Category Archives: Musical

Review Saturday Night Fever, Wales Millennium Centre by E. M. Bless’On III

Needless of an introduction, the original Saturday Night Fever is unarguably one of 70’s top cult-classics. The film depicts the life and times of the disco-dancing legend, Tony Manero (John Travolta) as he moves on the dancefloor of Brooklyn’s club scene and the ups and downs of life, career, money, family, friends, relationship and love.

Having watched the original, the main question is whether this Tony (Richard Windsor) would have the energy and flair to match Travolta. He did not disappoint. Tony sprang to life bringing with him characters hitherto buried in our fond memories. The picture in the first disco scene (in Bay Ridge) was vividly painted as live as a real 70’s disco. It sure would have been nostalgic for any party-goers of that generation and one would not hesitate to transpose into it. The choreography, ambience, costume, stage management was faultless, even through my eagle eyes.

In view of the current concern around Diversity and Inclusion in the Arts, producers surely have paid attention and addressed any concerns that could have arose. The cast was fairly gender balanced. In addition, there was a sign language translator. It is imperative that sign language or any language for that matter, as well as cultural characteristics are contextualised with the most accurate depiction that include emotions and mannerism. The translator did just so. She was as much of a hit too with her dance moves from start to climatic finish. Maria and Cesar brought in the Afro-Latino flavour on the dancefloor, whiles the club MC with his energy, rich and electrifying voice was exuberant and so natural that he reminds me of a real Hype Man in a rap group with his exclamations and interjections.

The only disappointment is the occasional burst of unnecessary swearing and derogatory language, which would be off-putting to many. There were young people, possibly young teenagers in the audience. The show is decent enough to make it as a family show but in terms of the language – I sincerely believe the producers dropped the ball. Nonetheless, just like after a Saturday Night out, there was a takeaway for everyone. Apart from the obvious entertainment, there was the lesson about family, friends, wellbeing and suicide. Tony, preoccupied with his career and faintly aloof love life, failed to be a support to his friend Bobby C. at a time when he needed him most. Bobby was expecting just a phone call, that never came and the disappointment eventually led him to commit suicide.

If there is any homage one can pay to such an iconic movie on stage, then this, did just that. It was nothing short of passion, drama and entertainment with classic hits from the 70’s. It was almost a psychedelic torture as one had to control involuntary twitching (really!?!) and just sit (seriously!?!) to watch a musical with songs such as Stayin’ Alive, How Deep Is Your Love, More Than A Woman (yes, really seriously!?!). When all was said and almost done, those in the audience who were clearly suffering from the 2 hour BDS (Boogie Deficiency Syndrome) could not help but spring into dancing during the last song. The climatic closing was more of a celebration of a legend reborn, with the theme tune Saturday Night Fever on full blast!

By E. M. Bless’On III

Review: Alice in Wonderland, Sherman Theatre

The Sherman Theatre have finally let their Christmas show out into the world! This year, from Friday 23rd of November to Saturday 29th of December, you can catch Mike Kenny’s adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s classic Alice in Wonderland at the Sherman theatre. I was lucky enough to see the show on its press night to see how Rachel O’Riordan’s direction combined with Mike Kenny’s writing to bring Alice in Wonderland to life. I’ll be reviewing this whole production including the cast, characters, design and also the style of the adaptation. Continue reading Review: Alice in Wonderland, Sherman Theatre

Review of “Wicked” at the WMC by Roger Barrington

 

(4 / 5)

 

 

I sometimes think that I am living my life in reverse. When I was young, I was a bookish lad – reading Tolstoy whilst still in primary school for instance. I was as far removed as being Wicked as you can imagine. I have been compensating for this ever since!

“The Untold story of the Witches of Oz” is how this musical is promoted. In case you ever wondered about this, then this story will reveal all.

I never cared much about “The Wizard of Oz” . I couldn’t see myself trundling along the Yellow Brick Road, with Dorothy, Scarecrow, Lion and Tin Man. One thing that as always puzzled me about this story. Obviously there is rain in the land of Oz (Somewhere over the Rainbow”), so wouldn’t the Tin Man resemble a character on TV from my teenage days from “The Magic Roundabout”?

So “Wicked” returns to Muchkinland and follows the adventures of Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West.

When Elphaba leaves home to attend Shiz University, a kind of Munchkinland Hogwarts, she is very green. Not only in the meaning of life, but, literally, green. Her green skin means that she is ostracied by society and she fails to make friends. That is until she meets Galinda, who later becomes Glinda, and after an unpromising beginning, a close friendship develops between them. A friendship that is tried and tested along the way. Eventually they make their way to The Emerald City where  Elphaba meets and confronts the Wizard of Oz. The nefarious wizard is behind a pogromist type plot against the animals of the land. In defending them, Elphaba suffers a fall from grace and is hunted herself.

The story does have serious themes. The devotion to fitting in and being attractive, that is hugely important to American young girls in particular and is personified within the  character of Glinda. “Beauty is only skin deep” as exemplified between Elphaba and her love interest Fiyero. The pogrom against the animals, in this case shown by the expulsion of Dr. Dillamond, a goat Professor at Shiz University, reminds us of 20th-century historic events in Armenia, Nazi German, Russia and China.

The show premiered on Broadway on 30 October 2003 after a trial run in San Francisco and is still showing at the Gershwin Theatre. It’s success reversed the trend of recent musical smash hits that originated in Britain, and has provided the impetus for an American resurgence in the genre that it started.

Music and lyrics are by Stephen Schwartz who announced himself to the world of musicals with his 1971 smash hit, “Godspell”.  I can remember that a criticism of this show at that time, was that it was derivative of  Lloyd Webber/Rice “Jesus Christ Superstar” that preceded it by a year. Similar criticism has been aimed at “Wicked” for cashing in on the Harry Potter phenomenon. The music is nothing special , largely generic 21st century fare. The lyrics work better though.

In the performance that I viewed, Elphaba was played by Amy Ross and Glinda by Charli Baptie. Ross belts here songs over with such an intensity, it can verge on the strident.   Baptie possesses a more cultivated voice and shows an admirable talent for comic timing. For me, although Ross puts in a strong performance, it is Baptie, understudy to the stricken Helen Woolf who takes the performance honours in this production. Good support is provided by Aaron Sidwell, (Fiyero), Kim Ismay, (Madame Morrible), Steven Pinder, (the Wizard of Oz) and Emily Shaw as Nessarose, Elphaba’s invalid sister, who in Winnie Holzman’s book that the musical is based upon, becomes the Wicked Witch of the East.

Where the shows does really hit the heights is in Eugene Lee’s spectacular set design and Kenneth Posner’s lighting. Between them they conjure up a magical environment full on. The scene where Elphaba levitates and is caught in mid-air by the searchlights , that ends Act 1 is one of the most striking images that I have encountered in nigh on fifty years of theatre-going.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wayne Cilento’s musical staging and James Lynn Abbott’s dance arrangements are also excellent and provide many memorable scenes, especially of the flying monkeys.

Susan Hilferty’s resplendent costumes also enhance the visual quality of this show.

Live music is also provided under the direction of David Rose and the orchestra acquit themselves well.

“Wicked” is a confident, (verging on brashness), visually impressive musical, that for most of you will weave sufficient magic from its wand, and put you under a spell that immediately renders a state of anesthesia whereby you forget its equally impressive admission price.

 

Continue reading Review of “Wicked” at the WMC by Roger Barrington

Review: Cardiff Boy at The Other Room by Gareth Ford-Elliott

(5 / 5)

Kevin Jones’ monologue Cardiff Boy is a nostalgic jump into the 90’s with a story as relevant today as it was in the 90’s. A story of male friendship that explores toxic masculinity with a killer 90’s soundtrack.

Narrated by “the quiet one” of the group, the story follows a group of young Cardiff lads as we join them on a night out. The use of set, sound and lighting design really add to Jones’ descriptive and emotive piece, which is guided well by director Matthew Holmquist and actor Jack Hammett.

Jones’ writing in this piece has its strength in the language. Whilst the plot is fairly basic, it is the expression of the characters that really stands out. Jones uses a clever mix of comedy and archetypal characters to juxtapose the hard hitting moments of the play. This works very well and makes the play relatable, enjoyable whilst also saying something unique.

There’s more you want to know about the characters and paths that are left unexplored. But not in an unsatisfying way. Details such as the protagonist’s relationship with his father is touched upon, but quickly brushed over by the protagonist. A detail that could be explored, but the lack of clarity of which is harrowingly too real for many young men.

When the audience enter the space of The Other Room, we leave behind Porters, the pub within which the theatre resides. However, with Cardiff Boy, The Other Room literally feels like the other room of the pub, such is the strength of the set design.

photo credit Kirsten McTernan

 

 

 

 

Sitting down you’re greeted by benches and chairs scattered throughout the room, with tables on which to rest your drinks. And as Hammett wanders between you and the other audience members, it is hard not to feel a strong sense of place.

This is heightened with the hanging photographs of 90’s Cardiff, which act as a sort of scrapbook of the protagonist’s photography collection. Photography and perception is used at various times by the protagonist to set the scene, with the city and locations generally described in great detail. Looking around at these fragments of Cardiff hanging from the ceiling, creates a very evocative feeling that makes it easy to get drawn in.

The directing of Matthew Holmquist is another strength of this piece. Not an easy piece to take on, such is the temperamental nature of the script. Without a brave director, that temperament could easily become a major flaw. But, the tone of the piece is handled brilliantly by Holmquist who allows the moments of emotion time to breath, without letting them take over.

Jack Hammett does a good job of portraying the protagonist and his mates as he bops around the room. In particular moments of vulnerability, which defines his “quiet” character, stand out. Ultimately a play about difference in men, Hammett does a great job in portraying this.

The use of sound is crucial to this play, and it doesn’t fail to impress. The soundtrack is obviously brilliant for anyone who enjoys 90’s music. Often used to comedic effect, the music, like the photographs, has a deeper meaning to the protagonist of the piece. Sound is also key in setting the scene and does so well.

The only issue for sound designer Joshua Bowles to work on would be that the level of the sound often drowns out Hammett’s voice. On occasion this works, for example in the club, where you can never hear anyone anyway, however, probably an occurrence too regular were that the desired effect.

photo credit Kirsten McTernan

 

 

 

The use of lighting from Ryan Stafford is understated. Often going unnoticed until you try to see it, the lighting adds to the overall piece well. A tough play for lighting, as the stage is the entire room, Stafford manages to keep it effective without distracting. Even when there are flashing lights, you barely notice it because the music, direction and acting are all working together with the lighting to set the scene.

Perhaps this is the biggest compliment to Cardiff Boy and Red Oak Theatre as a wider company. A company that views the roles of the designers as importantly as the director, writer or actor. Something that is weirdly rare when you consider how well it has worked in Cardiff Boy and how vital these professions are to the theatre industry.

It’s good also to see that with this in mind, Red Oak are committed and passionate about developing young artists with a paid assistant director (Nerida Bradley) and assistant designer (Lauren Dix). A company no doubt restricted by a budget won’t always do this, so it’s nice to see Red Oak committing to young artists in this way.

Along with this, it is heartening for a piece that started at a scratch night, to grow into such a strong piece of theatre. Again showing Red Oak’s commitment to new work and new artists.

Overall, Cardiff Boy is a wonderful production. It’s hard to say anything stands out in this production as everything works so well together to achieve its aim. However, April Dalton’s design, assisted by Lauren Dix, is phenomenal and deserves recognition.

The play’s greatest strength is the team behind it because with another team, and another company, Jones’ emotive script could be easily forgotten.

Cardiff Boy by Kevin Jones
Presented by Red Oak Theatre
Running From: 30 October – 11 November 2018
Performed at The Other Room, Cardiff
Director: Matthew Holmquist
Cast: Jack Hammett
Designer: April Dalton
Lighting Designer: Ryan Stafford
Stage Manager: Joshua Bowles
Sound Designer: Joshua Bowles
Producer: Ceriann Williams
Assistant Director: Nerida Bradley
Assistant Designer: Lauren Dix

Review Passion, NDCWales/Music Theatre Wales by Judi Hughes

 

 

Photo credit: © CLIVE BARDA/ArenaPAL;

Wales Millennium Centre, 23 October 2018

Review by Judi Hughes

(4 / 5)

 

Passion is a work for voice and body, dance and opera, written by French composer Pascal Dusapin. Written in 2008 it is based on the Orpheus legend. This production was created in collaboration by NDC Wales and Music Theatre Wales.

Directors: Michael McCarthy & Caroline Finn

Conductor: Geoffrey Paterson

Him: Johnny Herford (Baritone)

Her: Jennifer France (Soprano)

Design: Simon Banham

Lighting design: Joe Fletcher

Sound: Sound Intermedia

Dancers: Cyril Durand-Gasselin, Nikita Goile, Ed Myhill, Julia Rieder, Malik Williams, Queenie Maidment-Otlet

Vocal Ensemble: EXAUDI

Ensemble: London Sinfonietta

To give some context to this review, I decided to see Passion for several reasons: I like the work of NDC Wales, I have seen some of Caroline Finn’s choreography and feel I like and appreciate the way her mind works; I have seen several pieces by Music Theatre Wales and like the alternative aspect that they bring to their work; I have seen some great dance with live music and more recently I have begun to appreciate opera. A contemporary performance that puts all these things together seemed to be something I shouldn’t miss.

Grateful to the programme for some useful advance information, I was armed with the basis of the story based on the Orpheus legend and the roles that the characters played. I was a bit disappointed with the publicity for the show, which gave no indication of the splendidly staged production that I was about to see.

I sat in the audience waiting for this opera dance to begin and when it began I thought, ‘how is this going to work then?’ Slowly and step by step all the elements grew together and what seemed to be impossible came together to make the whole.

The lighting & design were amazing and essential parts of this production. All the elements of dance, opera, live music, vocals and soundscape worked together and were enveloped by it. The blue ladder was so engaging that it was almost another character and watching the production scene by scene became like seeing a series of beautiful paintings over and over again.

At first the ‘others’ seemed surplus but gradually they were woven into this complex collage, responding to the music and soundscape, giving rhythm and life to the work. The sounds of an intake of breath were haunting, nightmare-like and helped to create the atmosphere of the imagined underworld.

The quality of choreographer and skill of the dancers worked seamlessly alongside the male and female opera singers. Both had strong voices and whilst I couldn’t always make out the words, their interpretation and vocal agility was wonderful to hear. Together they told this tale of lost and dying love, dramatic and ethereal in their presentation.

The stunning imagery created by the set and lighting designers, especially commissioned for this project are absolutely central to the work. Production images by Clive Barda are available on the Music Theatre Wales website: http://musictheatre.wales/productions/passion

‘Lighting always plays a big part in the emotional dramaturgical path…the set is absolutely beautiful. Simon’s work is such a joy to light because it has this wonderful contrast in texture and colour…’ Joe Fletcher, Lighting Designer on Simon Banham’s design.

All credit must go to what must have been an incredible amount of hard work from all of the performers, creators and collaborators. I was unexpectedly riveted to the story they told and absorbed in the whole aspect of the show.

The production is currently touring and can next be seen at

LOWRY, SALFORD

Tuesday 6 November

THEATR CLWYD, MOLD

Saturday 10 November

Audio Information on The Last Five Years by Leeway Productions

Leeway Productions supported by Wales Millennium Centre, and in partnership with Blackwood Miners Institute presents

THE LAST FIVE YEARS

Written and composed by JASON ROBERT BROWN ­­­­­­­­
A hit both off-Broadway and internationally, The Last Five Years comes to Wales for the very first time.

This ground-breaking production combines an emotionally powerful score with sign language and beautiful movement by award-winning deaf choreographer Mark Smith.

This intimate musical charting New Yorkers Cathy and Jamie’s passionate five-year relationship is an affecting tale of love found and lost. By turns funny and poignant, with catchy tunes and a clever chronological twist, The Last Five Years will keep you riveted from beginning to end… or should that be from end to beginning?

Supported by the Arts Council of Wales, Welsh Government and the National Lottery.
Every performance of The Last Five Years is accessible to D/deaf, deafened and hard of hearing audience members, with open captioning and integrated sign language to be enjoyed by all.

For full tour dates and booking information, visit www.leewayproductions.com

 

Leeway Productions â chefnogaeth gan Ganolfan Mileniwm Cymru, ac mewn partneriaeth â Sefydliad y Glowyr Coed Duon

THE LAST FIVE YEARS

Ysgrifennwyd a chyfansoddwyd gan JASON ROBERT BROWN

Ar ôl llwyddiant eithriadol oddi ar Broadway ac yn rhyngwladol, daw The Last Five Years i Gymru am y tro cyntaf erioed.

Cyfuna’r cynhyrchiad arloesol yma sgôr ddirdynnol gydag iaith arwyddion a dawnsfeydd hardd y coreograffydd byddar mawr ei glod, Mark Smith.

Mae’r sioe gerdd onest yma am gariad a thorcalon yn dilyn hynt Cathy a Jamie, cariadon o Efrog Newydd, gan daflu golau ar bob cam o’u perthynas pum mlynedd tanbaid. Gan blethu’r doniol a’r teimladwy, gyda chaneuon bachog a chronoleg stori glyfar, bydd The Last Five Years yn eich cadw chi ar flaen eich sedd o’r dechrau un hyd at y diwedd… neu dylwn ddweud o’r diwedd i’r dechrau…

Mae pob perfformiad o The Last Five Years yn hygyrch i aelodau cynulleidfa sy’n drwm eu clyw neu’n fyddar, gyda chapsiynau agored ac iaith arwyddion yn rhan annatod o’r sioe.
Cefnogwyd gan Gyngor y Celfyddydau Cymru, Llywodraeth Cymru a’r Loteri Genedlaethol.

Y Daith: www.leewayproductions.com

Fame: The Musical at New Theatre, Cardiff by Barbara Hughes-Moore

‘You want fame? Well fame costs and right here is where you start paying – in sweat!’

This is the warning that Principal Sherman (Mica Paris) gives the audience, and the future class of ’84, as the curtain opens on NYC’s School of Performing Arts. Students flock here, hoping it holds the key to one day seeing their name in lights. But these hopefuls, like the musical they inhabit, have a lot to live up to, and not all of them make it to the top.

I somehow missed the boat on the entirety of the Fame franchise, knowing only the excellent title song, the iconic street dance scene, and a vaguely sketched synopsis. This UK tour is a restaging of the 1988 musical, developed by David De Silva, story by Jose Fernandez and original music/ lyrics by  Steve Margoshes and Jacques Levy, which incorporates elements of both the movie and the series that came before it.

We’re first greeted with a wonderfully evocative image: a bird’s-eye view of a taxi driving down a skyscraper-lined street, the sounds of traffic transporting us to a balmy summer in 80s NYC. The production design is never quite as effective after that; for most of the action, the stage is illuminated by yearbook photos of the cast, perhaps implying that this is the closest some of the characters will get to seeing their names in lights.

Although the actors work incredibly hard throughout, the characters sadly aren’t much to hold up the two and a half hour runtime, neatly slotting into the archetypes we’ve seen time and again. We have the talented but overconfident hopeful (Stephanie Rojas’ Carmen), the insecure progeny of a prodigy (Simon Anthony’s Schlomo), the hipsterish wannabe playwright (Keith Jack’s Nick) and the shy girl with an unrequited crush (Molly McGuire’s Serena). And despite the talent on display, some of the cast members are about as convincing as high schoolers as Steve ‘how do you do, fellow kids?’ Buscemi was in 30 Rock.

Jamal Kane Crawford’s Tyrone has the most compelling story by far, as a young African-American man trying to make it in the white-dominated world of professional dancing. Getting by on his natural talent and charm, Tyrone focuses on the performance side of PA over the academic in an attempt to avoid anyone finding out about his dyslexia. One of the few powerful scenes in the production involves Tyrone opening up about this to Principal Sherman, and Crawford shines in the role, especially with his fellow dancer and love interest Iris (a lovely turn by Jorgie Porter).

However, the most egregious mistake this production makes is the music. Despite an excellent finale featuring the titular iconic tune, the rest of the setlist is an exercise in mediocrity. At one point, Schlomo criticises Carmen for lyrical blandness, which, frankly, was a bit rich coming from a show featuring possibly the most clichéd songs I’ve ever heard. And the ballad they write together, ‘Bring on Tomorrow’, heralded in-show as a future hit, has the emotional richness of a ringtone.

The songs here are as generic as the American (Generican?) accents on display. The ballads in particular are pretty dire (and I really didn’t need multiple reprises of ‘Let’s Play a Love Scene’, ‘I Want to Make Magic’ or ‘In L.A.’), but not quite as bad as the nightmarishly on-the-nose ode to Meryl Streep, creatively titled ‘Think of Meryl Streep’. There’s nothing that reaches the tuneful heights of ‘Hi-Fidelity’, the melancholy magnificence of ‘Beautiful Dreamer’, or the delightfully disco-ish ‘I Can Do Anything Better Than You Can’ from the beloved series. It’s a shame to squander such uninspiring songs on a clearly talented cast who deserve better, especially Mica Paris, who is burdened with a thankless role and the most clumsily literal number of the show in ‘These Are My Children’.

For a show which proclaims the value of innovation over duplication, it sure does bask in banality. And yet it kinda messes up the bit we were all waiting for. ‘There’ll be no dancing on cars here’, Miss Sherman states, as if leaving out the most iconic scene from the film was some kind of subversive, revolutionary act. Not having the cast dance on cars at the end was a sin of the same magnitude as The Importance of Being Earnest daring to omit ‘a handbaaag?!’ We came here to see the street dance scene, Fame – and, car-less through it was, it still eclipsed every other number with its timeless intensity.

In the end, the musical suffers greatly in comparison to its predecessors, possessing none of their charm or quality despite the best efforts of a great ensemble cast. It has neither the gritty realism of the original movie, or the frenetic joy of the tv series, and sits somewhere between the two as the awkward, sleazily comedic middle child of the Fame family. Plus, it manages to be even less progressive than its forbears, particularly in its treatment (or is that wilful omission?) of LGBT characters. If you are a die-hard Fame fan, particularly of the musical itself, I’m sure you’ll enjoy this latest production. But, for me, it hasn’t got what it takes.

Review Evita, Wales Millennium Centre by Barbara Michaels

(3.5 / 5)

The real-life story of Eva Perón is a classic case of fact being stranger than fiction, and couldn’t be more suited to adaptation as a musical, and a highly successful musical at that ever since Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s hit production in London’s West End back in 1978, followed by Broadway a year later and since then a string of professional productions worldwide.

Eva Duarte was living in poverty in rural Argentina in the late 1930s when her involvement with a musician takes her to Buenos Aires where her determination to become a star eventually results in a meeting with Argentinian Colonel Juan Perón at a benefit concert. He too has an ambition – in his case to become President of Argentina. With Eva – who later becomes known as Evita – by his side he succeeds. Meanwhile, despite her unflagging work for the poor of the country, Eva’s extravagant lifestyle leads to criticism.

This new production by the really Useful Group under the banner of Bill Kenright breathes new life into the show with a brand new cast including the charismatic Glenn Carter as Che. Acting as narrator, Carter’s expressive delivery and fine voice guide the audience through the twists and turns of the story of the ambitious girl from the sticks who becomes the wife of the President of Argentina, with all the trappings of wealth and status that go with it.

Taking on the role of Eva is Lucy O’Byrne – not an easy task, given that not one but two showbiz icons – Elaine Paige in the Seventies West End production and Madonna in the film – have previous in this respect. O’Byrne’s voice is strong but she needs to guard against a resulting loss of clarity at times, which is shame given the emotive quality of Tim Rice’s wonderful lyrics. O’Byrne came into her own in the second half with her performance of what was to be Eva Perón’s last appearance and her singing of ‘Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina’ – heart-rending in its beauty. Interpreted by, and under the baton of musical director Anthony Gabriele, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s marvellous musical score is given full throttle, at times to the extent of being overloud in the first half but meltingly moving in the highly charged and emotional second half.

Good to see some of the talent that comes out of Wales in Swansea-born Mike Sterling as Perón. Historically in the musical the role is underplayed in relation to that of Eva. Accordingly, Sterling gives us only a glimpse of the man that was Perón leaving us aware that behind a pragmatic exterior lies an ability to recognise and rely on the power behind the throne – Eva.

Important to the first half of the story is Magaldi, the musician whose eye for the girls is Eva’s route to Buenos Aires. The dark good looks of Oscar Balmaseda make for a neat bit of casting, as does that of Cristina Hoey as Perón’s former mistress, swiftly given the boot by Eva. Although Hoey makes only one appearance, and a brief one at that, her singing of Another Suitcase, In Another Hall is up there with the best. This girl is definitely one to watch.

At the end of the day it is, as with much if not most musical theatre, the story plus the songs that make or break the show, and here the plot is a given and as for the songs – beautiful.

Runs until Saturday 8 September 2018

Review Carmen La Cubana, Sadlers Wells by Hannah Goslin

 

(4 / 5)

If you do not already know the story of Carmen, you will at least recognise the music.

Usually performed as an Opera, Carmen has been taken through lots of different twists and turns, in dance, in performance and the tale is retold in different places, in different ways. It is a versatile and, at times, relatable story.

For those who are unaware, Carmen tells the tale of the meeting of an elusive woman, and an (at the time) attached man. They fall in love but in the end, their love is too detrimental and Carmen grows bored, leaving Jose. With rage and jealousy, Jose returns, finding Carmen with another man and he decides that if he cannot have her, no one can.

The original Opera was set in Seville, Spain. This time around, at Sadler’s wells, we are transported to Cuba; rife with latin music, dance and attitude. It is fierce, sexy and full of drama and life – almost like a soap opera. We laugh, we cry, and we notice how ridiculous some of the dramatic storyline is.

Seeing Carmen at Sadler’s wells a few years ago, the premise was very different – set in a garage – a literal ‘Car-man’. It was full of dance, full of what we would expect from contemporary – showing all these fighting emotions through movement.

Whether I was assuming something similar, while set in a different part of the World, this time, Carmen La Cubana was in a way very traditional; there was plenty of singing, an almost Opera meets Musical theatre production with the same hammed up characters, fighting and ensemble dance.

While it was perfection in all emphasis of musical theatre, and could not be faulted in its execution, I think part of me wanted more dance – latin dance is so energetic and beautiful, it felt as if there was little room for this and it was just an after thought. When it did happen, it was beautiful and vibrant, it flowed well and left us in awe of their abilities, but there was a lot more emphasis on speech and the singing.

I did enjoy this, but maybe the fault is in me thinking more with a dance head, when attending a dance venue such as Sadler’s wells.

I was also undecided whether the narration should have had translation or not – on screens to the side and above, we had translation, which, with the speed of Spanish, was unable to keep up and I felt my eyes being drawn more to this than the stage. I felt perhaps if I did not have to read as well as watch, I would have been more invested in the on stage action. This is not to say it should be in English – far from it. While my Spanish ability has little to be admired, knowing the story, I would have liked the performance to tell me it; much like Carmen a few years ago, in only dance, did.

Overall, Carmen La Cubana is brilliant, beautiful and to all intent and purpose, perfection. But I felt a little disappointed with the lack of dance in the production, when Cuban dance is so energetic, beautiful and fantastic to watch.