Category Archives: Musical

REVIEW: ‘HAIRSPRAY’ BY GEMMA TREHARNE-FOOSE

4 Stars4 / 5

If you’ve toyed with the idea of seeing Hairspray on stage but doubted whether anyone could top Ricki Lake’s original 1988 portrayal of Tracy  – or indeed Nikki Blonsky’s 2007 film version, you really needn’t worry.

The new stage version of Hairpray brought to you by producers Mark Goucher, Matthew Gale and Laurence Myers will delight new and old fans from start to finish.

The show hasn’t lost an ounce of its popularity, having first swept the board at the Tony Awards on Broadway in 2002 and the more recent film version introducing a new generation of fans to the musical and original film.

Set in 1960s Baltimore, Tracy Turnblad dreams of  a starring role as one of the teenage dancers on the popular Corny Collins show – a cheeseball TV format of young beautiful things dancing and miming to the latest pop / rock n roll records.

Already at a disadvantage due to her shape, she encounters the realities of colour segregation rife in Baltimore and the US at the time. Only white teenagers were allowed to dance on the show, apart from ‘Negro Day’ every other Friday.

Based on real events with the real ‘Buddy Deane Show’, on which Hairspray was based, the story sees Tracy lead a group of friends to storm the TV studio and force the live broadcasting of integrated dancing, leading a protest against colour segregation and challenging preconceived ideas about women of shape at the same time.

The show is perfectly aided by a riot of technicolour staging and costume courtesy of TAKIS, while Drew McOnie’s superb vintage choreography will have your heart fluttering and your foot tapping.

But the story reminds us that for all the iconic fashions, bubble-gum scented nostalgia and fondness for the golden era of pop and rock and roll, black Americans were denied basic civil rights across America.

Such was the power and divisiveness of segregation, we see ‘seemingly nice’ young all-American kids suddenly spewing hatred and vitriol when the status quo is challenged.  Underneath the petticoats and the chucks and the varsity jackets and polite manners, there is suddenly spite and anger.

Hairspray is gently subversive, poking fun at the idiocy, prejudice and fear at the heart of  white America. What’s all the more cutting is the reminder that while the 60s may seem far away, the lurking presence of racism is rearing it’s ugly head again in the US.  

Two years ago I used Hairspray (the movie) as a vehicle to talk about civil rights and race in America in the 60s with my little girl.  Suddenly, it’s time to return to that ugly, awkward conversation.  We’re at a crossroads once again – because ‘nice guys’ in middle America are waving around swastika flags and white hoods.   

It’s not too hard to believe that the ‘nice polite white kids’ at the Corny Collins dance might have been the same kids lining up to shout abuse at kids entering the first integrated schools or kicking off at the lunch counters they thought were their domain when black protesters sat in ‘their place’.

So as an audience we laugh when Penny Pingleton’s Mum screams when she finds her daughter in bed with a black boy and shrieks ‘But what about the neighbours….the house prices!?’, when her deep-rooted instinct is to flinch/cower when Seaweed gives her a hug or when others gasp with horror as Tracy Turnblad admits she WOULD swim in an integrated swimming pool.

In some shape or form, we’ve all encountered the tropes and the stereotypes surrounding integration and mixed heritage relationships. We’ve rolled our eyes at the staggering lack of awareness even the nicest of people have, just like those kids at the hop in the ‘Nicest kids in town’ song in the first act.

I was overjoyed to once again see Layton Williams (in the role of Seaweed) at the WMC, who previously slayed in the role of Angel Dumott Schunard in RENT earlier this year. I’ve decided it is utterly impossible to take your eyes off him whenever he is on stage.  Former X Factor contestant Brenda Edwards was spellbinding as Motormouth Maybelle, with vocals that shook the rafters and I loved Annalise Liard-Bailey’s squeaky/dorky portrayal of Penny.  Ensemble cast member Graham Macduff was also hilarious in all his guises.  

As anyone who’s seen the 2007 film adaptation of Hairspray will tell you – you can never unsee the sight of John Travolta in a dress, but Matt Rixon and Norman Pace (of ‘Hale and Pace’) had a wonderful on-stage presence together and clearly enjoyed each other’s company

Hairspray recognises the ridiculousness of racism, blinds it with sequins and deafens these ugly faults with a soundtrack of rock n roll, pop, cha-cha-cha and motown.  

It calls racism out for what it is and still dares you to believe that the future will be different.  It’s hammy, it’s cheesy, it’s sweet and it’s a glitter bomb of cherry-cola scented joy.

Review: Grease, WMC By Eloise Stingemore

 

5 Stars5 / 5

 

The T-Birds and the Pink Ladies are in the building; Grease has arrived at the Millennium Centre! Featuring everyone’s favourite characters – Sandy, Danny, the sassy Pink Ladies and the groovy T-Birds, the whole gang is back together at Rydell High along with all the unforgettable songs of 1978 hit movie. The original high school musical is back and better than ever!

A talented cast comprising of Tom Parker, from the UK’s top boy band The Wanted as tough boy Danny Zuko, Over The Rainbow winner Danielle Hope as Sandy, Strictly Come Dancing’s Louisa Lytton as Rizzo and Jimmy Osmond as Teen Angel. Gave it their all as they transported us back to 1950s high-school America for a tale of true love going off the rails before finally getting back on track.

Director David Gilmore production of this well loved film is truly electrifying; neon signs, fireworks, numerous costume changes, and the car that magically transforms into a glittermobile kept the narrative flowing at a good pace. Whereas from the opening overture, the band that were clearly visible up and behind the stage were on fire, encouraging audience participation as it played through some of the shows big hits. While former Strictly Come Dancing judge, Arlene Philips, toe-tapping choreographer made you want to get out off your seat and hand jive the night away whilst shouting, ‘A-wop-bop-a-loo-bop, a-wop-bam-boom’!

Tom Parker impresses as he makes his musical theatre debut playing Danny and Danielle Hope plays Sandy beautifully. Louisa Lytton made a suitably fierce Rizzo, whereas the arrival of charismatic Jimmy Osmond as Teen Angel in the second half took the show into another stratosphere as it neared its Grease mega mix finale.

Gilmore production of this well loved classic leaves your face aching from smiling and your hands from clapping. Grease is still very much the word!

You have until Saturday 29 July to see the show. Tickets are available online and over the phone by calling 029 2063 6464.

Top Tunes with Rhiannon White

Hi Rhiannon great to meet you, can you give our readers some background information on yourself please?

So a bit of background – I’m a Cardiff born, Cardiff based theatre director. I mainly work with my theatre company Common Wealth but I also work on freelance stuff which has ranged from taking a circus to Gaza to making a show on a beach.

Home

The work I make is socially engaged, often political and site specific – we find interesting places to stage our shows in the past we have made shows in houses,boxing gyms, courtrooms and now we’re making our new show in a huge industrial warehouse.

I grew up in Cardiff, St.Mellons – I’ve got a deep sense of love and pride for this city and the incredible people that I know here. I can’t imagine living anywhere else, this city gives me the fuel I need to spark and fuel my imagination. I love the magic of this city.

 

I think it was growing up in St.Mellons that got me into theatre. We didn’t have very much growing up but what we did have is loads of kids to play with. I spent my childhood playing in the street, dressing kids up in my mums old clothes and on plays on in the garden. I think that’s where my DIY spirit came from in those early lessons of making the most of what you’ve got.

My company Common Wealth grew out of those roots – we were a group of people that came together to make theatre. We started with nothing, making shows in large empty buildings, without funding and with the generosity of people who wanted to get involved.

Over the years Common Wealth has grown, we’ve made work in many different places, with incredible groups of people and are now working on shows in places like Chicago and Germany. Currently I am working on a new co-production with National Theatre Wales called We’re Still Here – I’m mega excited, it’s our first big show in Wales, staged in an epic former industrial warehouse and inspired by the incredible Save Our Steel Campaign.

https://nationaltheatrewales.org/were-still-here

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?

Currently I’m listening to Kojey Radical’s album 23winters – he’s a London spoken word, grime artist. I’m loving it because it’s so poignant and powerful it feels like a new genre, he’s also a visual artist so he’s fusing all these different forms together. He’s a powerful man, full of real energy and rooted in his truth. I respect that.

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?

The Holy Bible, Manic Street Preachers

This album changed my life, bit cheesy but it did. I discovered it when I was in school and it was one of those ones that spoke to me about who I was, it helped me make sense of the world. It’s genius, I’d go as far to say they’re some of the best lyrics ever written.

Drunken Lullabies. Flogging Molly

I love punk. I love how fierce it can be and that you can loose yourself dancing to it and let everything go. This song is particularly special to me, it’s a song me and my friends used to sing early hours of the morning as the sun was rising. It reminds me of a friend that passed away, Daniel Griffiths. It reminds me of the wild times.

The 4th Branch, Immortal Technique

I also love hip hop, especially it’s conscious, political and says things that we rarely hear. Immortal Technique is an independent rapper in America who refuses record deals, he holds his own. This song particularly resonates with me because it’s about the Palestinian struggle, it captures the situation in all it’s horrific truth. When I was travelling in Palestine this was a soundtrack for me, in a strange way it gave me hope that someone was writing music about it and that was reaching people that might not know.

Immortal Technique

Shame, Young Fathers

Young fathers live. Wow, I dont have the words. I saw these guys at Clwb Ifor Bach, I had no idea and instantly fell in love with their music, I’d never heard anything like it in my life. Shame – has had a massive influence on my work, I use it in most of my workshops, it’s urgency really inspires me. I LOVE the video too.

Let them Eat Chaos, Kate Tempest

Kate’s a force of nature an important artist of our times – she always pops up at the right time, she inspires the shit out of me and puts me back on track. She’s a friend of mine and I’ve loved seeing her grow and smash it over the years. She’s reminds me to be true to myself, the past and to not apologise.

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?

It would have to be Shame, it makes me feel alive and full of fire. It’s a song you can run, dance, scream and shout too. That’s important to me.

Many thanks for your time

Review Funny Girl, WMC by Eloise Stingemore

 

5 Stars5 / 5

 

Sheridan Smith makes a joyous return to theatre in the role of Fanny Brice, for the first leg of the UK tour, after a celebrated run in the West End, bringing her own brand of exuberant mischief and spiritual warmth to the role.

Funny Girl is a bio-musical albeit more fiction that fact about the popular American singer-actress and comedian who was long associated with the Ziegfeld Follies. One of the biggest stars of the early 20th century, Brice lit up both Broadway and Hollywood with her comedic style and powerful voice. A hundred years later (1968), Barbra Streisand won an Academy Award for her portal one of America’s greatest clowns and a true icon of both stage and screen.

Smith was more than capable of overcoming the towering memory of Streisand in the central role, which is no mean feat, with her belting vocals, electable comic timing, assured dancing, earned her an unquestioned standing ovation. It is safe to say where audiences admired Streisand they adore Smith. In her hands, the lively Brooklyn joker is an intricate tangle of competing emotions, all covered up with a big, bright, Broadway smile.

The songs, in particular, Smith makes entirely her own, even though her voice isn’t exactly beautiful, it aches with conviction. Her tremendous rendition of People is steeped in yearning but also cut through with defiance. Whereas Don’t Rain on My Parade, Smith avoids brassy rhetoric to suggest a lonely woman exulting in her newfound happiness. All of which helped to strip the layers of armour-plated implacability to make Fanny a more likeable human being.

As for Darius Campbell, despite looking good in a ruffle shirt and singing each note pitch perfect he was unable to find much colour and variety in the one-dimensional character Nick Arnstein, a part made famous on screen by Omar Sharif. The best support for Fanny comes from Rachel Izen as Mrs Brice her aspirational mother and Joshua Lay as her lovingly loyal dance teacher, Eddie Ryan. Whereas the ensemble tap and ballet numbers from the talented cast were a joy to watch, but were ultimately there to simply support a superstar, Smith. Who has the presence and talent to wilt the hardest hearts, and deserves a packed out auditorium for the rest of the run.

 For tour dates and ticket information click here; http://www.funnygirlthemusical.co.uk/uk-tour/

 

 

“Why I am a 3rd Act Critic” by Barbara Michaels

3rd Act Critic Barbara Michaels gives a personal response to being a critic with Get the Chance.

With over half a century of reviewing under my belt, I can hardly remember a time when I wasn’t passionate about both music and theatre. This was intensified when I got my first job on a local paper. I was eighteen,  as the most junior member of the staff – and the only female in the days when women on newspapers were few and far between. I was expected to cover tasks such as weddings, flower shows and (to my delight) amateur dramatics.

This was a wonderful training ground which led to me covering professional theatre on my second paper. My big break came later, when I was working  freelance and also running a syndication agency. The reviewer covering a first night ballet performance at the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden was ill and asked if I could do it. I have always loved dance but had never previously reviewed a dance production so cut my teeth on the Creme de la Creme. To this day dance is my favourite of all the art forms  and – like all the arts – underfunded,  if I had the money (which, as an OAP, I don’t) I would support.

Opera in Wales is still regarded by some as only for the elite. This is far from being the case. Please give it a try! We are so fortunate in Wales to have the WNO – a world-class opera company performing in a wonderful venue. Their production of Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier, which I reviewed recently, was as near perfection as you are ever likely to see.

Review Der Rosenkavalier, WNO, Wales Millennium Centre Cardiff by Barbara Michaels

Life is busy for me. As well as reviewing I edit a community magazine and last year published my first book for young children, entitled WHAT’S THE MATTER WITH SLITHERS? The publication of the book, shortly;to be featured in a Cardiff book festival, coincided with the birth of my first great granddaughter Chloe Jo, and I am now expecting another great grandchild.

Top Tunes with Emily Garside

Hi Emily great to meet you, can you give our readers some background information on yourself please?

I’m a writer and researcher with a love for theatre. Having been an academic for several years while writing my PhD I’m now getting back to writing my own plays again too. Born and raised in Cardiff I came back after time in London and Canada and Nottingham and I love being home. I’m a first class nerd, which I take as an absolute compliment. My first theatrical love was musical theatre as I’m sure my music choices show!

I’ve recently written for Dirty Protest in their “Election Night” event as well as had pieces on at the Southwark Playhouse. My most recent work “Party Like it’s 1985” is being performed as part of Chippy Lane Productions 2017 scratch night on June 27th.

Home

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?

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?

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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?

Currently listening to; The Groundhog Day musical cast recording. Written by Tim Minchin it’s quite simply one of the best new musicals I’ve seen in the last 10 years. It’s also witty and catchy while also being a really quite emotional listen.

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?

Rent- Original Broadway Cast Recording. Quite simply I wouldn’t be who I am personally or professionally without this album. At 19 like many a musical theatre kid, I discovered Rent. I fell in love with the music and my love of that musical shaped my theatre-going life. It also shaped my professional life. From writing first my undergraduate dissertation on the musical, to Rent being a key part of what became my PhD. The music, and composer Jonathan Larson himself are some of the greatest influences on me. Personally, it was a gateway to so many things, including friends. One of my closest friends lives on the other side of the world, but we’re friends because of Rent. Last year we both stood on stage in a Broadway theatre with one of the original cast from Rent. This girl from Cardiff, who never was part of the theatre world, getting to stand on stage on Broadway, with a friend I’d never have, from the other side of the world, having written a PhD on something this actors was in, all because of this music. So Rent is pretty special to me.

Sister Act-Soundtrack. Choirs have played a big part in my life since I went to University, both giving me a creative outlet and allowing me to make some great friends and have some amazing experiences. Coincidentally both choirs I’ve been in over the last 10 years or so have taken the music of Sister Act as an inspiration. I think the message of the films, about the power of music and friendship has been integral to what makes my current choir so special, so the music of these films will always be special to me. (And in a couple of weeks I get to do my best impression of ‘little redhead Nun’ which my singing teacher always used to say was me- looks small and quiet but makes a lot of noise when pushed)

Company- Stephen Sondheim (2006 Broadway Cast recording). Because musicals have ended up a part of my professional life, and even if they weren’t forensic analysis of them is part of my personality as a fan, I can’t leave out a Sondheim musical from this list. Company I’ve chosen because firstly it’s one that in a lifetime of analysis I’d still find new things to uncover and talk about. Added to this, as I grow older and ‘grow into’ the story of Company it becomes more relatable and more emotional. The 2006 production, and recording and the combination of Raul Esparza’s Bobby- I find it hard to imagine any better interpretation of the role- and John Doyle’s re-imagining of the piece- for me will probably always remain the benchmark for this musical. It’s a rare and wonderful thing to have a recording that challenges you intellectually still but also has an emotional resonance that keeps growing.

Sarah McLachlan- Mirrorball. We all have an album that shaped our teenage years and this was mine. I was never cool enough to rebel and be a rocker, so some soft indie-rock was where I ended up. This album just sounds like being 18 again to me.

The Boy From Oz- Cast Recording. Even though I rarely listen to it any more this musical was a big part of my life when I first got it. The first musical I ever saw ‘live’ and part of the path that took me to being both a theatre lover and to my professional career as a researcher. It was my gateway to a world of theatre and musicals, and still remains one of the best theatrical memories I have- discovering musicals with my Mum who is still by my side for a lot of theatre. And it’s a musical that has ‘Wolverine’ (Hugh Jackman) dancing and singing in Hawaiian shirts and gold lame trousers- a guaranteed smile to the face memory!

Of these my ‘One track’ would be ‘Will I?’ from Rent. Not the most famous, or even perhaps the best piece on the recording. But for me it was both the moment I fell in love with the piece, the most emotional moment (actually in theatre ever) seeing it live, and my benchmark for a good production. Hearing that track takes me back to a time and place but also always reminds me a bit of who I am, what inspires me and why I do what I do.

Review Sister Act – Venue Cymru by Karis Clarke

 

4 Stars4 / 5

Click on the link below to listen to an audio review of this production by Karis Clarke.

 

This was my first outing to Venue Cymru and I wasn’t disappointed. Set on the stunning North Wales coastline the venue was alive with activity.  The atmosphere was light and expectation high as several audience members dashed around in habits!

Sister Act is the musical comedy based on the movie starring Whoopi Goldberg, and, unless you were living in a convent yourself back in 1992,  it is highly unlikely you don’t have some knowledge of the film. (It’s popularity has ensured a regular repeats on TV at least once a year since circa 1995).

The stage version, unlike the film is set in the diva disco era of the 70’s and features original music from  ALAN MENKEN,  and the general feel of the show has  Mowtown vibe that is more than fitting to the outstanding vocal talents of  the lead.

Alexandra Burke in a scene from Sister Act

But it’s not all about the star in this show.  Deloris Van Cartier is a fantastic character full of witty one liners, side ways glances and comical physicality that Alexander Burke pulls off admirably. However the ensemble made the show for me. The combined talents of the supporting cast were superior. Acting, singing dancing and playing a variety of musical instruments on set allowed for a fluidity which you can sometimes loose with  larger productions. However this cast owned the stage, literally, they knew every inch.  Their management of the stage movement is a credit to Revel Horwood’s direction.  The scene changes were flawless and were choreographed to perfection.

Credit should also be given to the set design, the main stay an impressive church interior yet with the cleaver use of lighting and props  it easily faded into the background and made the transition between church,  nightclub, street, police station and back to church with very little effort.

The musicality was, as one of the songs repeats, ‘Fab -U- Lous  Baby,’ unfortunately this was also a slight disappointment for me as none of the songs from the movie were featured. So although the end of the play saw the majority of the full house clapping and on their feet I am sure if “I will follow him” had been played the roof would have lifted. However the original score was witty, befitting and more than enjoyable.  It’s easy to see how Alan Menken has Oscars under his belt.

Stand out moments of the show were any time the “gangsters” featured. (They stole the show a little bit from the nuns).  …..Joe Vetch (playing Eddie the sweaty police officer who saves the day) singing “I could be that guy ……Sister Mary Robert played by Alice Stokoe, who had a stunning voice singing a very Disney esq type song called “The Life I Never Had”…….. and the scene when the Sisters stand together for Deloris.

All in all there was nothing not to like, the show delivered everything thing it promised. One particular moment I found touching was on the final bow Alexandra Burke broke the fourth wall and you saw her thank the audience.  She genuinely seemed to appreciate the standing ovation they received and this shone through as she skipped off stage laughing with co cast not as Deloris but as herself and within those few seconds, in my eyes I saw  true star quality.

So unless you have lead in your feet and no soul in your heart I defy you not to enjoy this 4 stars production. Unfortunately for North Wales the runs ends on May 27th but you can still catch performances around the UK up until the 3rd September check www.sisteractuktour.co.uk for more details.

Starring ALEXANDRA BURKE and Directed and choreographed by Strictly CRAIG REVEL HORWOOD, Set and Costume MATTHEW WRIGHT (based on TheTouchtone Motion Picture “Sister Act”)

Review : La Cage Aux Folles, New Theatre By James Briggs

5 Stars5 / 5

Cardiff’s New Theatre was packed to the rafters with a dazzling array of glitter and sequins last night for the first performance of La Cage aux Folles. The musical adaptation of French playwright Jean Poiret’s script is largely recognised as one of the greatest modern musicals. The stage production, directed by Martin Connor, is a throwback to the old glamour and glitz associated with the French Riviera but also has a very key message in the story.

One of the leading characters, Georges, is played by the US TV and Broadway actor Adrian Zmed who greets the audience with a heartfelt welcome to La Cage. There was something a little different about this cabaret, however, in the form of all the main performers in the cast being men dressed as women.

‘La Cage’ is a drag cabaret club in the heart of Saint Tropez, run by Georges and his very flamboyant husband Albin who is played by West End actor and former Eastenders star John Partridge. As the audience are waiting for Albin’s arrival on stage we are first greeted by the appearance of his on-stage alter ego Zaza. John Partridge creates an impressive character as he struts across the stage in a robe and a pair of high heels. He wins over the audience from the beginning and really gives the part his all.

The story unfolds when Georges and Albin’s son, Jean- Michele, (Georges’ from a previous relationship) arrives to tell his father that he is engaged to Anne, the daughter of a French politician who is well-known for his conservative views. Jean- Michele played by Dougie Carter drops a few bombshells on his dad. Including that of breaking the news to Albin that he can’t be there when the parents come over for dinner at their home.

Albin is horrified when he hears the news and his disappointment leads to a spine tingling performance from John Partridge of the musical’s most iconic number ‘I Am What I am’. Georges and Albin soon make up and it’s easy to like the two contrasting co-stars who have a brilliant on-stage chemistry with each other which could be compared to that of Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi in the ITV series Vicious. The arrival of Dindon, the French politician, and his apparently conservative wife raised the bar once again on the entertainment as Albin comes up with a hilarious plan to meet the in-laws to be.

John Partridge’s performance as Albin and Zaza is absolutely superb and while the audience cheered and got to its feet for the entire cast, the largest applause and cheers were saved for him. During the performance John Partridge fell down some of the stairs on stage but being the true professional he is, kept in character and even made a joke about it. He carried on with the rest of the show and came on for the second act. Following the show John Partridge had to go to A&E and I really have to applaud him for being so professional and continuing with the show despite being in pain.

All of the cast were amazing and really very talented especially during the tap dancing scenes in which the male dancers very skillfully danced in high heels and gowns. A special mention must also go to Samson Ajewole who played Jacob and was exceptionally funny. He delivered a very strong performance and was one of the stars of the evening. As too was Marti Webb who played Jacqueline and created a very likeable character for the audience.

The stage sets used during the show were simply divine. All of the scenes in the show were very well thought out and the sets changed seamlessly. My personal favourite set design of the show was that of the stage at La Cage. The show saw a theatre stage constructed within a stage which is shown in the picture below and worked really well as it gave the audience the perspective of watching a whole different theatre on stage.

La Cage Aux Folles is a brilliant and moving, feel-good production that will be guaranteed to leave you smiling as you walk out the theatre doors and taking a whole new look on life. I urge everyone who get’s the chance to see the show to go as you will not regret it!

La Cage Aux Folles is currently on a UK tour so make sure you visit the New Theatre website in the link below and book your tickets before its too late.

http://www.newtheatrecardiff.co.uk/what’s-on/la-cage-aux-folles/

 

Review : Michael Flatley’s ‘Lord Of The Dance: Dangerous Games’ by James Briggs

5 Stars5 / 5

This weekend Cardiff has had the luck of the Irish as Michael  Flatley’s worldwide phenomenon  ‘Lord of the Dance: Dangerous Games’ has played in St David’s Hall. The tour is one of the biggest the UK has ever had and has currently been seen by 60 million people in 60 different countries on every continent. All of the stops are pulled out in this Irish Dancing Extravaganza with dancing that is simply mesmerising.

I have been looking forward to watching this show for a long time and being a tap dancer myself can appreciate the hard work and effort that goes into this form of dancing. I knew from the opening sequence alone we would be in for a good night. As the first half of the show begins the audience are greeted with a projected Michael Flatley and a giant clock alluding to the opening of the show.

The cast are very well cast and all of the characters within the show work well as a dance unit. The perfectly balanced ensemble of male and female dancers help to give depth to the story and in the dance sequences when they are all in a line and coordinated it really is something to admire. Their collective talent is unbelievable and there are moments where your jaw is in your lap watching their feet move almost as too fast to comprehend.  The  main lead Lord of the Dance was played by James Keegan and the Dark Lord was played by Zoltan Papp.

The show seemed to have a variety show feel to it with all of the acts being very diverse. They all managed to hold attention of the audience due to their frequent costume changes and the cleaver projections that portrayed Ireland as an Idyllic place filled with Unicorns and rainbows. The plot follows a little Spirit with a magic flute who battles against evil to save Ireland from being taken over by evil cyborgs. Along the way the Spirit meets different dancers as well as a Black Swan like love triangle that threatens to turn the head of Ireland’s saviour, the Lord of the Dance himself. The show culminates with a big fight for the title of Lord of the Dance.

You can’t help but have a big smile on your face when the full ensemble cast fill the width of the stage at St David’s Hall and with their legs kicking and tapping in perfect sync. The show’s best section and what will always be their most iconic is the ‘Lord of the Dance’, and the skill of the cast is amazing in which they gave four Encores at the end of the show of that very dance which was met with a standing ovation from the whole audience at St David’s Hall.

If you’re a fan of this type of dancing and the Irish music and culture this show is without a doubt the show for you to attend next. It provides a 5-star evening of entertainment with lots of ups and downs within the story. In my opinion this show is something everyone should experience once in their lifetime as it will enthral you.

For more information about the tour of the Lord of the Dance please visit the official website to see where the tour will be heading next. http://www.lordofthedance.com/

Kiss Me Kate, WNO

 

I am a woman who is rarely lost for words. I have no idea where to begin on this one.

So, let’s go with my first thoughts:

I witnessed an opera audience splutter and stutter into laughter and whoops of delight as a show became progressively funnier and livelier and more and more colourful.

My dear, this isn’t opera… it’s, um, a musical.

Shock horror! The Welsh National Opera does musical all right. It’s borderline panto.

It is singing, talking, dancing, ballet, tap – it is Baltimore, it is Shakespeare, it is Cole Porter.

We rush from dusty backstage to technicolour onstage with a rapacious love for the piece which infects everyone in the building.

There is even a stuffed mule.

Not funny, dear.

Oh it is. It is carry me out of here laughingly funny! It is a showcase for this multi- talented cast and how much they seem to enjoy their moments in the spotlight. Revelling in the bawdiness, the burlesque and the slapstick.

Asses seem to have quite a prominent role, one way and another.

It reminds me at times of The Good Old Days, vaudeville at its finest, people laughing at themselves in the story, in the audience. I fancy we should all be wearing doublets and bodices. A round of the Old Bull and Bush at the end wouldn’t go amiss, such is the atmosphere.

Well, I wasn’t expecting that!

Kate sings the songs of the wild and sexy and shrewish, Petruchio was an operatic twinkly eyed pirate, the gunmen do one of the best duets since Michael Ball and Les Dennis in Hairspray; and Bianca and Lucentio are utterly joyous in both song and dance.

It is obscenely good entertainment.

We come out to Christmas trees and misty cold, buzzing with that warm fuzzy feeling you get from a performance well done.

But this is Cardiff, a city, like many others, with a dark underbelly. There, under the lit arches of the Wales Millennium Centre, is a man completing a broadsheet crossword. I give him the change I find in the bottom of my bag – it is a paltry amount but it is the only cash I have. I apologise for my meanness. He smiles and calls me back.

Look at this, pretty lady.

My friend and I turn back and he shows us a magic trick with a 20p coin and wishes us a Merry Christmas.

 

 

 

 

Event:              Kiss Me Kate

 

Seen:               06 Dec, 2016

Reviewer:        Helen Joy for 3rd Act Critics

Running:          06 Dec – 10 December 2016

Cost :               Tickets: £7 – £43

Running time: Approximately 2 hour 50 minutes with one interval

 

Links:               https://www.wmc.org.uk/Productions/2016-2017/DonaldGordonTheatre/KissMeKateDec16/

 

5 stars – spectacular

 

A Welsh National Opera production, sung in English

Conductor                              James Holmes
Director                                  Jo Davies
Set & Costume Designer       Colin Richmond
Lighting Designer                   Ben Cracknell
Choreographer                      Will Tuckett

Fred Graham / Petruchio      Quirijn de Lang
Lilli Vanessi / Katherine        Jeni Bern
1st Gunman                            Joseph Shovelton
2nd Gunman                          John Savourin

 

Music and Lyrics                      Cole Porter
Book                                        Bella and Samuel Spewack
Critical Edition                          David Charles Abell and Seann Alderking.