Category Archives: Music

Review Ben Folds & yMusic support Lera Lynn WMC by Jon Mohajer

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4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

In a beautifully fitting close to Cardiff’s premier Festival of Voice, Ben Folds stood at the edge of the stage in a packed out Donald Gordon Theatre and conducted the audience to sing in wondrous three-part harmony. Playing the left and right sides of the impromptu choir with subtle motions of each hand, the veteran song-writer composed pop melodies of the swelling voices as effortlessly as if he was at home, sat at his piano.

Ben Folds’ standing ovation was well-deserved. Since 1995, Folds has consistently released smart, unconventional and above all catchy pop music, initially with the rock oriented Ben Folds Five, and later a ‘solo’ career which saw a shift towards more multi-timbral arrangements.

The latest project for Folds showcased in 2015’s ‘So There’ LP, is a collaboration with Brooklyn-based chamber sextet.

The group appeared onstage with Folds in Cardiff, displaying incredible skill in each of their instruments; violin, viola, cello, trumpet, flute and clarinet. While some singers may recruit players to add a layer of grandeur and schmaltz to their performances, the contribution of yMusic served an altogether different function, building up tension through tremolo and explosive flourishes. The tonal match to Folds’ lyrical expression of anxieties around growing older, breakdowns and the rest was remarkable. His distinctive voice flawlessly dipped in and out of falsetto register, while he pounded at an electric Yamaha piano. In fact, Folds shared onstage that his technique is so forceful, it had Jools Holland fearing for his piano’s integrity after the first Ben Folds Five appearance on his show.

The set centred around songs from ‘So There’ such as the title track, a reflection on the nervous anticipation of reinvention in a new city; ‘Capable of Anything’, a wry jab at the easy slogans (‘And I’m sure they meant you could be president’) which in fact work both ways; ‘Not a Fan’, a tender waltz packed with self-doubt and irony (‘You’re so well read; I grew up on sugar cereal and TV’). Several older songs were given a chamber sextet reinterpretation, like ‘Effington’, ‘Mess’, ‘Song For The Dumped’ and ‘Steven’s Last Night in Town’. The latter journeyed through incredible, expansive jazz drum and clarinet solos before reconvening around the theme.

In a recent interview Folds stated that he aims to divorce himself from listeners who aren’t tolerant of humour. On his first visit to Wales, Folds quickly befriended the crowd with his spontaneous wit and storytelling. Many years ago, a fan’s yell of ‘Rock This Bitch’ during a show gave rise to what would become a staple of Ben Folds’ live performances. The phrase, or variants of it, are sung over a freshly composed piece of music, with verse lyrics updated to tell the story of the day. Of course, Folds sought out the Welsh translation for the phrase, and after some initial bemusement at the seeming lack of Welsh speakers in the Welsh capital, took ‘rociwch y ast’ back to his piano.

Long term fans of Folds were treated during his encore to older hits like ‘Philosophy’, ‘Not The Same’ and ‘All U Can Eat’, a simultaneously hilarious and profound take on Walmart culture. Here’s to hoping Ben doesn’t keep us waiting another 20 years before visiting Wales again!

Lera Lynn, a singer of Nashville, TN opened the evening with atmospheric, minimalist country rock/americana. Her voice was incredibly rich, deep and strong, punching through the unsettling minor key arpeggios of her own guitar and that of a second which provided a thick spring reverb-drenched counterpoint. I sat back in my seat, closed my eyes, and felt sure I’d reopen them upon endless plains of North American desert.

Sunday 12th June
Festival of Voice:
BEN FOLDS & yMUSIC w/ LERA LYNN.
Wales Millennium Centre (Donald Gordon Theatre)

Review Piaf! The Show Festival of Voice WMC by James Briggs

 

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

 

Cardiff welcomed one of France’s most famous singers in the form of ‘Piaf! The Show’ as part of the Festival of Voice event in association with ‘Directo Productions’. ‘Piaf! The Show’ celebrates the centenary of Edith Piaf’s birth and is a wonderful production  that sees French singer Anne Carrere filling the impeccably large boots of Edith Piaf. Edith Piaf holds very special memories for me as my family and I would regularly go on holiday to Jersey. When I was four I asked the hotel pianist if she would play Edith Piaf’s ‘Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien’. The pianist as well as my family were astounded at my request, but as we would return year after year to the same hotel every time I walked into the hotel the pianist would always play the song for me and even gave me some of my first ‘piano lessons’.

With a packed line up of almost thirty songs we are taken on a musical journey of Edith Piaf’s life starting firstly in Act 1 with the beginnings of Edith Piaf singing in café’s for customers and serenading people alongside the River Seine. However, Act 2 is totally different with the show changing into a concert style performance and Anne Carrere’s performance as Piaf is totally mesmerising. There were countless famous numbers included allowing the audience to sing along with the music. The settings used on the stage were minimal yet extremely effective some of which being a streetlamp in Montmartre,  seedy clubs of Pigalle and even the world famous Carnegie Hall in New York.

While performing on stage Anne Carrere was backed by a live band simply made up of a piano, doublebass, drums and the most amazing accordionist Guy Giuliano who was simply outstanding. The songs performed were a great mix from the well known such as Jezebel and Autumn Leaves and those not so well known to me such as ‘Bravo Pour Le Clown’, ‘Milord’ and ‘La Foule’.

The audience were left feeling as though we were watching the show in France as it was all in French. I really enjoyed the use of French as it brought more meaning to the music and made the portrayal of Edith Piaf by Anne Carrere even more special.

For those who have listened to Edith Piaf’s music you will know that she had a very specific sound to her voice and this is extremely difficult to impersonate, however, Anne Carrere manages to exemplify not only the spirit of the singer but also her unique sound. The legendary vibrato is captured with precision and even when dancing with men she had picked from the audience she stayed in character and didn’t let the accent go for one second.

The setting was also very effective in that during the singing a large projector at the back of the stage showed photographs of Edith Piaf through her many stages of life. Simple sets of a streetlamp alongside a park bench, bar and cafe tables provide the audience with a visual aid when listening to the music and following the story. This created the most fantastic atmosphere for the audience but the music with Anne Carrere alone is enough to entertain any audience and the enjoyment on stage was infectious.

For me this show was a dream come true and is the closest I will ever get to watching Edith Piaf singing her music live. It was therefore a terrible shame that the audience was so small in number as the performance deserved a packed audience. However, this did not deter the audience giving Anne Carrere and her band a standing ovation which was very well deserved.

I would recommend this show to everyone whether you are a fan of Edith Piaf or not as it is simply a wonderful celebration of all things French and the fabulous Anne Carrere is outstanding and I am sure when she performs at Carnegie Hall in New York I am sure she will be loved there also. If you ever get the chance do not think twice about buying a ticket as it is a must see show and your guaranteed a wonderful night out. Merci Anne Carrere vous étiez un artiste incroyable et vraiment fait Edith Piaf fier!

Merci d’avoir lu mon commentaire sur le fantastique Piaf ! Le spectacle.

Review Festival of Voice: John Cale (w/ Gwenno) at St David’s Hall, Cardiff by Jon Mohajer

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4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

The selection of John Cale for the opening night of Cardiff’s fledgling Festival of Voice was an act of enlightened curation. Few singers other than John possess a voice imbued with such intrigue, both heavy and complex with the weight of its vital musical history, and yet warmly inviting with its simple richness.

With 2016 marking fifty years since the recording of The Velvet Underground’s first album, “The Velvet Underground & Nico” it would be easy for John Cale to lean on those old tunes, giving simple gratification to fans who still hold those early experiments with rock’n’roll (and all else that entailed) as his pinnacle. But ‘easy’ is rarely a path Cale has taken. An inspiring lecturer on the avant-garde, and a relentless seeker of new frontiers in music such as drone and noise, it was fitting that the only nod to the Velvet Underground in Cale’s two hour set was a heavenly version of ‘Sunday Morning’ twisted by transplanted and warped instrumentation.

The set illustrated the enormous breadth of Cale’s oeuvre, while subtly highlighting its manifold interconnections. Transitioning from a new offering such as the murky, ascending opener ‘Time Stands Still’ into 1973’s familiar ‘The Endless Plain of Fortune’; or from a haunting, strangely empty rendition of Cale & Lou Reed’s 1990 nostalgic collaboration ‘Style It Takes’ into the desolate ‘Wasteland’ written fifteen years later, Cale wove an enigmatic tale through his performance. The two-hour set rarely ventured from andante, and Cale rarely from behind his keyboard, but interest was held by the addition of string and horn sections, and a choir comprised of gospel and classical singers, apparently instructed simply to ‘sing as they felt’. The appearance of Michael Sheen to perform Dylan Thomas’ ‘Death Shall Have No Dominion’ over a claustrophobic, machine-laden soundscape was a particular highlight, encapsulating Cale’s fraught, unsettled, yet sentimental relationship with Wales.

http://john-cale.com

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Opening act Gwenno was captivating, transmitting ethereal, dystopian-themed Welsh language pop vocals and string hooks over an undulating, krautrock revering rhythm section. Gwenno played cuts from her 2015 LP ‘Y Dydd Olaf’, inspired by obscure Welsh sci-fi novelist Owain Owain.

Her marriage of inhuman synthesised sounds with the Welsh and Cornish languages was an engaging metaphor for the continual transformation and creative resistance of marginal identities under modernity.

http://www.gwenno.info

Interview Liz May A personal introduction to BSL for live performance

Here is a short BSL video from BSL Interpreter Liz May.

A written version is available below.

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Hi my name is Liz May

I am a Sign Language Interpreter. What I love most is Theatre interpreting.

What we do and the process of this work is, we watch the rehearsals, their characters, what they are like and get a grip on what makes them their character. And what I am doing will then match the characters on stage.

At the moment tonight and today I am in Chapter in Cardiff interpreting a play called Belonging

It’s really interesting, its lovely to see that there is more access coming in now.

I regularly interpret in different theatres some in Newport some in Cardiff. That’s what we do!

http://southwalesinterpreters.co.uk/interpreters-rsli.html

Review Funny Girl The Savoy Theatre by Julie Owen-Moylan

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When most people think of Funny Girl it is probably inevitable that they think of Barbra Streisand who played musical comedy star Fanny Brice in the Broadway Production of 1964 and went on to win an oscar for the movie of the same name. Songs such as ‘People’ and ‘Rain On My Parade’ are so synonymous with Streisand, that I wondered whether the new Funny Girl revival, that has recently transferred to the beautiful Art Deco surroundings of the Savoy Theatre in London, would suffer in comparison.

My only experience of Sheridan Smith was as a television actress notably in Mrs Biggs, Gavin and Stacey and of course playing Cilla Black. Having watched her playing Cilla I knew that she could sing but there is singing on television and there is commanding a stage. I need not have worried. From the moment Sheridan takes the stage, she is Fanny Brice. It would be understandable to have an actress offer up a performance of Streisand’s interpretation of Fanny Brice but Smith doesn’t do this. Funny Girl is taken back to its Broadway roots. It is Brice’s story, albeit a somewhat fictional account of her rise to fame and subsequent marriage to gambler Nick Arnstein, played with a delicate light and shade from Darius Campbell. Yes, it is he of Pop Idol fame.

Darius delivers a very strong performance but the stage belongs to Sheridan Smith. I have rarely seen an actress so totally inhabit a character in musical theatre. From her walk, her superb comic timing and her delivery of each song, Sheridan does not miss a beat. She is actually so good that you barely notice the rest of the cast and they deserve to be noticed for they are truly excellent, particularly Marilyn Cutts who plays Fanny’s mother and Joel Montague who plays Eddie.

The musical itself is a game of two halves as the first half is the thrill of the chase, Fanny chasing fame and Nick Arnstein. A riotous and joyful ride of delicious comedy and gorgeous songs stunningly delivered. The second half of the show centres on the breakdown of her marriage and is tender and poignant but lacks the punch of the opening act. The staging is smart, suggesting hints of Vaudeville, a Brooklyn tenement and the opulence of the Ziegfeld Follies without using much more than costumes and some clever movements across the stage. The whole show is carried beautifully by a stunning central performance as Sheridan Smith is one of those stage performers that the audience loves from the minute she sets foot on that stage to the final lung busting notes. The standing ovation was immediate and heartfelt. I would heartily recommend Funny Girl. Sheridan Smith is a special talent on a stage and that is not to be missed.

Review Beyond The Barricade, St David’s Hall by James Briggs

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At first I must admit I was a little apprehensive about going to see this show because many of the musical numbers being performed on the night I had seen before on stage in venues such as the Wales Millennium Centre and the West End. I was a little skeptical that they would not meet the standard of those performed on the West End and I must admit some of the numbers in the first half did seem to lack some strength, however having said that, you have to remember that they do not have a full ensemble to support them.

The standard of singing was very good and very much appreciated by the St David’s Hall audience and it is because of the quality of the singing and variety of West End songs that the audience stayed captivated for the two and a half hour performance. Beyond the Barricade consists of four musical marvels – David Fawcett, who performs as well as introduces each section of songs, Andy Reiss, who puts the show together and plays keyboard with the band, Rebecca Vere and Katie Leeming who not only have impeccable voices but have all played principal parts and the stage production of Les Miserables but also sang with the ensemble of the film version too.

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The show celebrates a wide range of musicals and the first half ranges from the traditional musicals such as Miss Saigon, Phantom of the Opera, West Side Story, Carousel and Jesus Christ Superstar finishing with a medley of songs from We Will Rock You, Jersey Boys and Mamma Mia. The highlight of the first half for me was the rendition of You’ll Never Walk Alone from the classic musical Carousel which really did make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end.

The second half started with The Lion King followed in my personal opinion with one of the best songs of the night ‘Always Look on the Bright side of Life’ from the Monty Python Musical Spamalot. It was a brilliant song that was performed perfectly with added comic timing that left the audience laughing and joining in.

However, the cherry on top of the cake was definitely the musical numbers from Les Miserables, with performances of ‘At the end of the Day, I Dreamed a Dream, On my Own, Bring Him Home, Master of the House and One Day More’. Considering the numbers of cast usually included on the West End production of Les Miserables, the four singers from Beyond The Barricade stepped up to the plate and delivered a powerful and emotional performance which was simply an astonishing and spectacular performance to witness.

Let’s hope that Beyond the Barricade and all its singers are able to continue for many years more and delight us further with their wonderful musical talent and voices.

Beyond

Beyond The Barricade is currently on a nationwide tour of the UK appearing at a number of different venues. You can view the tour dates via this link to their website: http://www.beyondthebarricade.com/tour

 

 

2015 Personal highlights from the Young Critics & 3rd Act Critics

 

2015 New Year celebration with the date outlined by colourful fiery sparklers on a dark New Year's Eve night

 

Members of the Young Critics and 3rd Act Critics have selected their own personal highlights of 2015. Their first choice is that a cultural event they have reviewed or attended. Their second is something they have personally experienced which has resonance for them as an individual.

 Young Critic Lois Arcari

2015 is, like all other years, impossible to forget for many reasons. One such reason was an amazing blur, both individually and for the Young Critics as a whole – the celebration of Welsh talent and its abilities at the annual BAFTA Cymru awards. For a review and as a day, what was daunting turned easily to something wonderful, truly hopeful and encouraging for a defiantly blossoming industry in the face of cuts to the arts and critics of its worth. An event that continues developing to give Wales international renown. This day was both an honour, and a joy to be part of.

https://theyoungcritics.wordpress.com/2015/09/30/bafta-cymru-awards-2015-by-lois-arcari/

My personal pick of this year is something as much as a cultural event, platform for debate, national icon and builder of careers and friendships alike as it is a show – the incomparable Doctor Who. In light of criticisms thrown at showrunner Steven Moffat for a number of years now, this season has episodes widely regarded as some of the most experimental, diverse and emotional at least post revival. Whilst I was worried at the apparent superficiality of this choice – Doctor Who is iconic for a reason. Not least this past season because of the sensational acting masterclass in acting from Peter Capaldi, and Jeanna Coleman. Coleman has laid claim to being a divisive character, but personally I think her performance is one of the most raw, layered and deftly handled in the show’s history, especially when coupled with Moffat’s no holds barred approach. Though missteps were made, they were made in interesting ways. The Doctor, expertly handled, has always been a personal character – an icon of unflinching hope and possibility that even helped through uncertainty and anxieties through eager viewing last year following a serious car accident. Seeing the characters, writing and ambition grow in tandem has been moving and joyous, and the many layers encouraging fans to analyse, speculate, and always, always hope. As the show-runners (as a brilliant personal meeting at the aforementioned BAFTA Cymru awards with Russel T Davies showed) did with the same love.

 

3rd Act Critic Barbara Michaels

My first choice would have to be Mack and Mabel at WMC. The production was brilliant on all fronts, Barbara reviewed this production for The Reviews Hub

Mack and Mabel – Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff

Secondly my personal choice is Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake with male dancers as the swans.  A new take in one of the most popular classical ballets and spine tingling.

 

Young Critic James Briggs

For my choice of 2015 I would like to say Jersey Boys at the Wales Millennium Centre because this was the first production that I reviewed for Young Critics and so if I had not chosen to attend that show I would not have been so involved with Young Critics this year.

Review Jersey Boys, WMC by James Briggs

For my second choice of 2015 I would like to say the Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular that was at Cardiff Motorpoint Arena back in May this year.

This is a review by Wales Online about the show

http://www.walesonline.co.uk/whats-on/music-nightlife-news/doctor-who-symphonic-spectacular-shows-9328752.

 

Young Critic Kiera Sikora

I would definitely say my favourite production which I reviewed in 2015 was Alix in Wundergarten- Difficult Stage/Other Room

https://theyoungcritics.wordpress.com/2015/12/05/review-alix-in-wundergarten-the-other-room-by-kiera-sikora/

My second choice would be A Doll’s House- Sherman Cymru a relevant retelling of a theatrical classic!

 

Young Critic Amina Ali

My first choice would be the TV series Agent Carter

https://theyoungcritics.wordpress.com/?s=Agent+Carter+&submit=Search

My second choice would be the Black Lives matter movement. I feel it’s important because as a black person the miscarriages of justice are almost personal. It is important to know that there are people standing up for people like me.

http://blacklivesmatter.com/about/

Young Critic Sian Thomas

My first choice would be the book Unspeakable by Abbie Rushton, I feel I wrote my review well and there was to my surprise online interaction with the author and her publisher on Twitter. I know someone also bought it as a consequence of my review which I thought was amazing!

https://theyoungcritics.wordpress.com/2015/08/15/review-unspeakable-abbie-rushton-by-sian-thomas/

 

My second would be the release of the World of Professor Layton which is a big art book about my favourite ever game that came out around November 5th and I really enjoyed and felt the closure of the series ending personally.

 

Young Critic Bethan Hooton

My number one event of the year would have to be the One Direction concert – seeing your favourite band live is something you will never forget!

https://theyoungcritics.wordpress.com/2015/06/26/review-one-direction-cardiff-millennium-stadium-by-bethan-hooton/

My second choice would be getting my GCSE results – 2 Cs, 7Bs, A, A* . I was so proud of myself for these grades, and I got into college with them to study subjects that I now really enjoy and love.

 

We are all looking forward to what 2016 will bring!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review Cardiff Philharmonic Orchestra, A Night at the Movies by James Briggs

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This year has been packed full of the best movie releases to date with the latest James Bond movie Spectre, Jurassic World and the new Star Wars film Episode VII: The Force Awakens. There is no surprise that the Cardiff Philharmonic Orchestra have chosen to do ‘A Night at the Movies’ for their Christmas show. With a crammed program of famous and well-loved movie themes the film buffs and music lovers were well and truly out in force at Saint David’s Hall in the centre of Cardiff.

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In a concert celebrating the vast amount of film music that has been composed we also had another edition to the concert in which the Cardiff Philharmonic Orchestra had teamed up with George Thomas Hospice Care and part of the money taken from tickets and sales at the show were going to be donated. It is collaborations like this that raise vital money for the amazing work that is done in delivering the best possible palliative care for people who are seriously ill. It was because of this underlying motive for holding the concert that the pieces seemed to have far more meaning to them than they already have.

The first act of the programme consisted of a wide range of movie music with an overture medley to begin the show with numbers such as the ‘Phantom of the Opera’ and ‘There’s no Business like Show Business’ included. Next up was music from the hit animated Disney movie ‘Frozen’ accompanied by audience members singing along with many of the well-known songs from the film, the orchestra were able to bring the movie to life much to the excitement of the younger people of the audience. Music from the twenty-third instalment of the James Bond franchise ‘Skyfall’ followed. Adele’s music was beautifully orchestrated and left the audience wanting more music from the Bond movies. A popular favourite among families was the Lion King medley that followed Skyfall. With songs like Circle of Life and I Just Can’t Wait to be King, the audience were given a musical treat with catchy rhythms and African instruments included in the songs. The first act was concluded with a ‘My Fair Lady’ medley. The musical includes many well- known songs such ‘As I Could Have Danced All Night and ‘I’m Getting Married in the Morning.’

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Following the Interval sci-fi fans were treated to a whole second act dedicated to the Star Wars saga. With music from Episode IV: A New Hope, Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back and Episode VI: Return of the Jedi there was plenty of Star Wars music to be heard. A personal favourite of mine was the opening song for the second act, taken from Episode IV: A New Hope,  the 20th Century Fox theme filled the room with movie magic before the moment we had all been waiting for the main theme from Star Wars began.

https://youtu.be/J67TjuO93AI

The iconic first note played out around the room and left many people with jaws on the floor in awe of the fantastic music. As the music played out you could almost see Darth Vader walking into the room and the Millennium Falcon flying through an asteroid field. The concert was finished with an encore piece called Throne room and end title of Episode IV: A New Hope. The soundtrack hit the audience like a brick wall, once the end titles music began there was nothing but pure joy on the audience faces. With the new release of Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens being released on the 17th of December this music seemed to resonate far more with the audience and felt far more special than it usually would.

Without a doubt this is defiantly an orchestra you need to see! Their next concert is called ‘Vote Overture!’ in which they are asking you the audience to vote for your favourite piece. To vote for your favourite piece visit www.stdavidshallcardiff.co.uk where you will find lots of information and further details about up and coming shows.

http://www.stdavidshallcardiff.co.uk/whats-on/cardiff-philharmonic-orchestra/cpo-vote-overture/

 

Review Mack and Mabel, WMC by James Briggs

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Direct from its home on Broadway, the smash hit musical Mack & Mabel is bringing all of the magic of the movies and Broadway to Cardiff Bay at the Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff. Mack and Mabel is based on the real-life romance between the Hollywood legends Mack Sennett and Mabel Normand. The musical tells the story of Mack Sennett who is a successful movie director who meets Mabel Normand, a sandwich shop girl who he makes his leading lady who instinctively knows how to act when faced with stereotypical villains of the screen.   They are a group of ground-breaking filmmakers who were pioneers in the world of film and their slapstick humour generated huge laughs from audiences that longed to escape the humdrum of everyday life. Mack and Mabel features an exceptional score written by the fantastic Jerry Herman and is widely prized for its classic Broadway sensations including I Won’t Send Roses and Tap Your Troubles Away.

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Michael Ball is excellent as Mack Sennett who was regarded as one of the best movie directors of his time and Rebecca LaChance’s performance as Mabel Normand is compelling, she is cheerful and energetic. The musical has been directed with flair and panache by Jonathan Church, who has directed many other successful West End shows such as Patrick Stewart’s Macbeth. Mack and Mabel is crammed packed with great visual jokes that nod to some of Hollywood’s greatest stars.

During the show one is taken aback by the clever and complex sets that are used to bring back fond memories of times gone by. This was realised on stage by the use of old movie clips incorporated into the onstage scenery and also mixing sets that were constructed on stage with technology such as a projector to fill in the rest of the scene. This was done seamlessly and added to the overall feel of being at the movies. All of the ingenious sets were designed by Robert Jones and the fabulous choreography complimented the era of the silent movies extremely well, the choreography used created some brilliant characters and gave a feel to what may have gone on all those years ago. The seamless transitions between the movies being filmed on the stage to it being shown on the projectors was very clever and made the audience feel like they really were watching the movies being made.

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This dazzling and exiting story leaves it’s audience with a lot to think about and a jubilant merriment of a time long ago. It is important that one should relish in the warmth of spirit then, which is reflected wonderfully in Jerry Herman’s naturally lush score and charming lyrics. Ensure you book tickets and go down to the Wales Millennium Centre to see Mack and Mabel between 01 Dec – 06 Dec 2015. You are guaranteed a nostalgic experience of the movie years gone by!

https://www.wmc.org.uk/Productions/2015-2016/DonaldGordonTheatre/mackmabel/

 

Review Annie WMC by James Briggs

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Annie the Musical is set in a rough girl’s orphanage in New York in 1933 and follows the rags-to-riches journey of 11-year-old orphan Annie, one which takes her to the top of American society where she and her optimism influences many orphans, adults and even the President Franklin D Roosevelt.

The main star of the musical tour is Strictly Come Dancing Judge Craig Revel Horwood. His performance couldn’t be any further from his judging persona on Strictly as he donned a frock for the part of the bully Miss Hannigan, the orphanage ‘mother’. Well we can safely say he has earned the right to be as harsh as he is on Strictly Come Dancing because he can act, dance and most definitely sing! When he made his first appearance in the show with his high heels and swinging hips you could see from the audience’s reaction we were in for a good night.

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Craig Revel Horwood is supported by a very strong cast who have been moulded to perfection. Alex Bourne as billionaire Daddy Warbucks was perfect casting and he was suitably strict when he needed to be but yet soft-centred as the plot unfolded, with a passion it seemed for dancing.

Holly Dale Spencer was superb as Warbuck’s ever helpful and faithful secretary, who helps Annie to get out from the orphanage to live in his luxurious mansion.

It is also very important to mention the brother of Miss Hannigan, Rooster and his villainous cohort Lily. Rooster is played with convincing style and comic cunning by Jonny Fines and Lily by Djalenga Scott brings their relationship to life. The two come up with a dastardly plan in which they pose as Annie’s real parents in an attempt to bag a $50,000 reward.

The true and rightful star of the show was Annie herself. Played by the extremely talented Madeleine Haynes. Her voice was powerful and had a great vocal range. Annie the musical is littered with difficult ballads and she pulled them off with ease.

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Due to the amount of shows that take place Madeleine is one of three Annie’s in one of the three teams of orphans in the show. I think it would also be right to mention all of Team Roxy because they did a fantastic job Rosanna Beacock (Molly), Scarlett Flannery (Pepper), Ashley Gold (Kate), Connie Burgess (July), Amelia Love Coleman (Duffy) and last but not least Lissy Mant (Tessie).

The dance routines throughout by the entire cast were second to none, although what else would you expect with Craig Revel Horwood choreographing.

It would be wrong to finish this review without of course mentioning the character in the show that impressed the audience with her skills, Amber, the highly talented dog who plays Sandy.

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In the words of Craig Revel Horwood this show was “Fab-u-LOUS Darling!” and deserved the standing ovation from the Millennium audience. Make sure you get yourself over to see Annie on tour because if you do you can “Bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow” you’ll have fun