iconic roles such as Carries Mother in Carrie the musical and Gladys Pugh in He-De-Hi at the Cardiff Open Air festival, I am constantly astonished by Sarah acting talent and her ability to portray contrasting characters perfectly.

The other roles of Mrs Elizabeth Farley and Mrs Mary Betterton (played by Robyn Hough and Sarah Bawler) helped to portray the greatest character progression who the involvement of real-life and relatable issues. The former had a very emotional scene in which she talked directly to the audience which was delivered so strongly and demonstrated Robyn’s acting talent.

Overall, this is a historic play that gives a voice to people who we often forget about. Having discussed in length in University about the reinstating of theatre and the ‘allowing’ of women in theatre, I have never thought about the struggle and issues the founding women would have faced and so in that regard this is a unique play. It is cleverly written and performed by an incredibly talented cast which also demonstrated the power of theatre.

Review Meet Fred, Hijinx Theatre by Rhys Payne

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Having never seen a Hijinx theatre production before I was very excited to watch ‘Meet Fred’ in the Sherman Theatre. What I realise about Hinjinx as a company is that they know how to do theatre in its purest form with an important emphasis of inclusivity which is fantastic to watch. Meet Fred itself is a deeply layered piece of theatre which allows the audience to read into the story as much or as little as they want to.

The story follows Fred who through the story realises they are a puppet but what he wants is to be is a regular guy. In the story, he is threatened with the loss of his PLA (Puppet Living Allowance) and this causes his ‘life’ to spiral out of control. Because of this, the play includes some very mature scenes and very strong language making it not appropriate for a younger audience.

The clever thing about this play is that as Fred is aware he is a puppet he becomes aware of his puppeteers, the Director etc which means when they include references to the audience or when the actors attempt fourth wall break it makes logical sense which makes a much more enjoyable watch.

This play showcased the traditional Japanese form of puppetry called Bunkraku. I was constantly surprised at the skills of ventriloquism and how the puppeteers expressed emotion which is especially astonishing as the puppet is completely blank with no face. The talented puppeteers (Llyr Williams and Nick Haliwell and especially the voice of Fred, Bryn Fitch) were able to perfectly physicalise the puppets emotions and bring Fred truly to life. Puppetry is a very difficult skill especially if you are an actor as the traditional forms of expression are not applicable but the performers didn’t seem to struggle at all which is a testament to their skill and talent.

Hijinx is a theatre company that focus on inclusivity of theatre and this play demonstrated that perfectly. To start with there was a BSL interpreter on the stage throughout which is where other theatre company would stop but Hijinx went a lot further. One of the highlights in this show for me was Martin (played by Gareth John) who played the Stage Manager. As stated in the Directors notes, he has Down Syndrome, he was one of the funniest roles in this show and also tugged in the audience heartstrings during the more emotional parts of the show. He managed to manipulate the audience emotions perfectly which shows his life acting talent. It’s not just the people in the show that show how the story aims to improve inclusivity.

A very important message that many people might have missed is the importance of the puppeteers in the message of the play. The puppeteers help Fred live his life and it is an obvious reference to dependence many people with disabilities have on others. The inclusion of PLA (Puppetry Living Allowance) as obviously a play in words of DLA (Disability Living Allowance) which again only adds to the reference of disability and inclusion. Another nice touch was the inclusion of stage management as an on-stage role which brings this often unnoticed role into the spotlight is beneficial for those in the backstage crew (myself included.)

Overall this was an incredible piece of conceptual theatre that contained a strong sense of inclusivity. Feeling many different emotions throughout and showcased a relatively unknown art form. I would rate this show 5 out of 5 stars and cannot wait to see what Hijinx will produce in the future.

Review Entrée, Jose Pedro Fortuna By Rhys Payne

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

In a one-person performance, there is a lot of pressure on the shoulders of the actor as the whole narrative is told through them and they have to keep the audience engaged and enthused. Which is clearly very difficult but Jose Pedro Fortuna didn’t seem to even hesitate in his one-man production of Entree performed at USW Atrium Theatre.

The plot of this play was pretty simple as it was about a master of ceremonies going to deliver some sort of speech. But as he gets ready start to go wrong and hilarity ensues. This shows a modern and contemporary interpretation of the classic art form of clowning by using magic tricks (which were incredible and mind-blowing to watch) and sound effects. One of the highlights of this concept was a trick where Pedro made a dropped card float from the floor to the top of a ladder where he was stood. This art form (clowning) is fundamentally very comical and Pedro also included traditionally physical theatre tropes such as being stuck in a curtain, the constant dropping of his bow-tie and misplacing props to create a piece of theatre that respected the tradition of clowning while also bringing it to the 21st century.

Pedro decided to make some other creative decisions such as having no dialogue in the entire play, a focus on physical comedy and having it be a nice easy production to watch. Because of all this and the nature of this show, I think the show would work better as a dinner time entertainment in a fancy restaurant rather than in a theatre as a play. Pedro has devised this play so that it built in a logical and natural way. Each prop was introduced in its own sketch before being included in the final set up which was really nice to watch. As a performer, Pedro was entertaining and jovial but also as a magician he was able to manipulate the audience attention and focus so he could perform his sleight of hand trick and certain comedy skits which worked excellently. It was especially fantastic to see the blending of magic and theatre which was a unique blend that I personally had never seen before but I definitely want to see explored again in the future.

This was a thirty-minute show which only added to how easy it was to catch. There were discussions about expanding it to an hour show in the future. This clearly shows how the play is in a sort of developmental phase. On top of this there were feedback forms handed out to find out what the audience enjoyed or not but also a Q and A at the end of the show (which was a fantastic idea as it allowed the audience to find out about the show making process etc) during this we found out that some aspects of the show are improvised and also that Pedro introduces new skills and tricks in different performances. This all means that no two shows of Entree are the same which makes it a very exciting piece of theatre.

In conclusion, Entree is a modern piece of clowning that had the audience laughing throughout. It is a unique show that is one not to miss. I would rate this show 4 out of 5 stars. Entree is a really entertaining piece of theatre that’s shows a side of clowning that many people have not seen before.

Review Just a few words/Stammermouth by Rhys Payne

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Just a Few Words/Stammermouth performed in the Seligman Theatre company in Chapter Arts Centre is one of the most poignant pieces of modern theatre that I have ever seen.

Just a Few Words is a one-man play that gives the audience a real insight into the mind of someone with a stammer. This is a show that tugs of every heartstring and plays with each anD every emotion you have. I think this is mainly due to the excellent choice of actor for this piece who was Nye Russell-Thompson. Russel-Thompson has created an insane amount of likability and authenticity to the character which meant that the audience desperately wanted him to succeed in the task at hand. At one part of the play, there is a ‘musical’ section which was very enjoyable and fun. This added to the surprising amount of comedy that was in play this about a very serious topic.

As this fondness from the audience is developed (due mostly to Russel-Thompso’s portrayal of the character) it makes the sadder sections of the play even more emotional. For example, There is a heart-breaking end to this play that had me (among many other) lost for words and there was a stunned silence for a long time after the play had finished. This end was frustrating at first however I believe the reason for its inclusion was to give a realistic message about life. This play’s main aim is to give a voice to the figurative (a semi-literal) voiceless which is very heartwarming. To see the character struggle to express what he wants to say helps create support from the audience but also brings people with speech disorders. As this show highlights the struggles of living with a stammer it is representing and empowering a group of people who often are ignored in theatre which was incredible to see.

This play fits into, what I like to call, a small theatre genre play. It worked perfectly in the compact theatre of Chapter and I believe that it would not work as well in a big theatre as, at times, feels as if the character is speaking directly to each and every member of the audience which only added to the relatability and likability from the audience. This made the play personal to each person which only exaggerated all the emotions the narrative made you feel.


This show was only an hour-long but when Nye Russell-Thompson was on stage you lose all track of time. He has you hooked every single minute he is there and you forget about time and life outside this theatre. Finally, this was another play that stripped back on all the paraphernalia of theatre and forced the audience attention to solely be on the actor on stage. There were very few movements in the show, the light placement stayed the same throughout the whole duration of the play, there were very few props (excluding the large pile of queue cards to express things when the character could not) and as it was a one-man play there was one actor , and one BSL interpreter on the stage. This made the play even more relatable to the audience but also was a more realistic portrayal of the real-life struggles of having a stammer which shows this play was well-thought-out during its development which shows the talent of its writers. I believe the reason this play fitted so nicely into the small theatre genre of plays is that it was performed in the Edinburgh fringe festival.

In conclusion, Just a Few Words/Stammermouth is an incredible piece of modern theatre that gives a voice to those who are often ignored in theatre and makes the audience feel a vast range of emotions. I hope that this show becomes even more popular and that we will see more of Nye Russell-Thompson in the future. I would rate this production 5 out of 5 stars and I would recommend this play to anyone interested in the power of theatre or anyone interested in the progression of theatre needed for it to become truly accessible to everyone.

Review Much Ado About Nothing, Everyman Theatre, Cardiff by Rhys Payne

3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

Much Ado About Nothing performed by Everyman Theatre Company, Directed by David Mercatali the Cardiff open-air festival in Sophia Garden’s was a fantastic evening of classic theatre combined with extraordinary comedy.


This show had a somewhat slow start and took a while for the story to establish itself and for the audience to understand who is who and what the general ideas of the play are going to be.

Benard, who played the role of Claudio, appeared to channel a slow-witted sidekick who provided very many of the entertaining moments of this play. His physicality and facial reactions were excellent, he was very comical which had the audience laughing. It was really interesting to see this character portrayed as a side-kick to Benedick and the captain and I think this help establish the character’s position in the group.

Benedick himself, played by Luke Mercent, was a very believable ‘baby-face’ hero. He was a very relatable character while being strong and inspiring from the audience. The really interesting aspect of the character was his monologues. Traditionally, monologues are delivered on the stage as if the character is talking to themselves with the audience ‘overhearing’ it, but this production had the character of Benedick (among others) delivered their monologue within the audience and spoken directly to members of the audience.This makes it much more personal and was a really great inclusion which shows both classic theatre understanding as well as flawless modernisation from a directorial perspective. Glyn Thomas delivered a chillingly scary portrayal of the character ‘Don John’ who is the main villain of the play. His voice was frightening and he expressed the character as methodical and calculating. He personified the character perfectly and could be used as an example of how aspiring actors can play the Shakespearian villains.


One of the most comical characters in this play was dogberry who was played by Sarah Bawler. She performed this role with a strong Welsh accent and was a character of the typical Welsh women. Her chemistry with Verges, played by Phil Gerken, provided many hilarious scenes due to the contrast of the two characters.

Two of the things that this show did excellently was the use of voice and musical instruments. Many of the actors used multiple voices to show how their character really feels. We had characters vocally being scared, in love, excited and over the top fake acting (which was one of the funniest scenes in the entire play.) these were performed clearly and perfectly. The use of instruments was also fantastic as they actually had the performers play on stage. I have seen productions of shows where the actors pretend to play instruments which is obviously fake and distracting for the audience. However, this was not the case for this play and the music itself provide a small break from the complex and deep story-lines of Shakespearian theatre.

Obviously, Much Ado About Nothing is a comedy and so the directors have organised the play accordingly. They managed to perfectly blend the concept of a Shakespearian comedy (where there is a marriage, use of double entendre and irony) with modern comedy (which includes slapstick and physical comedy) to create the perfect comedy play. The reason this is so important to this play is because of the complex use of Shakespearian language, this is not something we are used to. It takes a lot of focus and concentration from the audience to fully understand what is being said and the inclusion of comedy allows a small break in the intense concentration which was done excellently by this cast.

However, I did feel that at times this play tried to be something it’s not. Much Ado is a classic piece of theatre and if the directors want to reimagine it to be modern that that is great but this play seemed to all go halfway into the new generation. At the end of the play were heard Crazy In Love being played which is an extremely modern song by Beyoncé but the play still used the traditional language and was set in a time much before this decade. Also, at two points in the play, the actors started to sing which was interesting as it is a play and not a musical. Thirdly, there was a small scene in Act Two with audience participation and people from the audience being brought onto the stage which didn’t really make sense or add to the story and in all honesty, could have not been included.

Although it was not the cast or crews’ fault, there was bar holDing up the cover of the seating which blocked my view of center stage and at times I could not see what was happening on stage and also there was very loud motorbike noises throughout which did distract from the play and made the dialogue hard to hear.


Overall, this as a play that respects the classical traditions of Shakespeare theatre while adding some new contemporary elements. The comedy in this play was excellent and the actors performed very well and made all the characters appear believable and relatable. I would rate this production 3 and a half stars and would encourage any fan of classical theatre to catch this show before it leaves the festival on Saturday the 20th July.

Review Hi-De-Hi, Everyman Theatre, Cardiff by Rhys Payne

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Hi-de-Hi, performed in Sophia Gardens at Cardiff Open-Air festival, was a stage adaptation of the classic TV show of the same name the production was performed by an extremely talented cast who performed a near-perfect tribute to the show. Most of the cast members had an uncanny resemblance to the original cast, especially Gladys Pugh (played by Sarah Green) who nailed every nuance and mannerisms of the character who was originally played Ruth Madoc including the distinctive voice. I have seen Sarah in many productions and each role is an almost stark contrast to the last who only goes to show the pure skill and talent that Sarah posses. My aunt, who also attend the show, was in such awe of the impersonation that she thought they had somehow managed to get Ruth Madoc to reprise her role.

Another standout performance in this show was Victoria Walters who played Peggy Ollerenshaw who managed to balance the comic and clumsy nature of Peggy with the serious/passionate side of the character while also creating vast amounts of pity from the audience.

The whole production ends with Peggy delivering a heartfelt and emotion realisation with the audience which tugged on every single person’s heartstrings. Pam Wiener and Richard Thomas performed perfectly as the constantly arguing couple of Yvonne and Barry Stuart-Hargreaves.

Both actors performed almost caricatures of the uptight couple constantly and stayed in character even during audience participation segments.

Phil Bond and Chris Kendrick took on the roles of Ted Bovis and Spike Dixon, who are both considered the comic characters in this camp, and both created many comical moments which had the audience laughing. Toby Harris, who was cast as Jeffrey Fairbrother fitted the role perfectly. The costume and acting blended together to create a person who looked genuinely out of place in the camp and uncomfortable with what is going on which is the entire premise of this production.

Something that I had never seen before is the inclusion of the yellow coats. These were the entertainers in the camp, similar to a Pontins Bluecoat, who within the realm of the summer camp were there to aid in the running of day to day activities. Within the production itself, these people were helping moving set between scenes and stewarding at the beginning and after the interval of the show. This felt like a fourth-wall break which was cleverly done to blend the outside, real world with the theatre world.

This beautiful production tread the line between a traditional show and an experience. As if you were immersing yourself in the world that these actors were producing. This was added to by the fact that it was performed in an open-air theatre. As there are no boundaries and enclosures in the open-air, this production felt as if it was permeating the real-world. On top of this, there was a lot of audience interaction and games carried out by members of the audience. I was, in fact, chosen to play one of the games, which involved pouring ‘spaghetti’ into a comically large pair of trousers. While I was doing this not one single actor broke character on the stage (which should not go unnoticed and only goes to show the professionalism of the cast.) The whole premise of this show was almost ‘come and join us in a one-day summer holiday camp’ which worked perfectly and was very enjoyable to participate in.

In conclusion, this production was fun-filled and enjoyable while providing a unique theatre experience. I did, however, feel as if I may have missed some of the nostalgia of the production and people of a similar age may also found this but I was still able to enjoy the show and get involved. My only issue with the show (which isn’t particularly an issue with the performers themselves) but there was a metal beam that prevented me from seeing some of the actors during certain points in the show. I would rate this production 5 out of 5 stars and would encourage people to catch this production before it is over.

PS if you are under 25 and purchase tickets on the door to any of the Everyman productions (including Hi-de-Hi) between Monday to Thursday you receive a special discount so tickets are only £8.

Review A Night at the Musicals, Wales Millennium Centre by Rhys Payne

4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)

A Night at the Musicals landed at the Wales Millennium Centre, it was a fun-filled evening where Broadway/West-End alumni performed a range of musical theatre songs. But for me, the highlight of this show was the Novello Orchestra. Unlike many of the other shows I have seen the Millennium this show had the orchestra perform on stage which I thought was really great as often the orchestra is forgotten about but this show made it extremely difficult to not appreciate them.

It was fantastic to see the skill and craftsmanship required to play in a musical orchestra and allowed the audience to appreciate them fully. This was only added to as the Conductor David Mahoney was also the compere for the evening. David was charismatic and hilarious throughout the show but he seemed to take full advantage of his charisma more so in the second act. This again was great to see as often times I know from experience that many conductors become awkward when acknowledged in the bows but for David to be so confident and charismatic was a nice change.


This show had a star-studded cast of musical theatre icons who each had fantastic songs to perform but also really interesting stories and connections to one another. They did however constantly pander to the audience and talked about how amazing the center is and how awesome Cardiff is which did become tedious after a while. The show opened with David Thaxton (of Phantom of the Opera, Only the Brave) who performed superstar from Jesus Christ Superstar. This was fantastic however it did take David a little while to warm up and the latter half of this show was incredible. This song choice was unexpected however as when songs from Jesus Christ Superstar was advertised I assumed it would be Gethsemane as that is the popular, often time show-stopping number, that many musical theatre fans adore but this selection allowed people to experience a song they probably never appreciated before.

My favorite performer in this production was John Owen-Jones (from Les Misérables, Phantom of the Opera, Tiger Bay The Musical) and as I had seen him in Tiger Bay I already had high expectations for his performing abilities and he managed to even surpass the already high standards I had set. His rendition of ‘Bring Him Home’ from Les Misérables was incredible and was definitely one of the best performances of the night. John also constantly promoted his albums which did become a running gag after a while and did cause a lot of laughter from the audience and the rest of the cast.


Kerry Ellis (of Les Misérables, Wicked) was out of this world. Her performance of ‘She Used To Be Mine’ rivalled that of London’s west end and ‘Anthem’ was an emotional performance that had many of the audience in tears. What made her performance even more incredible was that Kerry had lost a loved one on the day of the show but she still managed to perform at such a high standard. I know I personally would not be able to do this and Kerry remained professional. I would like to send my condolences to Kerry and her family at this difficult time.

Danielle Hope (of Wizard of Oz, Rock of Ages, winner of the BBC’s Over The Rainbow) completed the line-up and performed an excellent duet with John. Again her vocals were flawless.

This show used a children’s chorus who were incredibly talented and there is definitely many stars in that school who have a very big future ahead of them. There was however a few microphone issues that affected one of the solo singers but apart from this, they performed fantastically.


Overall, this show was a celebration of musical theatre performed by the highest quality musical theatre icons. The singing was incredible, the banter between cast members was fun to watch and the fact they support local school and area was the icing on the cake. I would rate this production 4 and a half stars and you should make sure you catch the next performance in Cardiff which is ‘Movie Mixtape: Songs from the Silver Screen’ on the 17th November 2019 which promises to have an even more star-studded cast that this show and so it is one not to miss!

Review INTO THE WOODS JR. Kinetic Theatre by Rhys Payne

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Kinetic Theatre arts youth academy’s production of Into The Woods Jr was performed in the Atrium USW. Having seen many of Kinetic’s productions in the past, including many of their Jr shows, my expectations were already set very high. Kinetic always produce high quality and professional productions that receive the highest praise and Into The Woods is no different. In fact, I personally think that this is one of Kinetic’s Youth’s best performances. At first, I thought it was strange to perform this show as it is one of Disney’s more dark and mysterious stories but the children managed to execute the show perfectly. One of the best things about this production specifically was that you can see the enjoyment and passion that these children have for performing. You can see many of the children getting very involved and having a good time which is so nice from the audience’s perspective, especially if you are a parent of one of the cast members. The children managed to balance the sinister and dark nature of some scenes with the fun and happy aspects of others which is not an easy thing to do. The show opened with a dark song in which the children wore black capes and moved in a sinister fashion. This scheme was actually spooky for the audience which means both the directors and the cast did what they meant to do.

All of the cast clearly worked very hard with the ensemble always being in character and providing beautiful vocals when required. Each child knew their role within the story and performed it the best they could. One of my favorite performers in this show was Tilly Birch who played Milky White (the cow) while she was primarily there for ‘awh’ factor moments but also she was clearly trying her best and having loads of fun in the meantime. A highlight for this character was when they swallow all the items and have to ‘milk’ the cow, obviously as Tilly is a girl in a costume I was confused as to how they would do this. What they did was place the cup down and Tilly what I can only describe as the cutest little dance I have ever seen which had both awhhs and laughs from the audience. She appeared very confident on the stage and I believe that she is a star in the making. The baker and his wife, played by Sam Walter and FFion Morris, helped drive the entire narrative of the musical. The role of Baker in the film version was James Corden (who I was a little disappointed with) but Sam, in this performance, really made the character relatable and his wife acted with emotion which built a great sense of sympathy from the audience. The stand out in this show was Lexi Ricketts who played the witch. Lexi managed to own the stage every time she was on it and actually made the character very scary. Her acting and singing were both incredible and she clearly has a very bright future in the performing arts. Her rendition of Last Midnight was perfect and was definitely on a professional level. The narrator in this performance, played by Amelia Francis, also helped move the story along but also sounded fantastic while singing her songs. The princes and Jack, played by Theo Birch, Harry Smith and Ben Page were fun to watch and again were clearly enjoying their time on stage. The princes had great chemistry together and performed like a double act which caused many laughs from the audience. The wolf, played by Ben Cogan, had a jazz-esque manner (similar to the movie) and was also very entertaining to watch.


Overall, this is a family-friend show that shows the talent and skills of the young cast while creating atmosphere and emotion like a professional show. I would rate this performance 4 out of 5 stars and I would encourage you to watch this show to see the full potential of every child on display while at the same time supporting a local theatre company.