Category Archives: Theatre

Review Blud The Other Room by Kaitlin Wray

blud-banner

The Other Room Theatre brings to the stage Cardiff’s three woman theatre company ‘otherMother’ with their original production ‘Blud’. This play, written by Kelly Jones, has themes centred around the rivalry between two football teams and the desperation to stand up for themselves.

Set in a football locker room, The Other Room Theatre provides the intimacy that is needed between the story and the audience. The play consists of two visible characters, Rita- the captain of Cotley Town’s female football firm and her sister, Lou- Olivia Elsden. These characters are completely incompatible in personalities but soon realise the need for each other.

This is a dark play with comical one liners. It showcases the brutality and the need to stand up for what you believe in. Francesca Marie Claire, embodying Rita plays a woman who puts football above everything else to try and show her rival team that she is a fighter. Francesca never falters at delivering a true, passionate and gritty working class girl. Lou, played by Olivia Elsden showed the audience a childlike 15 year old trying to reach out to her older sister. Olivia acted out an innocent girl that provides the audience with a lot of entertainment. However as the play went on her character grows and she is converted from being a child to someone who was providing advice and support. Both actors grasped their sense of character and made the thematics in the play drive out even more.

11951835_874151435973169_5879342059145322339_n

Photograph Credit Pallasca Photography

The play is well structured and well written. It started off with a monologue from Rita that set the scene and unveiled her character. Throughout the play we are given insights of their past and how they grew up without this being portrayed as a biography. Chris Young, provided us with a soundscape, that gives us a sense of the chaotic world outside of the locker room. Furthermore without giving anything away, I believe the ending was well thought out and had a great impact on the whole story.

11988703_874151442639835_6297764210697650807_n

Photograph Credit Pallasca Photography

The trio that makes ‘otherMother’ consists of the writer, Kelly Jones, the director, Anna Poole and the producer, Olivia Harris. The company provide us with entertainment and a subject that’s intended to raise discussion and debate. ‘Blud’ is a production that everyone should go and see due to the raw nature and the elements combined in the play.

othermother-KeitoProducer.

other Mother company members

From left, writer, Kelly Jones, the director, Anna Poole and the producer, Olivia Harris.

Review Annie WMC by James Briggs

VJR_WOL_250914_annie01

Annie the Musical is set in a rough girl’s orphanage in New York in 1933 and follows the rags-to-riches journey of 11-year-old orphan Annie, one which takes her to the top of American society where she and her optimism influences many orphans, adults and even the President Franklin D Roosevelt.

The main star of the musical tour is Strictly Come Dancing Judge Craig Revel Horwood. His performance couldn’t be any further from his judging persona on Strictly as he donned a frock for the part of the bully Miss Hannigan, the orphanage ‘mother’. Well we can safely say he has earned the right to be as harsh as he is on Strictly Come Dancing because he can act, dance and most definitely sing! When he made his first appearance in the show with his high heels and swinging hips you could see from the audience’s reaction we were in for a good night.

Annie 1

Craig Revel Horwood is supported by a very strong cast who have been moulded to perfection. Alex Bourne as billionaire Daddy Warbucks was perfect casting and he was suitably strict when he needed to be but yet soft-centred as the plot unfolded, with a passion it seemed for dancing.

Holly Dale Spencer was superb as Warbuck’s ever helpful and faithful secretary, who helps Annie to get out from the orphanage to live in his luxurious mansion.

It is also very important to mention the brother of Miss Hannigan, Rooster and his villainous cohort Lily. Rooster is played with convincing style and comic cunning by Jonny Fines and Lily by Djalenga Scott brings their relationship to life. The two come up with a dastardly plan in which they pose as Annie’s real parents in an attempt to bag a $50,000 reward.

The true and rightful star of the show was Annie herself. Played by the extremely talented Madeleine Haynes. Her voice was powerful and had a great vocal range. Annie the musical is littered with difficult ballads and she pulled them off with ease.

Annie 2

Due to the amount of shows that take place Madeleine is one of three Annie’s in one of the three teams of orphans in the show. I think it would also be right to mention all of Team Roxy because they did a fantastic job Rosanna Beacock (Molly), Scarlett Flannery (Pepper), Ashley Gold (Kate), Connie Burgess (July), Amelia Love Coleman (Duffy) and last but not least Lissy Mant (Tessie).

The dance routines throughout by the entire cast were second to none, although what else would you expect with Craig Revel Horwood choreographing.

It would be wrong to finish this review without of course mentioning the character in the show that impressed the audience with her skills, Amber, the highly talented dog who plays Sandy.

Annie 3

In the words of Craig Revel Horwood this show was “Fab-u-LOUS Darling!” and deserved the standing ovation from the Millennium audience. Make sure you get yourself over to see Annie on tour because if you do you can “Bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow” you’ll have fun

Review Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, WMC by Barbara Michaels

10724148-large

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels at Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff

Book by Jeffrey Lane

Music and lyrics: David Yazbek

Director and Choreographer: Jerry Mitchell

Reviewer: Barbara Michaels, Third Act Critic

Rating: ***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Review Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, WMC By James Briggs

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels 2

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

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

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

Me With Noel Sullivan Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

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

 

Review Barnum at Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff by Barbara Michaels

BARNUM_CDF_NOV14_Template-main_4

Barnum at Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff

Book by Mark Bramble

Lyrics: Michael Stewart

Music: Cy Coleman

Reviewer: Barbara Michaels

Rating: 4.5

Jugglers, acrobats, gymnasts et al entertain as the audience takes their seats – latecomers miss a treat. Spectacle and excitement with dazzling displays of circus expertise – Barnum has them all. Based on the life of American showman Phineas Taylor (PT) Barnum who took his team of trapeze artists clowns, jugglers plus talented performers such as the singer Jenny Lind all over America and the major cities of the world, this is musical theatre traditional style given a new fillip by Cameron Mackintosh in this Chichester Festival Theatre production.

All the elements of the original Broadway production are here, but for those who were fortunate (or are old enough!) to have seen the production starring Michael Crawford which ran for a record-breaking 655 performances at the London Palladium after it opened in 1981, the big question must be: Does Brian Conley who is playing the demanding and exhausting role of showman PT Barnum live up to the almost-impossibly-high standard created by Crawford?

The answer has to be: Yes! Yes! And Yes! Conley’s Barnum is a likeable con man who could charm monkeys off trees – and does. Though when he forsakes his long-suffering wife Chairy, whose views differ radically from his as to what is right and what is not, siding with him becomes momentarily difficult. Even here, how can you feel anything but gut-wrenching suspense for a man who walks a tightrope to get to the temptation awaiting him on the other side in the shape of a delectable Swedish opera singer?? Metaphorically speaking, you say? No – in a daring act which took weeks to perfect, Conley actually does walk the tightrope. Indeed, throughout the show, along with the rest of the cast, he runs the gamut of acrobatic and dance skills with aplomb and style.

The bubbly Linzi Hateley more than holds her own as Chairy, the wife who despite brooking none of her circus-loving hubby’s nonsense, remains true to him till the end. The story of their marriage, with all its ups and downs, runs in perfect tandem with the on-going razzmatazz of the show, peppered with songs such as the foot-tapping ‘Come Follow the Band’ which opens Act I and Barnum’s theme song of ‘There Is A Sucker Born Ev’ry Minute’ plus the poignancy of ‘The Colors of My Life’ sung with feeling by Conley and Hateley, as is ‘So Little Time’ later, in Act II.   If there is a criticism to be made – and in such a polished production it seems almost invidious to do so – it is that Kimberly Blake as opera star Jenny Lind, while looking stunning and ethereal in an ice blue creation that would not look out of place at the Oscars, is a tad too ethereal. The lack of chemistry between her and Barnum renders their love affair not entirely believable – a minor hiccup in an otherwise five star production.

A considerable chunk of credit for the fizzing excitement that characterises this high-energy show must go to the ensemble. On stage for most of the time, the acrobats, trapeze artistes, high wire experts and dancers never flag. Some neat cameo roles, too, from David Birch as an anxiety-ridden Wilton, while   Edward Wade’s Julius Goldschmidt is a gem.

With great costumes and breath-taking staging – including a mock-up of the nether limbs of an elephant – this show is a firecracker.

Runs until Saturday August 15th

https://www.wmc.org.uk/Productions/2015-2016/DonaldGordonTheatre/Barnum/

 

 

 

 

Review Everyman Open Air Festival, As You Like It by Lois Arcari

k_xduwtqZdb7GwbehWZO0PrCJylTLYNbPBTSxFAcXvU

The music, folky and rustic was the backbone of the play, and was much like the play itself, pitch perfect, warm, and a crossing through time. As ever, the work on the stage was wonderful, the evening and the garden behind turning a sparse stage into a well made wood, the perfect stage for our characters to play on.

Rosalind was performed well, but shone as Ganymede, who it was obvious the actress relished playing, and did so with perfect comedic timing and a real chemistry with Orlando, who stole the audience in his wrestling scene.
Though the actresses in the parts were wonderful, there was little point turning the Duke’s into Duchesses, especially after the deliciously evil one disappeared from the play promptly and had nothing much to do.

Celia was played warmly and with wit, Pheobe and her lovelorn puppy were brilliant comically, and Touchstone was a very well-played fool, but nothing particularly new was brought to the play’s most famous phrase.

The folk songs gave a sense of real community, both to the fictional Forrest and to the audience, and, as said before, were probably the best and most memorable element of the play, with the wonderful happy ending a joy to behold for even the most cynical.

All in all, this was a play with a warm heart and brilliant players, and Sophia Gardens made the Forest of Arden come alive.

q8taMxPvWmEYH3DuGR_4Z0Cx47AwyAE1aUjQxpXEiVo

 

As You Like it runs until the 1st August

http://everymanfestival.co.uk/#/list

 

Review Jersey Boys, WMC by James Briggs

Jersey-Boys-main

Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons have well and truly hit Cardiff!

Being only 16, I must admit I didn’t know what to expect when I agreed to review the musical “Jersey Boys” at Wales Millennium Centre last night having not really heard of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. However, I was not disappointed and I was surprised at how many smash hits Frankie Valli but more importantly Bob Gaudio had written that I actually knew.

The musical tells us how the band was formed and follows each member of the band on their incredible journey. The main character we follow is Frankie Valli who is guided by Tommy DeVito, who initially puts the band together and is Frankie’s mentor. Stephen Webb is intensely convincing as Tommy and plays the part exceptionally well.   However, Tim Driesen provides an outstanding portrayal of the high pitched singing wonder that was Frankie Valli. The hugely talented composer Bob Gaudio is played by Sam Ferriday who later goes onto make a partnership with Frankie that would last for their entire careers and Lewis Griffiths plays the role of the deep voiced Nick very well.

Throughout the show you see the effect and pressures that the constant touring has on all their lives impacting on their relationships with their wives, children and each other and at times has a powerful impact especially when Frankie loses his daughter and the debt that Tommy DeVito gets into with his constant gambling and womanising which ends up with him being indebted to the Jersey mob.

However, the main reason why people will go to see this musical is because of the songs and they really do not disappoint! The band and cast are incredible and the show goes from one hit into another with songs such as Big Girls Don’t Cry, Can’t Take My Eyes Off You and Beggin’ you really are left with a feeling of ‘Oh What a Night’ we have just had!

Jersey Boys

Overall, with the packed auditorium and everyone up and dancing on their feet we can safely say Cardiff will find it very difficult to say Bye Bye Baby, Baby Goodbye as they leave following their last performance on August the 1st. A thoroughly, enjoyable performance that everyone should see.

Jersey Boys is on at the Wales Millennium Centre from 21 Jul – 01 Aug 2015

https://www.wmc.org.uk/Productions/2015-2016/DonaldGordonTheatre/JerseyBoys/

 

Review Dracula Sherman Players by Becca Hobbs

dracula_main

Entering the Sherman Studio to pulsating music, you take your seat and look down into the pit where the cast are already in motion, rocking, twitching, sighing and gliding around with glazed expressions; the play’s preoccupation with madness is already apparent.

With an uncluttered set of different sized boxes used as the bed and grave, the setting (by designer Bethany Seddon and scenic carpenter Matthew Thomas) has a simplistic but eerie quality. In the most medicalised version of Dracula that I have seen, Liz Lockheed’s contemporary adaptation is a testimony of shared madness. With two characters playing one part, the body and the mind are split in two, actualising the medical discourse of the late nineteenth century by visualising a split personality on stage.

There is real psychological drive to the performance that is carried by the characterisation of Renfield (Luther Phillips/Nicky Howard-Kemp) and the asylum backdrop. Ainsleigh Barber also plays her part in creating the imaginative madhouse as a foul-mouthed nurse with a look of lunacy herself. To see Renfield as a character is interesting as the text always mentions him within Dr Seward’s journal entries but he has no voice. In Lochhead’s adaptation, he sits at the heart of the action, looking down on his cast, quoting poor Tom (the madman in King Lear) as if locked in a bird-cage munching on flies. His verse is poetic despite its jittery and schizophrenic nature and is sensitively interpreted by Luther Phillips and Nicky Howard-Kemp who are both particularly convincing. Having a male and female counterpart for the representation of madness is a fantastic idea.

 As the sighs from the psychiatric patients become the sound of the train shooting down the tracks, the underlying technological movement from Bram Stoker’s text emerges and the sensual movement becomes systematic.

 Set against Dracula’s predatory movement and the sexualised female ruby lips of Alys Wilcox, a lot of the characters – Harker (Finbar Varrel), Mina (Ruth Long/ Kirsty Campbell) and Florrie (Alice Muzzioli/Inari Soinila), a new addition to cast as the maid – are noticeably domesticated and the women are dressed in dirty white attire; Florrie with a baby on the way, and Mina and Harker unable to let go of the fact that the other was seduced by the darkness of vampirism. Stoker wrote his novel only a few years after Jack the Ripper and the sense of fear and use of protruding shadows aligned with the domestic snippets bring this production into the real world. Or so it seems until the madhouse is revisited again.

 Alys Wilcox plays a seductive Dracula, eloquent but smouldering. Saskia Pay and Meg Lewis’ dual characterisation of Lucy is full of flirtation and gracefulness until the dramatically engaging transformation into frenzy during the nightmarish sleepwalking sequence where both girls are at their best. The whole cast works well together and aside from an occasional static line, it is clear that a lot of preparation has gone into the performance and the Sherman Players produce a very ambitious and interesting production.

 The end, like the novel is anticlimactic. I was waiting was Van Helsing to appear above over Dracula’s body in a photo like shot holding the knife to sever the head, (especially after the camera played a great deal of significance), but that is a personal preference. Overall, the Sherman Players pulled off a very admirable first performance and the show is well worth a watch!

 Wickedly innovative and full of conviction, this was a great start for the Sherman Players.

 Performances are running at the Sherman Theatre until Saturday 25th July, 7.30p.m nightly.

http://www.shermancymru.co.uk/performance/theatre/dracula/

 

Review Double Dipp Date Night at The Sherman Theatre by Sarah Finch

Double-Dipp-3

“Love is blind…until you turn the lights on”

It’s Friday night, which means it’s Date Night!
On the 10th of July in the foyer area of The Sherman Theatre, my ‘date’ and I were asked to slap on a name tag and take a seat ready for an hour of comedy gold presented by Double Dipp! We mingled with the rest of the audience and before I could take any more in we were thrown into the mix of three dates; an inappropriate venue, speed dating and a couple trying to spice up their relationship.
Whilst the all too relatable subject matter of the performance kept the entire room laughing throughout, I felt it was the chemistry between actors, actors and audience that made the show. It was those moments that had those real, hilarious stomach cringing truths that either you or ‘someone you knew’ had been involved in and the perfect delivery that kept those laughs coming.
Double Dipp have managed to create a brilliantly timed show that starts with a bang and keeps that high paced energy going through until the end, from observing the audience I can safely say this was a massive hit especially with the older generation of viewers that I had anticipated would tut and frown as oppose to the raucous outbursts of laughing that they did.
Well done to the Double Dipp Team, Louisa Marie Lorey and Geraint Jones, your supporting cast and to Chelsey Gillard on your directorial debut! Comedy can be seen as a risky, hit or miss business but considering the loud applause and standing ovations received, people will definitely be waiting in anticipation for Double Dipp’s next bout of hilarity.

Catch Double Dipp’s debut show Pick n Mixx at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 17th-22nd August.

Review Everyman Sweet Charity by Lois Arcari

 

I5Q8Fynn

 

Everyman have done it again; with a feel good, bubble-gum musical, with subtle intelligence and integrity in a candy wrapper.

Charity herself could verge into the territory of annoying with her relentless optimism, but the subtle grit of her allows for her buoyancy without ever giving the audience a cavity. Charity is played vivaciously, and her joy is as infectious as the songs. The big number, Big Spender was brilliant and brassy; a real crowd pleaser, to be honest every song was well delivered, and every dance expertly choreographed. The one weak note in the soundtrack, however, is one of the most well-known songs – while The Rhythm of Life is sung with as much power and passion as any of them, it didn’t seem as polished, and sometimes tripped over itself. By no means a bad song, it had moments of the trademark excellence, but felt mostly underwhelming. Still, the lesser known songs, and the entire soundtrack save that shone. The actor portraying Oscar had brilliant comedic timing, and won the audience over in his first appearance, while Charity’s best friends gave great supporting performances.
Overall, this was a real big winner of a show, whipping up a delight for the near packed audience.