Category Archives: Music

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

CPO 2

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.

CPO 1

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.’

CPO 3

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

0-2

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.

0-4

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.

0-3

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

VJR_WOL_250914_annie01

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.

Annie 1

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.

Annie 2

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.

Annie 3

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

Review Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, WMC by Barbara Michaels

10724148-large

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels at Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff

Book by Jeffrey Lane

Music and lyrics: David Yazbek

Director and Choreographer: Jerry Mitchell

Reviewer: Barbara Michaels, Third Act Critic

Rating: ***

Based on the iconic film starring Michael Caine and Steve Martin, classified as “the funniest film of all time,” Dirty Rotten Scoundrels first hit the London stage as a musical a year ago. Telling the tale of a mega scam pulled by a couple of conmen on the French Riviera who pull out all the stops in a no holds barred contest in order to win the affections (and thus access to the money!) of a millionaire soap heiress, it’s harmless fun in today’s world beset by drug offences and more. Nothing is as it appears – reflected in an atmospheric and skilfully lit set where even the palm trees are manifestly fake!

There is no doubt whatsoever that as a comedy film starring Michael Caine and the wonderful comic actor Steve Martin Dirty Rotten Scoundrels worked wonderfully well; the question is, does it work as a musical?

The answer is yes – but only up to a point. A stage production has advantages and disadvantages over a film – two very different art forms cannot, and do not profess to be, identical. The snap, crackle and pop that characterised the 1988 film does not really get going in the stage version until the second half, when it suddenly finds it feet.

This is due in part to one of the major additions which writer Jeffrey Lane has made to the original film script i.e. the romance between Andre, the hapless and reluctant aide to camp of conman Lawrence Jameson, the conman responsible for laying the trap – or rather traps – to catch an heiress. As Lawrence, Michael Praed is suitably debonair and suave, but could at times be sharper off the mark, but as Andre old-timer Mark Benton has a masterly control of the comedic, delivering his lines with an inherent chuckle. As the object of his attentions, the ‘lady of a certain age’ Muriel – British as opposed to American as in the film –   Geraldine Fitzgerald is a delight. The musical number ‘Like Zis/Like Zat’ which she sings with Benton is a gem, and fully justifies adding an additional element which, although it would have been superfluous in the film, greatly enhances the stage version.

Noel Sullivan, as the ‘innocent’ conman the susceptible and lovelorn Freddy whose misadventures are at the centre of the mayhem, performs with gusto. As Christine Colgate, the blonde- with- the- dosh , who is targeted by the conmen, Phoebe Coupe responded magnificently to the challenge , due to Carley Stenson being unwell in the first night at this venue, coming into her own in the hilariously funny ‘Love is My Legs’ in Act II.

A great ensemble performs the dance numbers with verve and expertise and showcases some wonderful costumes, reflecting the era in which the story is set. Overall a show to be enjoyed for what it is – entertainment, and not to be taken too seriously.

Runs until Saturday August 22nd at the Wales Millennium Centre.

 

Review Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, WMC By James Briggs

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels 1

It’s well and truly the season in Beaumont-Sur-Mer on the French Riviera, and the game is on for suave con man Lawrence Jameson who makes his living by conning rich women out of their money. This season however things are not as usual, with the arrival of one Freddy Benson, a young American upstart who threatens Jameson’s lifestyle. After an attempt at working together a bet is made to win a ‘prize’ that would see the other leave town for good.

It is never easy adapting a classic film into a musical. The score created by David Yazbek and Jeffrey Lane is very dynamic and has some hilariously comical lyrics that have the audience in stitches for the majority of the show. David Yazbek’s songs give the show a very classy feel and then combined with Jeffrey Lane’s brilliant comedic script leaves the audience laughing and wanting more.

Key to the success of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels Musical is the onstage relationship between Lawrence Jameson played by Michael Praed and Freddy Benson played by Noel Sullivan. There is an instant chemistry between these two actors, leaving the audience having just as much enjoyment and fun as them on stage. This too is shown when watching Michael Praed and Noel Sullivan carry out their elaborate cons in varying comical numbers such as All About Ruprecht and Ruffhousin’ Mit Shuffhausen. Both Praed and Sullivan have faultless comic timing and are also blessed with incredible voices that really work well with David Yazbek’s score.

Phoebe Coupe is every bit the equal of the two confident con men Jameson and Benson. As Christine Colgate she seems the perfect target but this charming young lady hides a great secret. Phoebe Coupe has a great voice and sparkles as she gets taken in by Jameson and Benson and their elaborate scheme.

Geraldine Fitzgerald plays Muriel Eubanks, a classy dame who travels around the world looking for love and living life to the full. From her first appearance, you can’t help but love Muriel, she has a feeling that she knows she’s being conned but yet she’s still here.

The casting of Mark Benton as Andre Thibault, Lawrence Jameson’s right hand man is brilliant and has created far more of a comic interpretation. His scenes in act two with Geraldine Fitzgerald’s Muriel had the audience crying out for more and had a certain element of Strictly Come Dancing about it. Mark Benton has a real talent for comic timing and he deploys it with superb effect at key moments throughout the show.

One cannot write a review of this magical show without of course mentioning the very hardworking ensemble that provides the cherry on top of the cake for this musical. With the many characters portrayed from hotel staff to sailors the ensemble gives a feeling of overwhelming talent with their ranges simply impeccable.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels 2

Jerry Mitchell, as Director and Choreographer creates a truly wonderful atmosphere with the slick staging and equal parts of hilarity. Matthew Brind has provided the show with boundless orchestrations and arrangements and under the baton of Musical Director Ben Van Tienen, the show is jammed packed with life and incredible energy that spreads to the audience leaving their toes well and truly tapping. The score is a joy to listen to something I could do every evening.

I believe a special mention should go out to Peter McKintosh who has provided a stunning set for Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. Scene changes are effortlessly transformed with style and always complimenting what is happening on stage and never detracting from it. His costumes are to die for with an abundance of panache and a suitable dose of classiness. Even though Freddy doesn’t have the best dress sense it adds and compliments his character.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels The Musical is a wonderful evening at the theatre. Its sheer fun and you would be hard pushed to find anybody who could walk out of the theatre without having had a great evening with a great deal of laughs. This show really does “Give Them What They Want” and offers “Great Big Stuff”. This posse of classic con artists are heading to a theatre near you very soon and you’d be a Dirty Rotten Scoundrel by not seeing them.

Me With Noel Sullivan Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

Young Critic James Briggs with cast member Noel Sullivan who plays Freddy Benson

 

Review NYOW St David’s Hall, 2015 Tour

National-Youth-Orchestra-of-Wales

Returning once again to the Welsh capital, the 115 strong National Youth Orchestra of Wales took to the stage at St David’s Hall for the final performance of their 2015 tour. Performing an equally exciting and exhausting compilation of early twentieth-century Parisian ballet works, the orchestra was in the capable hands of internationally acclaimed conductor Paul Daniel (CBE) whose ambitious second half of the programme pushed the orchestra to their limits.

Easing in with Paul Dukas’ lesser known La Péri, this was an apt work to sit alongside Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring as the two pieces premièred in the same year. Daniel’s was a subtle interpretation; the introductory rousing brass fanfare moved into a contrasting web of gorgeous full bodied melodies in the strings and ethereal orchestral pianissimos that captured the mysticism of the Persian legend of Alexander the Great that the work is inspired by. This was followed by Florent Schmitt`s La Tragedie de Salome, another atmospheric piece during which the impressionistic oboe and cor anglais passages were particularly enticing. Set in two, the second part was characterised particularly well. Full of suspense and percussive pathetic fallacy, the thunderclaps added colour and maintained the momentum of the storm.

It was a well thought out programme. The first half of the concert passed quickly with beautiful melodies and subtlety that was set up to be utterly shattered in the second half by Stravinsky’s savage The Rite of Spring. When I discovered that the NYOW were braving Stravinsky’s finest work, I felt a pang that I was no longer sitting in the violin section. This is a work that every musician wants to experience on stage.

Prefaced by a harp fanfare written during the NYOW residency by two young composers, the intricate introduction was confidently conducted by co-writer Daniel Soley. Immediately following this, Paul Daniel waited for complete silence before handing over to Llewelyn Edwards to initiate the singing bassoon opening to The Rite of Spring during which the orchestra’s capability was showcased.

For the most part, the relentless rhythmic frenzy was precisely executed and the tumultuous full orchestral sound during the sacrifice was attacked with sheer force and commitment; it is clear that Paul Daniel has worked tirelessly with the responsive orchestra to pull off such a monumentally challenging work. Many would be sceptical about whether a programme this ambitious could be effectively performed by a youth orchestra but, as always, the National Youth Orchestra of Wales stepped up to the challenge. Incorporating The Rite of Spring into the programme gave soloists particularly in the woodwind section, the opportunity to demonstrate their maturity as players.

After a two week intense rehearsal and concert schedule, the professionalism and commitment from these talented young performers will come at the usual price. Today the famous Nash Crash begins for them all!

 

Review One Direction Cardiff Millennium Stadium by Bethan Hooton

background-phone

On the 6th of June 2015, I had one of the best experiences of my life. I went to a One Direction concert. I had been waiting for this concert, ever since I got the tickets the day they were put on sale. I cried when I got that text from my uncle saying he had been able to get tickets! With this in mind I am going to try to keep this review as concise and babble free as possible!

The Experience: Seeing your favourite band live for the first time is bound to be  amazing. I’d been waiting for One Direction to do a concert which I’d be able to attend for about three years. So there was a lot riding on this one night. I can honestly say that it was the best experience of my life. From the moment I sat down in the line waiting to go in at 2pm until the encore and even after the concert had ended and I was on my way home, I was fully enthralled. The atmosphere of the stadium was immense! It really added to concert. It somehow made it that much better. Obviously seeing one’s favourite band live is to cause some bias towards giving them a good review; however, my mum even enjoyed the concert. She said and I quote “What an amazing experience and concert that has been” Beforehand there had been some projects set up to show Directioners support for the One Direction boys and some to even add the experience of the concert itself. These included the bandana project (you wear a bandana of a certain colour that correlates to your favourite member) and the balloon project (you threw balloons around during a certain song) this again added to the whole experience, just seeing how dedicated us fans are and how excited we were. Although social media could probably tell you that.

Support act: The supporting act was McBusted, another band  which I hold very close to my heart. Id seen them live before though, so it wasn’t anything new. That being said, I was still very excited to see them live again! They are great performers, and really added to the excitement of seeing One Direction. During their performance, they just talked to the audience, asking if we’re having fun and if we’re excited to see One Direction. They kept the energy in the room alive, and not once did it feel like they were bored, or just there because they were getting paid to do so. The only thing about the concert was in the leaflet that came with the tickets it stated that there would be two supporting acts, but there weren’t. This is neither a criticism nor flaw; however I think I would’ve liked to see another band/artist performing.

One Direction: There is a lot to say about these guys! This is about the fifth time I’ve written this section and once I literally wrote out the whole concert and commented on what happened. I’m trying really hard to keep this concise.

When the opening sequence started – which was just a mix of the songs they would be performing – I burst into tears. They hadn’t even gotten on stage. I was just so excited. They opened with a song from their newest album Four. They came on with energy and excitement and passion. It’s fair to say, their energy stayed that way through the whole concert. They are great performers, and singers. They talked to the audience, and even attempted to say “Diolch” due to the fact a lot of fans had it written on signs and they were in Wales! They asked about birthdays and asked if we were having fun. They spoke to each other and acted as friends. They messed around, and generally had a good time. They came to Cardiff knowing that we don’t hug, we cwtch. They just enjoyed themselves and that was what really made the concert. The whole time they were on stage, I was bawling my eyes out. It was such a surreal event and I loved every single minute of it. I love these boys to bits, but I loved the concert even more. To be honest, I was slightly disappointed with the set list as they had said new songs would be added, however, I still loved the concert.

Overall: From beginning to end, I loved the whole thing. The experience was amazing, and I’m still wishing that I could go back to that day and relive it. If you have the chance to go see them live, go. Whether you know every song, lyric for lyric or only know What Makes You Beautiful, either way you won’t be disappointed. One Direction put on an amazing performance and they love every minute, which is contagious and you find yourself screaming the lyrics you know at the top of your lungs, no matter how tone-deaf you are. There is only one word for the whole concert and experience: Phenomenal!

Review Owen Pallett, Portland House, Cardiff by Beth Clark

Owen-Pallett-Gig-Poster-Cardiff

I had heard through various people that Owen Pallett was renowned for putting on outstanding performances and from local knowledge to worldwide reports this was not near enough a statement worth reckoning with; as this being his performance in Portland House, Cardiff it was not only heart touching but body rocking, he proceeded to take “outstanding” to a whole other level!

Looking around the music hall and speaking with people in the audience I noted that this feeling of “another level of outstanding”was mutual felt with everyone there and the age groups of people in attendance were as wide-ranging as his music.

From start to finish the ambience at Portland House was electric not just because the genius Owen Pallett performed but from the supporting acts some of which being local to Cardiff to the venue , the feeling embarked was surreal. Soloist act Scriber who classes himself as a folk artist to King of Cats band and then to the grand hall with tall ceilings, pillars are stone engravings and that ancient medieval feel which carried the music perfectly creating a very special feeling of appreciation in myself. I really did feel honoured and lucky to be there.

1395683231684

 

Portland House, venue interior

I arrived at the venue at about 8.30pm to catch the last fifteen minutes of Scriber who I am glad I didn’t miss. Scriber seemed to be singing from the heart and playing the guitar, cord plucking his way into the audiences hearts also. Everyone was quiet in the audience and showed great respect for this solo artist as his version of folk was very captivating.

scriber

 

Scriber

During the interval myself and a friend went to grab a dink at the bar where the staff were very friendly and inviting. I indulged in and enjoyed the range of beers from local to foreign influenced tastes and the pricing was deemed very modest considering the overall experience was anything but for your average night out!

King of Cats (the band before Owen Pallettt) is a band made up of males and one female but fronted by the very interesting Max Levi. Putting their hands to most instruments and styles this band really did give the ultimate performance. Max Levi’s voice is the squeakiest voice you may hear but that put together with a clean-cut life desire for music made the show even more interesting. Quoting “history, Plate, Pallett, I am a creature of habit” was just a small taster of some of the verses included in their new album “Microwave Oven”. This band could be deemed controversial as their topic approach is very alarming for some but for me it was perfect.

Another short interval commenced before the star of the show Owen Pallett was to bless us with his skill of enlightenment!

I never imagined Owen to grab the audience’s attention quite as he did but I wouldn’t change it for the world. His skill on the violin together with the looping of his own music to his keyboard skills then right down to social skills were berserk!! Owen was very involved with the audience and was chatting to them from the stage giving it a very personal and intimate feel. He showed a great sense of humour and I can definitely see why this gentleman is so loved all over the world. Owen appeared on stage by himself at times and was accompanied by an extremely talented drummer and guitarist at other points, throughout the one and half hour showing . Collectively noting their clothes, style and skills they seemed like very different people but together they seemed very connected, and almost as one! This on stage projection made me feel the show even better in my eyes. With Owen Pallett and the band putting an end to touring together this year and from what Owen said looks to be the foreseeable future I can honestly say that I am almost heart-broken as I would have booked to see them again absolutely and without hesitation.

I would like to give a big thank you to everyone at Portland House Cardiff to the artists and behind the scenes people for making this happen as I had a wonderful musical experience that I have never had before.

Review Gypsy The Savoy Theatre by Hannah Goslin

261730_770_preview

High up in the God’s, this wonderful theatre (The Savoy) is currently housing the renowned and critically acclaimed ‘Gypsy’ starring Imelda Staunton. With tickets selling fast, it was understandable that such a lengthy theatre in height was filling up every night, and so my interest continued escalating.

The story behind Gypsy is based upon true events of the Burlesque actress, Gypsy Rose Lee. Taken from her memoirs, the musical sees the hardship and struggle of Louise (later to become Gypsy) as the shadow of her performing sister, and her determined Mother, struggling to keep grips with her youth and dream of stardom. Events take place, where Rose and Gypsy happen to be in the right place at the right time to perform in the House of Burlesque, where Gypsy is created. This tale of triumph, difficult beginnings and relationships hits every nerve and every feeling.

The staging itself was beautiful and very clever. Scenes appeared and disappeared with a never ending back stage, floating into the shadows and were simple yet effective in illustrating the different areas. No expense has been spared on these ever changing scenes which are rarely used twice, to bring the sense of the character’s constant travelling. Lighting beautifully enhanced specific characters and areas, drawing your eye to the correct moment and to the specific details of the performance. Costumes were also relatable to the times and enhanced each character’s personality correctly. The end costumes of Gypsy, are astounding and lavish – what every vintage loving girl dreams of wearing (including myself!).

Of course, a review could not be written without mentioning Ms Staunton herself. And where could I start? Well known in the acting world, some may have seen her in the likes of Vera Drake and the more contemporary, Harry Potter- it is well known what a fantastic actress she is and the passion and creative skill she has for her characters and projects. However, to see her as Rose, the mother in Gypsy, is something different. Something spell bounding. To quote a patron I heard on the night:

‘I knew she could act but… I didn’t know she could do that! THAT was … something else!’.

Staunton has what myself was unknown of, and that is an incredible voice! Singing every song sent shivers down your spine; her final song, ‘Rose’s Turn’ raised every goose bump and every hair.

Laura Pulver, as Gypsy also brought an amazing depth to the show. Perhaps easy to be in the shadow of Staunton, she makes Gypsy her own and stands out in her own right. Known for shows such as Sherlock and Robin Hood, Pulver brings a completely difference essence to the stage than what you see on television. Her dramatic change from mousey Louise, slowly to sultry Gypsy Rose Lee is fantastic in her change of personality, look, body language and even change in her voice. She shows, simplistically but in a very talented way the growth in age and maturity of the character, so convincingly that it is hard to forget this truth when you feel as if you are growing with her.

If you do anything with yourself till November, make a date with Gypsy. The musical will take you under her spell as Gypsy Rose Lee was known well to do herself.

Review The Commitments Palace Theatre, London by Hannah Goslin

TheCommitments_2698525b

The Commitments

Palace Theatre, London

05/10/14

The intimate and ornate setting of the Palace Theatre in itself was a great experience. Picking seats close to the action, I felt it was a perfect place for The Commitments. A story about a group of working class North side Dubliners trying to hit the big time with a make shift band – my seats allowing me to look up in awe at the action.

Set in the 80’s, even the relatively young in the audience would be able to relate to the stereotypical costuming with large mullet-ed hair and velvet ruffles in abundance. To complement this, the songs that are either in full performance or even snippets of are well-known and repeated by the audience – a real concert style atmosphere begins.

As a regular visitor to Dublin with close Irish friends, many of the references to the ‘North Side’ and the prominence of U2 during this era with the dislike of this fact, tickled a funny bone. I wondered if all of  those who had come into this performance would have understood the gags and puns as well as others.

The actors themselves were very inspiring. With Dublin accents and enlisting the same amount of professionalism as one would expect from a continuous running show. Despite this, the performance seemed new and fresh; not expectant of a performance which would have been shown a mere hours before. General movements and speech in the background, interaction with one another and the set was constant and almost naturalistic in such an exaggeration of comedy; showing the subtle skills that these actors are capable of. Such a talented group of performers – not only do their acting abilities rival many of this genre in the West End, but their singing and musical abilities are also top-notch, giving something very special and unique to this show.

Ending on a high is an understatement. The Palace Theatre was turned into a concert, leaving you forgetting that this is a written play; with little bits of improvisation, along with a borderline of acting versus personality of the actors themselves; This production was wonderful to see as it showed the joy and excitement that the performers themselves have with this production. The standing sing along, clapping and dancing of the audience looking onto this pretence band was a strange but also an endearing ending to a West End musical and brought a great sense of the Irish community to London.