A wonderful way of bringing more unknown stories to light is
through theatre. Burnt Lemon Theatre have done this with the story of Tokyo
An American woman, of Japanese heritage finds herself under
the fire for treason in a case of mistaken identity, tricks and conspiracies.
Burnt Lemon Theatre, through musical storytelling, bring us the story of this
woman, from early life to the trial.
Not the biggest of musical fans, I have in the past be pleasantly
surprised and converted. Unfortunately, Tokyo Rose does not do this for me.
With musicals, some involve moments of script to break up the music, and some
are back to back songs. With Tokyo Rose, this is more of the latter and it
feels a little as if we need a break to take in the information. It feels quite
What cannot be argued in how much the performers put into
their series of characters, the choreography and singing itself. It is
pristine, well formulated and executed with 110%. There are times that the
singing is slightly off – throwing in quite often what I would call a ‘Mariah
Carey’ flare; this over the top harmony that does not quite hit the right notes
and could really be done without.
Unfortunately, Tokyo Rose was just not my cup of tea. Bringing such an important and not well known story to the forefront in this way is entirely commendable, and the performers are obviously very talented and bringing their all to the production. I really wanted to like it more – an all-female production bringing the injustice of a woman in the 1930’s/40s in a story missed slightly by time – it just missed the mark and did not seem to gel well with a musical approach.
After a long absence from theatre reviews this last year and with the media a toxic cesspit these days, I felt so ready to be entertained. Like, seriously entertained. I have been awaiting the next chance to review something lively and upbeat, like a demonic glitter leopard stalking her pray. Yes, I was so desperately in need of an escape from the grim reality of Britain in 2019, that when news came from our friends in the WMC of a spectacular 1980s musical that harked back to the cheesefest pop era of my childhood, it truly felt like a gift.
So it’s quite appropriate that in order to share this therapeutic time-warp, I should invite along my older and let’s face it superior older sister. Even though we only really got to know one another when I was already in my twenties, I have always looked up to her. Not least because my earliest fleeting memories of her were when I was a little nipper and she was already in her teens. At this point in the 80s, Wham were still going full pelt and George Michael wasn’t gay yet. My sister had Wham and A-ha posters on her wall and her teenage bedroom was a treasure trove of jewellery – wowwwww, magazines – wowwww and hairspray – wowwwwww.
It was a warm fluffy 1980s memory, a defining moment. Perhaps even stronger than my memories of the more grim aspects of the 80s – miners strikes, recession and poll tax riots. But look – kids need a dream! They need icons! Which is why I once cos-played as Madonna with a friend when I was eight and we called for a boy we both fancied. Back-combed hair. Beads, lace gloves – and a black kohl beauty spot penciled onto our top lips. Papa don’t preach, it seemed appropropriate at the time. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea as an era, but Maggie Thatcher or not, the 80s was epic!
This was my frame of reference for coming along to the press night for Club Tropicana – I was already buoyed by my love of cheese, the 80s and musical theatre. I must admit I had my reservations about Joe McElderry (X Factor) as lead, but I learned my lesson after judging former X-Factor contestant Lucie Jones before seeing her utterly slay in the role of Maureen in Rent. I was also skeptical about the use of ‘Love Island’ references in the musical’s marketing literature. I might like cheese and pop music but even I have my standards.
The premise of this family friendly show is that a budding young bride and groom get cold feet and take a hiatus ahead of their impending wedding only to – surprise! – find themselves at the same resort where the drinks are free and tans glow. The show is an unapologetic romp through some of the poppiest, cheesiest anthems of the 80s. I wasn’t sure to what degree these anthems could complement or dovetail with the storyline or how the proposed story would hold up…this is something I suffered I mean ‘struggled with’ with at Son of a Preacher Man in 2018. You can love the songs, but if a musical isn’t delivering on the storyline then it will fall on it’s arse.
So what then of Club Tropicana?
Let’s be frank. It won’t win any prizes for being clever or original. The characterisation (bar a few stand out examples) is challenged at times by a simple (to the point of dumbed down) script and carosel of smash hits that come so thick and fast, it’s dizzying. It was difficult for me to connect to the characters, some of whom felt like musical theatre stereotypes and perhaps lacking in personality at times. The story hardly allowed for any development of some of the supporting cast’s stories beyond a few lazy jokes.
Imagine Hi-De-Hi mashed up with Mrs Brown’s Boys and a splash of Alan Carr and Eldorado. There are jokes about sex, farting, diarrhoea, being sick. There is humping, there is more innuendo than a Carry On comedy, more ham than a Danepak factory. But while all this stuff may leave an extremely nasty taste in the mouth of the more sophisticated theatre-goer (like the couple in front of me who seemed to have gotten lost on the way to a Chekov play or the ballet and cringed and recoiled with any hint of smut), we were mosty all there to unwind, have fun and enjoy the tunes – like refugees from the toxic wastelands of 2019.
Joe McElderry is hard to dislike and he works his socks off to win over the crowd, he plays the part of super-camp holiday rep Gary and is great fun, getting the audience to their feet and joining in a locomotion-type dance from the get-go. His personality shines through and vocals are super strong. The choreohraphy, costumes and hair – all excellent – one highlight being that gravity-defying quiff on Christine’s sidekick Andrea (played by Tara Verloop).
There are some surprisingly lovely musical arranegements in the show, with a beautifully crafted accoustic version of ‘Take on Me’ being a standout song, performed by lead actors Neil McDermott as Robert and Emily Tierney as Christine. I hate to be predictable but in every musical there is a suporting cast member who lingers in the memory (perhaps unfairly sometimes, given the pressure and scale of task facing the lead role actors). They seem to have a presence that even surpasses the role they embody – carrying with them an effortless ability to shine, no matter how lame or stereotypical the role they play.
For this show, it’s Kate Robbins as hotel maid Consuela – a Spanish trope so tired, they had to bring it back out of retirement. But her physical comedy and impersonations of a raft of 80s stars throughout the show is the backbone of Club Tropicana. For all the dazzling choreography, pretty musical theatre performers and bright lights – you need someone who will cut through the noise and make you belly laugh. More than that though, her impressions of the vocals of Tina Turner, Madonna, Shirley Bassey and even Cilla Black are truly sensational.
In places Club Tropicana was clunky, and yes – it’s possible to eat up so much cheese you are quite tired of it and need to lie down afterwards, but it’s a show that is unashamedly for those of us who remember the 80s as a time when sitting on the floor doing the ‘Oops up side your head’ dance seemed like such innocent fun. It’s nostalgic and warm and you won’t even mind being part of a Butlin’s-style Spanish package holiday experience where you wouldn’t normally be seen dead.
Take your Mam or your mates, listen to Cyndi Lauper in the car on the way down….eat the cheese! You can always have a lie down afterwards….
Most of us know the story of Jesus of Nazareth and his disciples.
But have you ever seen a nautical depiction of this tale?
Fisherman’s Tail combines essentially all of Jesus’s life
story into one hour, filled with fun, music and plenty of fish.
While normally, as an agnostic, I would not necessarily pick
a show linked to religion, I was pleasantly surprised and came out feeling
pretty entertained and uplifted.
It may be based on religious stories, but it ultimately is a
story of friendship, forgiveness and definitely enough fishing jokes and antics
for all the children in the audience.
The live music, played on string instruments and percussion
is joyful, folk-like and catchy. It has a tiny twist to make the story fun and
not like the stuffy bible speeches we had in British primary schools. It feels
like a new story and it feels exclusive to us.
The performers all work in harmony, with little dances,
great interaction and with fully formed character’s. The only criticism I would
give is when doubling up, for me there needed to be more distinction – a change
of hat, a different stance, just something over the top to bring that new
character to the forefront for us.
Fisherman’s Tail is for everyone, religious or not. It is good fun, interactive, and a heart warming production.
At half 9 at night, the last thing you would be expecting to
see is a sock puppet show. I love a good puppet, but I equally love an usual
concept. Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre (SFSPT) sure are the unusual.
Opened to the world of adult puppetry and it becoming more
familiar a concept, we have all heard of the adult themed ‘Avenue Q’ and a few
years ago, ‘Hand to God’. Even cartoons have become more adult friendly,
opening up a whole new world in performing arts.
And while I hesitate to compare SFSPT to such shows (a joke
in the performance itself reflecting this), it is agreeable that this concept
Is not as unusual as it may once were. Yet I was still pleasantly surprised and
Puppetry come comedy, the FSPT does not rely on humour alone
to get by. There is a theme, and it is ever changing (as we hear from its 15 or
so years of its presence). This round is Circus themed –with The Greatest
Showman being so prevalent in the last year, SFSPT draw upon this to create a
narrative, but feels free to go a little off course, ad lib where necessary and
it is all just as funny as the original plan. We are at times asked to use our
imagination, thinking of a sock puppet out of shot on a tightrope or completing
an another amazing feat.
They keep the information present – keeping to events and
news from the last year, even making jokes and making it clear that some of the
audience may find some too obscure, we cannot help but love it and definitely
With only one man, two puppets, and maybe around 5
character’s, it is a feat of genius and skill at set and ‘costume’ changes with
one hand- a magical experience we all wish we knew the answer to. He manages to
give each character its own personality, even with their interaction with one
another being quick. Of course there are times when a Australian accent is
suddenly Scottish and he soon realises it. But this only adds to the humour –
there is no masking mistakes, only inclusion of them.
The narrative went a little off course and dark humoured,
but you know what, I was not mad at it. I was sufficiently entertained, laughed
my socks off (pardon the pun) and had a really interesting and splendid time.
Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre is not exactly breaking theatrical boundaries, but my gosh was it a lot of fun. If you fancy something unusual, ridiculous (is a good way) and a good laugh, then this show is a total must.
The last thing you would expect in a city like Edinburgh is
to be swept away to the ocean.
But swept away, we were.
Ned and the Whale is the story of a nervous boy, obsessed
with facts to keep him safe who gets taken into a magical and fanciful world
inside a book, meeting exciting and interesting characters, helping each of
them along the way, and in turn, they help him to overcome his fears.
Flossy and Boo bring this story to us in the form of
puppetry, recycled props and costumes, musical interludes and comedy. Now, anyone
who knows me, knows I am obsessed with puppets and Ned and The Whale are no
exception. They are little things of beauty, and Anja Conti, (Flossy) and Laura
Jeffs-White (Boo) manage to move them with ease and such perfection, that we
even forget that there are real humans behind them.
But do not take that as they forget where they are – their facial
expressions mimic the character’s and shows that they are really invested in
their work and the story.
When not handling puppets, they are either other interesting
and hilarious characters such as the twins in a cave obsessed with slime and
parties with rocks, or a stranded pirate, missing his disappeared crew. Each
character I fully formed, well thought out and with their own clever unique qualities.
This isn’t Flossy and Boo, this IS the pirate, this IS the twins.
And then added to this, another dimension as Laura and Anja –
those who know this group will know how well a relationship they have on and
off stage, and how they play on this; calling out each other’s silliness, being
other funny and likeable characters. Usually these are as Flossy and Boo as we
know it, but this time around we know them as Anja and Laura, and love them just
Audience interaction is key for children’s shows, and this
is no exception. Child or adult, we all are given eye contact, smiles, no one
is excluded; we all get ‘slime’ put on our heads, we are all asked for
suggestions and we all love the whimsy and comedy.
Musical interludes are delightful, simple with acoustic guitars
or banjos, with beautiful harmonies and funny concepts. Personally, I could
happily sit with an album of just their music and walk away happy.
Ned and The Whale is a triumph of a production; fun, comical and magical, it still manages to teach us vital lessons of life and we leave the tent they are in, smiling and elated.
A review by Ann Davies from RCT Creative Writers Group on the topic of topic of Taste
What’s on the Menu?
What music do you like? Tastes can vary; they can be mood
shakers; a melody can bring a seemingly lost memory to mind. Emotions can be
laid bare. This was the night of Yeah Yeah.
Were we ready for this high octane enhancing performance?
I guess it all depended on your taste and the performing artists certainly lived
up to a life of their own. What was on the Menu? as the theatre group “Yeah,
Yeah” showcased their act in the lounge of the Park and Dare Theatre in
“Are you ready, Treorchy?”The Haka cry came amidst the burst
of strobe lighting and the throb of music every sound resounding off the
glistening disco ball overhead. Two people strode out, one male one female;
they each had a story to tell. They looked like trapeze artists one with an
enlarged Rod Stewart wig that looked as though it was plugged into an electric
socket. With a fitted costume, accentuating her nubile body, his female partner
embraced the music. Acrobatically and gymnastically the music and story was
revealed as the opposing tastes for musical theatre and rock music battled it
Adult humour laced with music and dance. Changes of
costumes – some more titillating than others were the ingredients for the
night. Their interpretation of known
songs from the musicals and rock classics were exemplary. It awakened deep
seated memories that you would never see or hear a song that you loved in the
same way ever again. It was an experience of tasting selections of melodies
like a club sandwich combining the savoury with the sweet.
During the interval, the duo presented their own adverts
over the lounge speakers.
There was Swan Lake on points overwhelmed with feathers
(now you know where the feathers have gone from your bed linen). The lady’s limbs
were used as an air guitar; the drum set lost its setting the motorbike that
raced to the music of Meatloaf. OMG was the revelation a Smorgasbord special. A
spicy concoction of a recipe, boiled but scrambled, culminating in a Crockpot
of creative juices that would have put Nigella to shame.
Morgan Thomas and Tori Johns were engaging in their tale.
It was colourful; it was crazy, different and an entire work out for your
laughter muscles. Many of the audience would still be laughing at their first
encounter with the company called “Yeah, Yeah”
A tasty dish to savour long after the evening was over.
‘Soviet’ and ‘Musical’ are two words you would not necessarily
put together. So imagine my intrigue of being invited to this show.
Space Junk is the biographical and musical-styled hammed up
story of the first man into space. Once he reaches his fame, he faces a harder
life back on earth and faces losing his love for space, his love for his family
and his love for himself.
The production itself has a full band on stage – I love
this. I personally think that live music really adds an extra tier to
performances and it was nice to have this option in this production. The music
was all based on David Bowie – another tick in the box, another great way to
interact with the audience (who doesn’t know Star Man? Space Oddity?) and well
themed – a great choice for Slipshod.
Now whether it was the room, the heat therefore the need for
a fan make noise or a tweak the company need to make, a lot of the speech was
missed. Projection was excellent from our main man, but the rest seemed to get
lost to the space, and this was a shame to miss some of the narrative.
However, the main character is played by a brilliant actor.
His projection is on point, he executes the right emotions and the right time,
and really makes his presence known on stage. He somehow salvages where the
sound goes missing and brings you back to date. But also makes you feel
heartbreak when needed and really throws his all into this production.
The production itself is full of humour, typical musical theatre over the top nature and some kick-ass music to boot. Space Junk is a lot of fun, and something recommended to see if you fancy sitting back, having a sing a long and not needing to decipher too much of a storyline.
Hi Christian, great to meet you, can you give our readers some background information on yourself please?
Born and raised by my maternal grandparents in Clydach, Swansea. I’m an actor, writer and director. I trained at Welsh College of Music and Drama and did what most graduates do after leaving college…moved to London! I missed Wales way too much and now live in Alltwen with my wife (Actress Michelle McTernan) my son Dylan and my dog Dodger.
This chat is specifically about music and the role it has played in your personal and professional life. Firstly to start off what are you currently listening to?
I LOVE MUSIC! There’s pretty much something playing all the time…whether it’s in the background or something I specifically want to listen to. My wife is going through a bit of a Nina Simone period at the moment so the house is pretty much a Simone Zone! I have to say I’m a big Nina Simone fan (I saw her live at the Royal Festival Hall…she was INCREDIBLE!) so that’s fine by me.
Left to my own devices my music tastes are incredibly varied and eclectic. I achieved a life long ambition recently and managed to see Nile Rodgers and Chic live! IT WAS ABSOLUTELY AMAZING! So, at the moment I’m pretty much a disco devotee! Having said that I love songs that speak to you or capture a period in time…my son introduced me to a song called ‘Ban Drill’ by Krept & Konan and I found it really moving. It’s a great track. I’ve also discovered something about myself whilst compiling this list…I’m very ‘Riff’ led!
Music is also a big part of my professional career with the forthcoming tour of Peggy’s Song from National Theatre Wales. I was really drawn to this play for 3 reasons…written by Kath Chandler, directed by Phil Clark and the beautiful, bittersweet characters at the heart of it.
I play Danny Walkman, a local hospital DJ who loves him job. Music is so much more important to him that just songs…it’s his friend, his family, his passion and his life. He loves people and he truly believes they feel the same way about him…until he meets Peggy! Danny & Peggy have nothing and everything in common…they are two lonely people who only have each other… and the challenge to figure out Peggy’s Song!
We are interviewing a range of people about their own musical inspiration, can you list 5 records/albums which have a personal resonance to you and why?
1. Here Comes the Sun – Obviously I love the Beatles version but the Louise Dearman version has a very special place in my heart. We lost our son Harry in a tragic accident when he was just 5 years old. We played Louise’s version as Harry’s coffin entered the church. That song means a lot to me because it is intrinsically linked to my memories of Harry.
2. Sweet Home Alabama – I have always LOVED this track! As soon as I hear the counting at the top of the song I’m already getting excited about hearing the guitar riff! It is just AMAZING! It is also linked to memory for me. My father died a few weeks before his 52nd birthday…he loved this song and we listened to it on many car journeys! I remember the journey to his funeral. I was sat in front of the funeral car and even though I was deeply upset I was keeping it together…then…as the crematorium doors open I heard Sweet Home Alabama and burst into tears. Music does that.
3. Le Freak – It would be almost impossible for me to not include a Nile Rodgers and Chic song! I think Nile Rodgers is a bona fide musical genius! When I saw him live I couldn’t take my eyes off him! It was a real “You are my hero!” moment! The entire gig was totally magical and I’ll remember it for the rest of my life. I was born in 1972 so disco was a huge part of my youth…I loved it then and I still love it now!
4. Superstition – Stevie Wonder is another one of those people that I think is a true genius! For me the guitar riff of Superstition is one of if not the greatest guitar riffs of all time! I could choose so many Stevie Wonder tracks but Superstition is a real classic!
5. Immigrant Song – One word…WOW! The first time I heard this track I felt like I already knew it! The riff (told you…Riff led tastes!) is the absolute epitome of rock, the vocal is incredible…it has it all! It’s only 2m 26s…I can’t listen to it just the once! Jimmy Page and Robert Plant are ROCK GODS!
Just to put you on the spot could you choose one track from the five listed above and tell us why you have chosen this?
This is tough. Very tough. They all mean so much to me for so many different reasons. I suppose I’d have to choose a track that I can put on repeat and be happy every time I hear it. I’m going to go with Sweet Home Alabama…I think it is an incredible track…it makes me feel happy. Yep! That’s the one!
Peggy’s Song tour Wales later this year. You can book tickets at the links below
Riverfront Newport – 25 September, 7.45pm BOOK NOW
Pontardawe Arts Centre – 26 September, 7.30pm & 27 September, 1pm & 7.30pm BOOK NOW
Theatr Brycheiniog, Brecon – 1 October, 7.30pm BOOK NOW
Grand Pavilion, Porthcawl – 2 October, 7.30pm BOOK NOW
Theatr Hafren, Newtown – 3 October, 7.45pm
Taliesin Arts Centre, Swansea – 4 October, 7.30pm BOOK NOW
Theatr Richard Burton, Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama, Cardiff – 5 October, 7.30pm BOOK NOW
Borough Theatre, Abergavenny – 7 October, 7.30pm BOOK NOW
Blackwood Miners Institute – 8 October, 7.30pm BOOK NOW
Torch Theatre, Milford Haven – 9 October, 7.30pm BOOK NOW
Plaudits for this musical, based on the book by Harvey Fierstein and the 2000 British film, are thick on the ground – and deservedly so. Brash, bright and beautiful throughout, Kinky Bootstells the story of one Charlie Price. An unwanted inheritance from his father leaves Charlie running a shoe manufacturing company in Northampton and forming a partnership with cabaret performer and drag queen Lola. When the business is threatened with closure and bankruptcy Lola saves the day by suggesting the manufacture of high-heeled boots for drag performers. Et voilà!
Some great songs, including those with a message and others
which are pure joie de vivre, pack a punch. Kinky Boots is so much more than just
another musical. At the heart of it –
and what a big heart it is – is a subject which nowadays is, for the most part,
treated empathetically, which was not always the case in some communities not
that long ago. I refer to transgender –
often in the news of late. The story
tackles it head on, with the occasional heartbreak yet with fun and verve,
dished out by an amazing cast who earned a standing ovation last night in the
Donald Gordon theatre in the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff.
As Charlie, Joel Harper-Jackson proves, after a slow start,
that he can both act and sing, coming into his own in the second half with a
rendering of Soul of A Man which tugs at the heart strings. But it has to be said, it is Kayi Ushe’s Lola
that steals the show. Ushe gives a scintillating performance as the drag queen
and, equally telling, when he appears in male clothing. Lola’s singing of
Hold Me in Your Heart as the show nears its close is heart-rending.
Demitri Lampa cuts the mustard as Don, managing to steer
clear of the pitfalls of such a role i.e. portraying a so-called masculine
prototype with beer belly and a set of out-moded ideas. Adam Price as the
factory manager George makes this cameo role his own, although the joke wears a
bit thin towards the end of the show. Coronation
Street’s Paula Lane as the factory girl sweet on Charlie and Helen Ternent
as his erstwhile fiancée Nicola provide an extra fillip.
As for the Angels – the dancers at Lola’s club – wow! Brilliant and believable they sing and dance
throughout showing amazing talent and especially outstanding in What A WomanWants, sung with Lola, Don and factory girl Pat in Act II. Everybody Says Yeah, sung by Charlie,
Lola and the Angels with full ensemble, which brings the first half to a close is
another gem. You couldn’t wish for better.
All aided and abetted by great music, wonderful
costumes and David Rockwell’s atmospheric set.
Sit back and enjoy the magic that is Kinky Boots.
Get the Chance are working with new theatre company YEAH YEAH to support audiences to attend a sharing of an in development piece of work and then discuss their thoughts. The sharing will take place at Chapter Arts Centre on Saturday the 13th July at 7.30pm.
YEAH YEAH are a new Cardiff theatre company developing uplifting gig theatre. A crossover for those that might enjoy a musical, tribute band, stand-up comedy, or a touch of ballet.
The work in development (working title) ‘Magical Place’ is free to attend.
Expect iconic songs you know and love plus drums, keytar, lycra, laughs, dance and the biggest pyrotechnics they can afford, Magical Place is a new work still in development and the company welcome your feedback
Please note, that this is a sharing of a work in progress, and therefore not the complete anticipated production. Sections of the work will be performed, with the aim to gather audience feedback. Audience members participating in feedback will earn two Tempo Time Credits for volunteering their time.
“Tori is here to perform a musical, Morgan is here to perform a rock show.
So expect iconic musical and rock songs you know and love; comedy, dance, live drums, keytar and lycra.”
Duration: 1hr (which will include optional audience feedback)
Performers & Devisors: Tori Johns, Morgan Thomas
Director: Hazel Anderson
Dramaturg: Chelsey Gillard
Lighting & Sound: Gavin Hales
A co-production with RCT Theatres / Angela Gould
Funded by Arts Council Wales
Creating opportunities for a diverse range of people to experience and respond to sport, arts, culture and live events.