Having never been a fan of Take That, or indeed boy bands in general, I was a little apprehensive as to what lay in store when entering the Wales Millennium Centre for the opening night of ‘The Band’.
The night was memorable and the performance totally unmissable!
For the first time in Cardiff, this wonderful new musical by Tim Firth hit all the right notes and pushed more emotional buttons than the audience could possibly have prepared themselves for.
A delightful mix of dialogue and song, the story follows teenage friends, Rachel, Heather, Debbie, Claire and Zoe, as they share their love of music and the same boy band.
The girls are full of life, funny with a deep friendship that binds them together. They share their inner most thoughts and aspirations. Rachel declaring that she wants to marry all the members of the band and Debbie agreeing to be her bridesmaid.
Debbie wins tickets to a concert in Manchester and the girls set off on their big adventure seeing the band, missing the last train home and having to make it part way home on the bus.
This musical is a coming of age story that every teenager has experienced even if musical tastes do change you never forget your teenage loves.
The two greatest sensory markers in our lives are music and smell, they have the ability to transport us instantly to another time and place whilst bringing to the forefront our greatest and most precious memories.
Move on 25 years and Rachel has moved away and the girls have all lost touch. Then Rachel wins a radio competition for tickets to see the band at a concert in Prague and the only thing on her mind is getting the girls back together.
Having made contact the girls (now 41yrs old) meet at the airport and fly out togther on another adventure. Their experiences and revelations in Prague serve to cement their friendship and to change their lives again.
The soundtrack of the girls lives are the songs of Take That, they punctuate the story in a way that gives it depth and meaning.
Five to Five, the boy band chosen through the talent show ‘Let it Shine’ gave an inspiring performance by almost being in the background. There is no doubt of their musical talent and the vocals were seamless and outstanding.
All credit goes to the Creative Team, too numerous to mention individually, who staged and produced this remarkable new musical, one that I am sure will endure for many years to come.
The stage craft of every cast member drew us ever closer to the action. We laughed, we cheered, we shouted, we sang, and some of us even cried.
At the end of the performance the entire auditorium was on their feet, waving lit mobile phones and generally going wild. I can honestly say that this was an experience like no other and despite myself, like everyone around me I just wanted more.
THE BAND plays at Wales Millennium Centre;
Tuesday 9 until Saturday 20 January
For further details about the show visit www.wmc.org.uk or to book tickets call the Box Office on 02920636464
Hi Angharad and Beatbox Tangent great to meet you both , can you give our readers some background information on yourselves please?
Angharad: Hi I am a theatre director, educator, facilitator and lecturer. I studied and worked as a performer before turning my hand to directing. I have worked for many organisations throughout Wales, but am now a freelance director and Artistic Director of Leeway Productions. I am also a mam and the proud owner of cuddles the cat. I love Women’s rugby and until I broke my ankle a few months ago was scrum half for Merched Clwb Rygbi Cymru Caerdydd.
Hi I am Beatbox Tangent I am a beatboxer from the UK, I currently live in Cardiff but I have performed gigs; workshops and collaborations all around Wales. My love of art and music inspires me to create compositions that take vocal percussion to extraordinary heights.
So what got you interested in performance and the arts?
Angharad : I have always been actively involved in the performing arts since the age of 10. I guess my Welsh language education was quite enabling as I was steeped in the traditions of the Eisteddfod and therefore had plenty of opportunities to perform so to speak. It was a toss up between sport and the arts though as I was a nifty rugby and hockey player, but am glad I choose this path.
Angharad in Hen Rebel Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru
Angharad, Beatbox Tangent has recently been involved in your 10 Minute Musicals initiative, can you please tell us more about this innovative project?
Angharad: 10 Minute Musicals is an innovative development programme to support musical theatre professional in Wales, with a particular focus on the writers and composers. Organised and delivered by Leeway Productions the development project 10 Minute Musicals is held three times a year at The Other Room in Cardiff and is also rolled out across the Regions as a part of our ‘Best of’ project.
We aspire to encourage and nurture new and existing creatives to write for musical theatre in Wales.International collaborations between artists is of huge importance to us. Over the next few months, we will be calling out to some more creatives who are keen to try their hand at writing a musical, and also, more established artists who may want to up skill and network with new creatives and artists. Creative participants can include composers, playwrights, librettists, poets, musician and lyricists.
10 Minute Musicals includes networking, development of current practice and examining and providing the support artists need when evolving, progressing and advancing their writing skills for this genre.
We encourage a continued conversation with creatives and believe that this creative development project is a great springboard towards casting a new light on how you usually work. Leeway Productions provide mentorship support throughout the process, and support artists as they find their way through what could seem like a daunting task. There is a sharing of your work at The Other Room as a culmination to the process and the participants’ hard work.
Thanks Angharad, as you mentioned 10 Minute Musicals has supported artists who wouldn’t think of writing for the musical theatre genre. Beatbox Tangent as you have mentioned you are a primarily a beat boxer do you think you have developed new skills through the process of being involved in 10 Minute Musicals?
Beatbox Tangent: I think I have to be honest. Collaboration is always an integral part of pushing your practice, so doing different activities and working creatively, especially with my partner on the project Rufus Mufasa has really pushed me as an artist and I’ve explored different avenues of creativity. Also, to break down those conventional barriers and really explore something new and using the Welsh language to do that has really opened my mind up to possibilities of language and music.
Musical Theatre as a form is rapidly developing and embracing new forms and styles. Musicals such as ‘In the Heights,’‘Hamilton’ and companies like ’20 Stories High’ are utilising a range of urban art forms in their work. Do you think this can bring new audiences to theatres which might be thought of as predominately white, middle classes cultural spaces?
Angharad: I don’t think we should burden artists with thinking about their audiences when we create work. I think that by activating all forms of culture to write for musical theatre, what willl happen is that the stories they want to tell will resonate with their communities, thus giving context and relevance to the work we create in Wales. We have a terrible habit in Wales of lifting existing models that work outside of our own communities and Country and imposing them onto our own landscapes. What this creates in a standardised approach to the arts. I am not personally interested in building mini London’s and mini England’s within our artistic infrastructure in Wales. We have a terrible obsession with critics outside of Wales, and 5 star reviews, but what about our audiences who are still terribly disenfranchised. So I guess the short answer to your question is, start with a story an artists wants to tell. Throw out all the pre existing models and build our own.
Beatbox Tangent: As an urban artist, I would say yes because the boundaries of Beat Boxing and vocal percussion are being pushed every day. Beatboxing has a very theatrical element to it. We have some great performers now, the likes of ‘Berry Wam’ from France who do all these covers of great commercial songs but some of them are classically trained, and you could easily take your whole family to see one of their shows. So yes, I believe it can pull new audiences in and ‘waw’ them. Beat Boxing is basically vocal percussion and what is musical theatre? It’s using the voice.
Get the Chance works to support a diverse range of members of the public to access cultural provision. Access for diverse citizens is a key priority for a range of arts funders and organisations Are you aware of any barriers to equality and diversity for either Welsh or Wales based artists/creatives?
Beatbox Tangent: We are living in a very interesting time. We are living in a time where, how I like to describe it is a half light environment. We are living in the dark as well as the light when it comes to diversity and equality. We realise it’s important and relating this with music, and Welsh Culture, well…. actually, I believe the Earth is but one country and mankind is a citizen, so I believe I am a World citizen and although I have a nationality I belong to this earth. I think when it comes to arts and music it’s so important that you have that diversity. It’s like a man and a woman are two wings of the same bird and creativity doesn’t rise within one sex or culture. It’s a gift and as long as we have projects that bring different people together from every background I think we can create something so very beautiful and really expand Welsh Culture because we have so much to give.
Angharad: There are many, as there are barriers to a whole host of other provisions in Wales. I am currently working with D/deaf artists developing a musical and the infrastructure to support this kind of work is still very ambiguous and fragile. We have to work with artists who are deemed to have ‘protected characteristics’ (I hate buzz words by the way), in order to reach those diverse members of the public we seem to be forgetting about constantly. If the artists themselves are not represented then why would the audiences come and watch a story which is not relevant to them? Artists need more spaces at the heart of this cultural provision, within communities, to create work in order to reach out to a much more diverse audience. We are still so reliant on venues, and I believe this is a barrier in itself. There is such a drive for ‘excellence’ in the arts at the moment. Well, ‘rising tides raise all ships’ and I don’t know that giving so much focus to our venues helps with this little quote. I am such a believer in this quote and I am very concerned that the divide in this ever confusing world is growing and growing. The arts have a role to play here, because it is through storytelling we find truths and remind ourselves what humanity should look like.
There are a range of organisations supporting Welsh and Wales based artists and creatives, I wonder if you feel the current support network and career opportunities feel ‘healthy’ to you?
Angharad ; This is a tough one to answer as it’s such a complex time for funding in particular in Wales.The word ‘career’ in the arts is a dangerous one, because unless you work within an organisation, I don’t know that there is such a thing. Is there? I know of established artists who are still only earning about £13k a year, having worked for years and years. I’m not sure how this is sustainable to be honest, especially when kids come along, so then you get a fall out, and once again it’s all about ’emerging artists’ because all the established artists have had to take other jobs in order to survive, a vicious circle. So at a time when artists are ready to create outstanding work, they just can’t afford to do it. I have no answer, but this is a reality. I think venues have a duty of care towards artists, and Welsh artists, because they are the lifeblood. Jut to add to this also, because funding has become so fragile we don’t seem to be taking risks on those artists who create work that splits audiences right down the middle. That explores the extremes. I would much rather hate or love a piece of work rather than just sit through another piece which panders to the status quo.
Beatbox Tangent: I would like the help to be more visible. More transparent. At the moment, it’s hard to find those organisations. But it’s a learning curve. There are so many schemes at the moment, especially within education, and it’s great for me as a looper, beatboxer to have those opportunities to share my practice within schools, I just wish I could find the opportunities much easier.
If you were able to fund an area of the arts in Wales what would this be and why?
Angharad: I would give 10-20 freelance artists a paid yearly salary and give them the flexibility and trust to self regulate the work they do within certain communities in Wales. Simple. No box ticking. I believe this could foster sincere change at grass roots and community level, because they would not be working towards prescribed objectives and would be able to shape shift and respond accordingly to what is in front of them. Artists like to make, I would give them absolute freedom to do just this.
I would also de-centralise our monster cultural epicentre in Cardiff, which consists of the Wales Millenium Centre, The Senedd, BBC Orchestra, Wales National Opera it goes on and on. What’s that all about? Lol. It feels like a case of ‘ all the great and good may reside here’, and I don’t believe that is healthy at all.
Beatbox Tangent: There are more and more different types of creative art forms all making a contribution to Welsh culture and society. This will only increase through social media. I always feel in Wales though that people are not empowered and empowerment is necessary for them to feel confident about their practice. More funding is needed from different organisations to help creative practioners, empower other creative practioners. Thats why the Creative Practioner training is vital as you are linking up with other artists. It gives different artists the change to make connections. I am a beat boxer I might meet a skate boarder how can we work together to create something awesome? The Welsh Government really needs to understand that no matter what happens in our economy if its Brexit or something else, I don’t want to get political but the arts need to be at the forefront of everything in our society, money can be stretched, I believe everything that we have in our society is because of the creative arts.
What excites you about the arts in Wales?
Angharad: We are in a privileged position that we can foster relationships and networks which can be cohesive because we are such a small Country. Artists excite me. I have been working as a Creative Agent for Arts Council Wales for three years now and the artists I have come across are breathtakingly beautiful. There are art forms I had never even heard of and a generation who are creating and nurturing new and innovative art forms for themselves. I love this.
What was the last really great thing that you experienced that you would like to share with our readers?
Beat Box Tangent : The UK Beatbox Championships were incredible! Foe me personally getting the chance to work with Angharad on the 10 Minute Musical performances have been amazing. I am interested in pushing the boundaries in Beatboxing in Wales.
Angharad: I took my 10 year old daughter to see Slava’s Snow Storm at the WMC. A poetic, visual piece of brilliance when it comes to story telling. My daughter turned to me 10 minutes in and said ‘Mam, there are no words’. I explained that communication is not about words. It is about a visceral tempo rhythm one finds within the piece they watch. That communication begins with a buy in to a moment. She was confused. She kept watching. She came out and she cried. I asked her what was wrong. She said, ‘I don’t know. I just feel really sad’. That’s my kind of theatre. It hit her in a space and place she could not articulate.
Cameron Mackintosh’s acclaimed new production of Boublil and Schönberg’s legendary musical Miss Saigon – a recent smash hit in London’s West End – is now embarking on a major UK tour, and has stopped off in Wales Millennium Centre for their annual Festive offering.
Previous Festive shows include The Lion King, Phantom of the Opera and Mary Poppins, and this year they bring the winner of a record-breaking nine Whatsonstage Awards 2015 including Best Show.
From the same partnership that brought Les Misérables, brings this epic love story that tells the tragic tale of young bar girl Kim, orphaned by war, who falls in love with an American GI called Chris – but their lives are torn apart by the fall of Saigon.
For the sheer spectacle, this production needs to be seen. For the lighting, the sound and the effects are some I’ve rarely seen outside of London, you soon realise this is something special.
The cast brings such depth to the story, which without realising, the first twenty minutes feel so much shorter – such is setting the story up. Red Concepcion’s Engineer is brilliant – a slightly comedic but evil twist on a character – The American Dream brought the house down. It’s such a stand out moment.
Sooha Kim as Kim brings the vulnerability to the role, and with an amazing voice. Her duet with Ashley Gilmour (Chris) on The Last Night of the world, is another stand out moment.
Be warned, it’s not for younger people – the themes are quite adult, and there’s some swearing in the first 20 minutes – and it’s also dotted through the rest, but it’s not without reason.
For me being a little bit of a theatre techy, I spent most of the evening in awe at the sets, lights and sound. It’s one of the best I’ve seen in Cardiff. The helicopter scene is probably the most impressive piece of set and engineering I have ever seen on a stage! You find yourself completely immersed into the sights, emotion and sounds of the end of the Vietnam conflict. If musicals were football leagues, Miss Saigon would be Chelsea.
The word triumph is often used to describe musicals, and in this case, it’s spot on.
OMG Legally Blonde is back in town! Anthony Williams UK revival of the musical adaptation of the hit 2001 film, which starred Reese Witherspoon in the iconic role of Elle Woods, is back in a dazzling pink-hue production of frothy songs, fabulous sets and catchy dance routines. With more sparkle than one will find on Strictly Come Dancing, Legally Blonde The Musical, will brighten up the coldest and darkest of winter nights.
Based on the hit film it follows the perils of Elle Woods played by home-grown talent Lucie Jones, a cheer-leading sorority girl who ditches her air-head image to train as a lawyer at the prestigious Harvard School of Law in the hopes of winning back her preppy boyfriend, Warner Huntingdon III, played by Liam Doyle. Packing up her trusty pooch, Bruiser, and with the support of a new bunch of friends she quickly learns that one can be an intellect, have a heart, superior fashion sense all whilst battling against envy, pettiness and a sordid professor.
Lucie Jones is a perfect fit for the role, her beautiful voice and her ability to do the bend and snap to perfection brings the perky Elle Woods to life in all her pink glory. Whereas Liam Doyle who plays Warner Huntingdon III exceptionally well especially when singing Serious, where Elle is expecting to him to propose but ends up breaking up with her. However, Rita Simmonds (most well-know for playing Roxy Mitchell in EastEnders) is a true revelation with her beautiful singing and great characterisation of salon owner Paulette Bonafonté. Her ode to her character homeland with the song Ireland saw Simmonds balance comedy with genuine emotion perfectly all whilst doing a fabulous river dance. As for Bill Ward’s interpretation of the disgustingly slick Professor Callahan, he commends the stage with his presence and gets all the Panto boos, the highest accolade for any antagonist. It’s safe to say that the biggest cheers of the night and who drew the biggest smiles from the audience was the four legged cast comprising of Bruiser played by Bruisey Williams-Dood and Rufus played by a local star canine.
Legally Blonde The Musical is fun and fluffy, lifting the darkest of spirits and bringing them into Elle Woods’s fabulous bubble-gum pink world. It is light-hearted and delivers its fair share of touching moments all set against a backdrop of glitz, glamour and girl power.
Tour dates and ticket information can be found on Legally Blonde The Musical website.
If you’ve never heard of the 5th Marquess of Anglesey or Henry Cyril Paget – that’s exactly what his family intended to happen when they erased him from their family history by burning every photograph and possession relating to his life.
Based on true story, this completely original production pieces together the charred remains and distant memories of the 5th Marquess of Anglesey – a cross-dressing dandy who inherited the keys to the kingdom in Victorian Britain, but lived fast and died young.
At one time the richest man in Britain, he rejected the duties of his title to live an outrageously opulent and controversial life, putting on elaborate plays, building over the chapel on the family estate to build a theatre and tour Europe with his ‘Electric Butterfly Orchestra’ – with himself as the leading artist, of course.
This is a fabulously foppish flight of fancy that will have you belly laughing from lights up until lights down.
The Marquess of Anglesey was an unapologetic narcissist, who if born in more recent times would no doubt be the subject of a gaudy commercial deal, a magazine spread or a reality TV series. But although the production pokes fun at the story, it is never cruel.
How to Win Against History is a high-camp, high energy extravaganza, subverting the almost homoerotic goings on within public schools, the aristocracy and the Empire.
Starring Seiriol Davies who plays (or should I say ‘slays’) as Henry Paget, this show chasses, minces and shimmies its way through his back story, shining a light on the social awkwardness of Victorian times, the absurdity and pomposity of theatre and the sheer hilarity of being a square peg in a round hole.
Matthew Blake plays the part of Paget’s right hand man – the Victorian west end actor Alexander Keith and the pair have incredible chemistry and comic timing. Every movement, sigh and flick of the hand is played up and milked for laughs.
Imagine a show featuring Lawrence Llywelyn-Bowen’s lovechild on acid at Mardi Gras, mashed up with Monty Python, Downton Abbey and Ru Paul’s Drag Race. That wouldn’t even come close to how remarkable this is.
Despite the madcap silliness and outrageousness though, it’s a show with substance and heart. Seiriol Davies has created something quite heartfelt and poignant, the music and lyrics are sharp and clever and the incredible vocal performances of the trio on stage meander from genre to genre.
You really want Henry Paget to win and the way audiences are responding to this production shows that in the end – he has.
Some lights are too bright to ever be distinguished.
It’s quite fitting that just over 30 years since the redevelopment of the south of Cardiff began that Wales Millennium Centre presents Tiger Bay The Musical. Since 1987, what was the docks of Cardiff, and in particular, what was Tiger Bay, has changed dramatically, and this musical is a celebration of the diversity that is Cardiff now.
What’s it about? Set in 1900’s Cardiff, it follows a young woman’s determination to challenge society’s injustices, follow her heart and realise her dreams. Extreme poverty meets supreme wealth. Gangs of street children roam the docks. Coal is king. A revolution is brewing in the dark and restless world beneath the genteel surface of Cardiff’s Butetown. You could say there’s a level of current social commentary running through this.
The staging and sound are possibly the best I’ve ever seen at WMC, everything moved seamlessly on stage from one scene to another. The cast sound amazing, helped no doubt by the scoring of Daf James and the lyrics of Michael Williams, this production in association with Cape Town Opera has romance, drama, revenge, and some amazing ensemble pieces.
Back in 2011, I saw Noel Sullivan in We Will Rock You at the WMC. It was my first proper musical (that wasn’t on telly or in the cinema), and now six years later via some Dirty Rotten Scoundrels I see him again, and his voice has improved and matured. Hard to believe the same person sung an album track from Girl Thing that in turn went on to become the biggest song of 2001 (Trivia fans… that was of course Pure and Simple by Hearsay)
There is a tendency with some reviews to rave about everything – this might just end up being one of those. With talent such as John Owen Jones and Suzanne Packer, plus the aforementioned Mr Sullivan, it’s quite difficult to select a few stand out moments. Dom Hartley-Harris as Themba was just sublime. The emotion of his character was stunning to watch. But there’s no doubting tonight I saw two stars born.
Star number one is Vicki Bebb. The programme says she hails from a small village in South Wales. Well, let’s sort that out for starters. She’s from Cilfynydd, which is 3 miles outside of Pontypridd town centre. The same place that gave the world Sir Geraint Evans and Stuart Burrows – two amazing Welsh singers. Change that entry Wikipedia, there’s a third. Her name is Vicki Bebb, and going by tonight’s performance, the world is her oyster. I can say I was there the night I saw Vicki Bebb shine for the first time.
Star number two is Ruby Llewelyn who plays Ianto Louise Harvey also plays the role, but not tonight). She’s quite a little powerhouse of a vocalist and pretty much stole the show – even against John Owen Jones. In fairness the child cast were all brilliant, but for me, Louise is another one to watch for the future (once she’s gotten all her exams sorted first).
I am quite sad writing this review because it means my involvement in TBTM is now over. After blogging and talking about it for the best part of the last nine months, it’s time to say tara now – not goodbye, because I’m sure this little piece of Cardiff will travel and fly.
My advice is, if you like the likes of Oliver, Les Misérables, or even Wicked, you will love this. It’s a little piece of Cardiff past, with lot of the passion the city always had, and always will. Just imagine Les Miserables with a Kardiffian accent, and you’ll realise this is more than just a half tidy musical mind.
If like me, you know a little about music, and the history of the pop song, then you can think again. People often deride modern music for being manufactured, but even way back in the late 50’s and early 60’s, the charts to an extent were the creation of just a few song writing powerhouses. The likes of Lieber Stoller, Dozier Holland, Lennon & McCartney and Goffin King were all part of the fabric that made the early days of pop what they are today. And it’s the latter partnership of Goffin King that forms the basis of Beautiful, currently at Wales Millennium Centre till 4th November.
As the website explains further; BEAUTIFUL tells the inspiring true story of King’s remarkable rise to stardom, from being part of a hit songwriting team with her husband Gerry Goffin, to her relationship with fellow writers and best friends Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann, to becoming one of the most successful solo acts in popular music history. Along the way, she wrote the soundtrack to a generation, with countless classics such as You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman, Take Good Care of my Baby, You’ve Got a Friend, So Far Away, It Might As Well Rain Until September, Up on the Roof, and Locomotion.
There were countless moments for me to go “oh, she wrote that”, plus there was the time during the interval watching people sing some of the songs to try and explain the song – always entertaining. For anyone wanting to become a song writer, to watch this is certainly an education that no college or book can give you. To see some of the back story behind some of pop’s greatest hits was always going to be a massive bonus for me being such a music geek.
The performance of Bronté Barbé as Carole is quite amazing. You can close your eyes and you’d think it was the real deal. To capture the essence of someone is not easy, but somehow you have the vulnerability and the depth of character – together with a voice that provides the full package that is Carole King.
Kane Oliver Parry as Gerry Goffin shows the weaknesses that Goffin had, but also his song writing and creative processes. Amy Ellen Richardson as Cynthia Weil, and Matthew Gonsalves as Barry Mann, show also how the competitive the 60s were in terms of song writing. But out of that creativity, came friendship – and two very genuine performances from both.
It’s a well-paced production. There aren’t any times you’d be sat wishing for the next part. Musicals can sometimes suffer from being a little bit long, but at just around 2 hours 30 with an interval, that can’t be said of Beautiful.
There’s won’t be many people this won’t appeal to. If you have a love of music from the 60’s, this is for you. If you love a well-crafted and performed musical, this is for you. And if you love a night out for ages from 8 to 80, this is certainly for you.
Three things we also learnt;
1 The Locomotion was sung by Carole King’s nanny
2 Neil Sedaka was her boyfriend in high school (thus his song Oh Carol is about her)
3 She wrote The Reason for Celine Dion in 1998
This week I embarked on something new. I went to see one of my mum’s original favourite musicals. Crazy For You is considered to be ‘the last of the Gershwins’ light hearted musicals’ and started life over 80 years ago, first appearing in the 1930s. After a lengthily history, including a name change from Girl Crazy, Crazy For You opened on Broadway in 1992 and has now been revived in the UK for a brand new, star studded tour which started in August 2017 in Plymouth after a run at The Watermill Theatre in July 2016.
My mum originally saw this production with my Grandmother when Ruthie Henshall performed the part of Polly and she was very excited to relive the experience at one of my favourite theatres, the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff. However, I went into this production completely blind. I vaguely knew of a couple of the songs but I knew nothing of the story or setting so I was interested to see what I would make of a ‘traditional’ musical considering that my taste mainly draws me to shows like Wicked, Jekyll and Hyde and Phantom of the Opera.
Despite going in blind to the story of this show I was certainly familiar with the cast. Tom Chambers plays the enthusiastic, lovelorn dancer Bobby Child who spearheads the effort to save a theatre from his mother’s bank. Chambers’ performance in my opinion encapsulates the heart of the original production of Crazy For You. He does this through his outstanding tap dancing and his comedic timing, which is vital for this script as it holds so much humour, had me laughing from start to finish. He feels so authentic in this part that I truly can’t imagine anyone else playing this role.
Despite being the leading man, I feel that Tom Chambers was accidently overtaken by his leading lady. Charlotte Wakefield, coming from a successful touring stint as Truly Scrumptious after taking over from Carrie Hope Fletcher in the UK tour of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, stole the show from all of the other principles in my opinion as she demonstrated that she can sing, dance and act as the head strong but sensitive Polly Baker. I only wish that there were more opportunities to hear her wonderful belting ability. Polly was by far my favourite character in this show and Wakefield is, in my opinion, the perfect actress to bring her to life. I would recommend this show to anyone simply to see Wakefield’s performance alongside Cambers.
However, Polly highlights the one fault I have with Bobby’s characterisation within the show. During songs such as ‘Someone to Watch Over Me’ and ‘But Not For Me’ the audience are treated to an in depth look into Polly’s thoughts and feelings which gives her depth as she reviles that her inner self is more sensitive than her tough exterior. On the other hand, I feel that this insight is missing from Bobby’s characterisation. This absence is mainly felt during ‘Nice Work If You Can Get It’. Prior to this song, during the New York Interlude, Bobby is given the New York theatre. This song shows Bobby’s realisation that he really wants to go back to Hard Rock and Polly and at the end he rips the deed to the theatre to shreds. However, his specific desire to give up the theatre seems strange as it is only his love of Polly which is referred to throughout the song. Considering that all Bobby wants to do is dance and his possible conflict between owning the theatre and chasing his love seems underdeveloped here.
Caroline Flack is another star name heading up the cast as Irene Roth. I was not surprised at all to see her name on the cast list given her dancing experience shown on Strictly Come Dancing. She also sat in the centre of Irene’s character as a spoilt, demanding fiancée to Bobby, despite some sketchy details as to how she actually gained that title. However, I simply wish that her character was given more detail and bite. As I said, the details of how she came to call herself Bobby’s fiancée is sketchy so I would have loved to have seen that story be given far more discussion in the show as both Bobby and Irene switch from lover to lover throughout the show. Irene’s lack of detail and bite are combined in Irene’s relationship with Lank Hawkins. I was expecting them to become a couple in a plan to scupper Bobby and Polly’s attempts to save the theatre and this plot point is actually referenced by Irene but then it simply disappears. The two do eventually get married but their reasoning and Lank’s threat to the theatre are phased out completely. This was quite disappointing for me and I was sad to see that it also seeped into Flack’s performance of ‘Naughty Baby’. In this number Irene seems to shift from hating Lank to wanting him quite randomly simply because her intentions are not mentioned. This did not provide Flack with any opportunity to put some real intention into this song and her singing and even dancing seemed a little flat and soft, which did not fit with the cunning, sharp nature of the song.
I have saved one of the best aspects of this production for last. The ensemble is incredible. I cannot overstate how talented they are. Not only do they all sing, act as individual characters and obviously dance to the level of Tom Chambers and Charlotte Wakefield but they also are the orchestra. Each member of the ensemble plays multiple instruments throughout the show with no sheet music present, ever. This astounded me and I loved this original iconic aspect of the show. I must admit that this was slightly distracting during some songs because all I wanted to do was watch the violinists but there are plenty of songs where they are fully integrated into the staging. This production shows a true collaboration between Diego Pitarch’s set and the ensemble’s function as the orchestra. I loved the theatre set piece as it moved between the two locations of the show but it also fully integrated the instruments into the piece. The set and lighting add another level of polish to this production.
Overall, I had a lovely time seeing this show and I would give it four stars. The comedic script is right up my street and the gorgeous sets and lighting highlighted the dance aspect to create a treat for the eyes. While I feel some aspects of the story and characterisation could have been improved, the true stars of the show, Charlotte Wakefield and the ensemble acting as the orchestra, truly blew me away. I’m so happy that I had the opportunity to try out this intriguing production and to give my mum the chance to see one of her favourite shows brought into the 21st century of theatrical production.
Kate Rusby is the undisputed queen of English folk music. With her immense songwriting ability and beautiful voice to match, she is undeniably one of Yorkshire’s greatest treasures. This short 25th anniversary tour will see her delve into an extensive back catalogue of songs. She will also perform material from her latest album Life in a Paper Boat. She demonstrates, time and again, an unrivalled knack for producing new and inventive interpretations in the folk tradition whilst remaining faithful to its roots. She has such a down-to-earth and whimsical personality that is gently infectious. Instantly likeable, this comes across naturally in her oft-acoustic performances. If you are looking for the perfect soundtrack to a clear autumn night under the stars, look no further. Within the close and intimate setting of Chester’s brand-new theatre, this will be a magical evening with one of England’s brightest and best musicians.
Little Voice at Theatre Clwyd. I am a fan of musicals in general and enjoyed the movie version with Jean Horricks. My appetite has already been wetted with the theatre showing tweets of the large cast taking residence in the theatre.
My choices this Autumn are all family choices, I see a lot of shows by myself but for me the absolute best experience is seeing my daughter get completely absorbed in theatre and enjoy it as an art form. Her highlights so far over the last year have been Hairspray at the WMC, the Borrowers and the Hunting of the Snark at the Sherman. Slowly, I’m expanding the type of shows she sees to include poetry and dance – but I think musicals are our absolute favourite! I feel lucky to have so much amazing family theatre on our doorstep – and we feel it’s not really Christmas unless we’ve seen Frank Vickery dressed as a pantomime dame at the Park and Dare – that always tops off the year for me and puts a spring in my step! During the last panto at the Park and Dare, the two dames had my husband up on stage dancing and taking selfies with him, my daughter was delighted – I think it’ll be hard to top that one!
I love the concept of National Theatre Live; bringing top quality theatre to the masses without the cost of a trip to London and a full price ticket. Live broadcasts from our local cinemas immerse us in the theatre’s atmosphere and allow us to view productions that may previously have been off our radar.
Stephen Sondheim’s legendary musical follows the Follies girls (played in this production by Tracie Bennett, Janie Dee and Imelda Staunton) thirty years after their final performance at the Weisman Theatre in New York as they gather to share drinks, tell stories and sing a few songs (accompanied by a 21 piece orchestra!)
With a fabulous score and stellar cast I am excited to see this NT Live production this November.
The home of Cardiff’s first fringe theatre, The Other Room are continuously showcasing sharp, fearless, contemporary theatre. debbie tucker green’s ‘hang’ premiered at the Royal Court Theatre in 2015, the piece will be making its Welsh debut with a cast of exceptional, home-grown talent. It’s one not to be missed!
I’ll be seeing Rip it Up in St Davids Hall on 9th October, it features Strictly stars Jay McGuinness, Louis Smith and Natalie Lowe – I’ve been a Strictly fan for ever and Jay and Louis were both my favourites of their respective years, and now they’re in Cardiff I can’t resist the chance to see them live.
The Cherry Orchard at the Sherman. I’ve chosen it in the first instance because (too many) years ago it was my set text in A-level Theatre Studies. I found it really challenging, and eventually rewarding when it ‘clicked’. The idea of Gary Owen adapting this play feels like an absolute minefield-which I am sure with Rachel O’Riordan’s direction will bring something to the stage which would make any student now picking up the text completely inspired.
I’m excited to see this new play from Simon Stephens (which had it’s debut last year in New York) not only because a new play by Simon Stephens is always worth seeing, but because this is the first production from Harper-Elliot Productions. With director Marianne Elliot at the helm this new prodcution company sees Elliot (previously artistic associate at the National Theatre) promising to put women’s stories at the forefront. For this play in particular I’m excited to see this multi-layered play about the nature of relationships with the brilliantly talented Anne Marie Duff in the central role.
I am looking forward to seeing The Wind in the Willows this autumn at Sherman Theatre. This is for a number of reasons. Firstly, it is a classic that I love and would love to see performed on stage. Secondly, as a Cardiff student, Sherman Theatre is a very practical location for me as it is close by and therefore makes it easy for me to see something local. Thirdly, as it is a Christmas time production it falls perfectly for me amongst my other workloads and commitments; by Christmas time I will have the holidays to commit to my university work and so won’t have too many deadlines to stress me out!
I’ve chosen this performance not only because it is a production with absolutely stunning music. This production really does show the vital importance of story and character in combination with the music. I love the story of twins who are born and died on the self-same day. However, my favorite character is the narrator as he represents an amazing opportunity to really dig deep into the symbolism of certain aspects of the story. This is also one of the first productions which I reviewed last time it came to Cardiff’s New Theatre. It was also Marti Pellow’s performance in this production which really showed me the symbolic potential of not just the narrator but of characters and theatre as a whole.
The opening night of any performance is usually pretty interesting This was something else. A royal visit, the hands of conciliation shaking across the decades, the welcome of the Welsh to the Zulus, the acknowledgement of the times past and present with no apology.
I cannot say that it was a comfortable feeling in the room when the British role in the taking of Zululand was portrayed. The massacre of British forces at Rorke’s Drift promptly followed by the razing of the villages and the kidnapping of the King. An unrecorded conversation between Queen Victoria and King Cetshwayo and his return to South Africa.
Some of us in the audience dared to laugh at what that conversation may have comprised, given the dear Queen’s proclivities! This lightened an otherwise confused response to a musical storytelling which did not portray our Empirical desires in a good light. But a portrayal generous enough to acknowledge the bravery of soldiers on either side. Bold enough to openly regard a mutual respect for the field of battle and conquest.
Beautiful in its dance scenes, fearsome in its warring, acute in its narration – comic in its mimicry of the gun-carrying redcoats. The skin-prickling returning cries of warriors in the audience. The poet. The costumes. The toe-tapping music. The beat. The heat.
This was a slightly chaotic, slightly shambolic, utterly brilliant rendering of a terrible business all round.
A theatre packed with dignitaries and artists; and the men stand for the Queen. A queen surrounded by family and protected by warriors. Splendid and significant, she spoke of their visit as an advance party whose report back would determine any subsequent visit by the King. I get that. This is not easy political fayre.
Dorcas Cresswell and her team should be applauded for their efforts in bringing these extraordinary and important events together in ways accessible to all of us. It was refreshing not to hear apology for events long past but acknowledgement; commemoration not dismissal. Art and theatre expressing easily subjects otherwise difficult to discuss openly.
I hope I shall never forget seeing Zulu warriors hop on a bus in central Brecon. I have a feeling I might not be alone in this. Never underestimate the impact of a well-placed assegai.
As part of this series of events you can still catch the event below
Free, non-ticketed exhibition in the Andrew Lamont Gallery, top floor of Theatr Brycheiniog.
An exhibition of photographs that were taken during a visit in January 2017 to KwaZulu-Natal by five members of The Friends of The Regimental Museum of The Royal Welsh, Brecon.
The visit was by invitation of KwaCulture – an organisation based in Durban and the visit coincided with the annual commemoration of the battles of Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift which took place in January 1879.
The exhibition is part of the King Cetshwayo 135th Celebrations in Wales, August 2017 that has been organised by The Friends of The Royal Welsh Regimental Museum in partnership with KwaCulture and Maluju Charity.
The Andrew Lamont Gallery is open during Theatr opening hours and is fully accesable via the lift.
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