Tag Archives: Wales Millennium Centre

Review Miss Saigon, Wales Millennium Centre by Patrick Downes

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.

Don’t dare Miss Saigon this Christmas

You can catch Miss Saigon at Wales Millennium Centre till January 6th 2018.

Review: @ImPatrickDownes

Patrick Downes

REVIEW: SECOND STAR TO THE RIGHT BY GEMMA TREHARNE-FOOSE

(4 / 5)

A Hijinx production really is a fabulous way of kicking off your Christmas celebrations. Following the success of The Snow Queen in 2016, Second Star to the Right by Llinos Mai is a re-telling of a familiar old tale. There’s a new dynamic this time. This story features three very modern, overstressed, selfie and health and safety-obsessed adults in place of children.

This time the Neverland newcomers are descendants of Michael, Jane and Wendy. As they navigate their way around the island, they learn to stop being so uptight and to dance, fly and synchronised-swim their cares away. Arthur – played by Simon Balmforth brings plenty of chuckles as he obsesses about the injury risks and dangers in Neverland and Blue Richards playing the part of Joe shines as a preening peacock – and he’s desperate to get back to his phone signal, hair wax and moisturiser. Alice meanwhile (played by Nia Ramage) is irritable and completely focused on getting to her meetings back in the city.

Created by Odyssey, a community group of disabled and non-disabled actors established by Hijinx Theatre Company, Second Star is more than ‘just’ a pre-Christmas show.

This year’s production is a celebration of a much-loved cast member Martin Vick, a long-standing performer with Hijinx for 15 years who sadly passed away in 2016. Martin had previously performed in Peter Pan and Wendy, travelled the world a special Olympian and more recently had performed with the award-winning Meet Fred, Directed by this production’s Artistic Director Ben Pettitt-Wade.

Odyssey theatre company is a community group brought together by Hijinx theatre company and don’t just create and devise imaginative theatre, they also run training academies to enable disabled actors to perform at a professional level. They’re the only company in Wales to do this. I was delighted to see Sara Pickard as the Captain in this show, having come across Sara in a professional capacity many months before.

The designer Kitty Callister and her assistants have created visually effective props and costumes – mixtures of slick modern black lines, whimsical multi-coloured bohemian and stripy sea dog gather under a star-kissed sky on window panels. Lost boy paint fights are depicted with handfuls of confetti and fairies are created via twinkling fairy lights. Its simple but creative, fitting the stripped back and intimate surroundings of the Weston Studio.

Attending a Hijinx show feels like you are part of the family, in on the joke and its informal nature is a great draw for families. This is theatre as it should be. Unselfconscious, approachable and completely inclusive.

The cast of actors have a wonderful synergy. Director Jon Dafydd-Kidd clearly has created an environment where actors of all abilities feed off one another’s energy, helping each other with the odd line and encouraging one another, just as Martin Vick had during his time with the company.

 

Review Tiger Bay The Musical, Wales Millennium Centre by Patrick Downes

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.

Tiger Bay-The Musical is on at Wales Millennium Centre till 25th November 2017.

REVIEW: @impatrickdownes

An Interview with Kyle Lima

The director of Get the Chance Guy O’Donnell recently met with actor Kyle Lima. They discussed his training, his new production Heat and Soul which will be performed at Wales Millennium Centre this November and his thoughts on the arts in Wales.

Hi Kyle great to meet you, can you give our readers some background information on yourself please?
Hi I was born and raised in Cardiff and grew up in Splott. I went to Baden Powell Primary school and Willows High School. I then went on to study drama on a foundation course for a year then a two year BTEC course at Coleg Glan Hafren in Performing Arts. I then went on to study at The Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, graduating in 2009. I’ve been fortunate enough to have worked with the Artistic Director of the Bristol Old Vic and the visionary mind behind the world renowned production of ‘War Horse’, Tom Morris, in his BOV world tour production of A Midsummer Nights Dream in which I played the young lover Demetrius.

A Midsummer Nights Dream, Bristol Old Vic Theatre 

Most recently I have worked with the artistic director of the Shakespeare’s Globe, Emma Rice, in her production of The Little Match Girl in The Sam Wanamaker Theatre at the Globe,

The Little Match Girl, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre.

As well as Emma’s ‘Kneehigh’ production of ‘Tristan & Ysult’ in which I played the scheming right hand man of the king, Frocin.

Last year I was in Charlotte Churches ‘The Last Mermaid’ as part of the Wales Millennium Centre’s first Festival of Voice which was an incredible experience.

The Little Mermaid, Charlotte Church, Festival of Voice, WMC.

So what got you interested in acting and the arts?
I grew up loving films, TV and animation. I’d spent a lot of time drawing cartoons from the TV and eventually creating my own cartoon characters. I thought I was going to be an illustrator or work in animation but I as I got older I found drawing isolating and wanted to be more social. When I went to high school and discovered drama classes and found that I could make people laugh having absorbed so much performance ability from watching a lot of films and TV, I started to think that acting was something I potentially wanted to do. I had an extraordinary drama teacher at High School called Jo Bryant who was extremely encouraging and brought something out of me as well as every child she taught. At eleven or twelve years old In my first year of High School she told that I was going to be in the school play and that I basically didn’t have a choice. It was Little Shop of Horrors. It was a two week run. Jo told me she wanted me to play the crazy dentist one week and to be the voice of the alien planet, Audrey two, the next but even though I had performed in drama class to a small group of my classmates the idea of performing to the whole school terrified me so I asked if I could just play the alien plant because it meant I could play this brilliant character and sing amazing songs but all while standing behind a curtain speaking in to a microphone while some poor soul stood inside a giant foam plant puppet and moved it around to match the performance of my voice. That experience was wonderful! It was really was the start of my love of acting. I eventually did step on stage in further school productions as I got a older and grew in confidence. Jo Bryant was a ray of light and really opened the door to what I was capable of, not only as an actor but as a person. Jo passed away many years ago  due to illness but I think of her often. She was wonderful.

You have a new one man show called Heart and Soul at The Wales Millennium Centre on Nov 24th & 25th. Can you tell us more about this production?


Heart and Soul is a one man show about the great ‘heart’ and spirit of the Welsh, combined with the influential ‘Soul’ music, as well as other genres of the music of black culture. The Wales Millennium Centre will be housing the production. Heart and Soul is a show that celebrates the unique multicultural communities of Cardiff, performed by myself portraying characters based on different generation of my family and the people of Cardiff. It will be a combination of historic and comedic stories inspired by different periods of my family and other members of the Cardiff communities lives, interwoven with live music and songs of each characters heyday sung by me while accompanied on piano by accomplished musician Chris Hyson . The songs vary from Vocal-Jazz, classic soul, 90’s RnB & Garage and perhaps a few other surprises too!

Get the Chance works to support a diverse range of members of the public to access cultural provision Are you aware of any barriers to equality and diversity for either Welsh or Wales based artists/creatives?
I feel the only real barrier is ourselves. We can be our own worst enemy in terms of not doing what we want and pursuing our dreams and goals. I know I’ve stood in my own way many times over the years but If you want something bad enough you have to step out of your own way. If you want to do something you have to do it. Take it. We don’t all start off in life from an equal playing field, that is apparent, in many ways more so than ever and there are those out there who will want to keep it that way, but you have to do want you want and go for it anyway. In terms of barriers within the arts, more doors must be open for people of diverse multicultural working class backgrounds to enable them to ascend to positions of power with in the arts and industries in general. When there is a variety of people at the top levels of decision making the opportunities will trickle down and we will see more equality. If we invest in young people from working class and multi culture communities who show a passion for the arts and if we continue to mentor them throughout their lives, they could potentially be the next future artistic director of a theatre company and having the perspective of their background and life experience they will then continue to create opportunities for those like them as well as others.
Organisations such as The Wales Millennium Centre have worked with the diverse communities geographically close to their venue for a number of years. Do you feel local communities have a genuine connection to the venue and its artistic programme?

With the production of the Musical Tiger Bay as well as shows like my own which give examples of the multicultural history of Cardiff communities I hope the people of Cardiff will come and see these shows and feel a connection to the artistic creativity that is coming out of the Wales Millennium Centre.
If you were able to fund an area of the arts in Wales what would this be and why?
I would invest funding in to programs for children and young adults to experience the arts more. If I wasn’t lucky enough to have had a great drama teacher at High School who was so enthusiastic about theatre and who showed me that I was capable of performing, I wouldn’t be the man I am today.

What excites you about the arts in Wales? What was the last really great thing that you experienced that you would like to share with our readers?


I know it’s not theatre but I watched the bilingual TV program Bang on S4C recently and was really impressed by the caliber of the writing, production value and performances as well as by the amounts of great young actors that were in it who had graduated from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. Wales is in a  great place to nurture talent and I’m excited to see who will shine next. One actress in Bang was Alexandria Riley who I also saw along side Anita Reynolds and Seren Vickers in the Other Room’s production on Debbie Tucker Green’s play ‘Hang’, directed by Izzy Rabey.

That was a great show with brilliant acting from all three actors. Rachel O’Riordan also directed Alexandria in the production of Gary Owen’s adaptation of The Cherry Orchard which was the last thing I saw. That had great performances in it also.

Thanks for your time Kyle

Guy O’Donnell

REVIEW: Beautiful: The Carole King Musical – Wales Millennium Centre by Patrick Downes

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

It’s not too late to have one fine day seeing Beautiful : The Carole King Musical, at Wales Millennium Centre till 4th November 2017, and then touring around the UK.

REVIEW: @impatrickdownes

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REVIEW: ‘SLAVA’S SNOW SHOW’ BY GEMMA TREHARNE-FOOSE

(4 / 5)

 

Slava’s snowshow is completely original and unlike anything you might have seen before,  although it may be triggering for those with a serious clown aversion (thanks to Stephen King and his fondness for drain-based terror!).

Polunin’s production straddles the traditional theatre show, mime, the avant garde, the clowning niche and pure spectacle.  The resulting concoction is one that surprises, delights and tickles the audience.  Balloons crop up here and there. A rocking horse, stars and a moon, a music box, a swing. Beautifully designed props and scenery by Ivan Yarapolskiy and Dmitry Khamzin pick at your childhood memories (and at times – your nightmares!).

Slava’s snowshow does not have a narrative or a beginning, middle or an end. It’s actually hard to know where the vignettes and sketches will lead, but beneath the playful care-free demeanour of the show, every step, breath and look is careful, choreographed and deliberate.

An insignificant nod of a head, a wink, a snail’s pace trudge across the stage – the movements toe the line between tenderness and tragedy, laced with clownery and foolishness.

This production deliberately disrupts the frenetic pace and convention of many modern productions.  It crosses the barriers between the audience and the action on stage and playfully invites adults to re-enter the colourful imaginarium of their youth.

You will instantly lower your guard, becoming absorbed in the wonder of the physicality and comic energy of the clowns the and sheer absurdity of the vignettes. But Slava’s snowshow truly succeeds in speaking to your inner child – and the sheer simplicity of this patchwork of comedy is effective and stunning.

The theatrical inspiration may have come from Chaplin, from Ukranian dramaturgs like Gogol and from street theatre and pantomime – but the language of Slava Polunin is completely universal.

The on stage action is part-dream, part-fantasy and complete spectacle. Polunin’s aim was to fuse together the tragic and the comic and create a kaleidoscope of colour, events and sound. His intention was to revitalise the way modern audiences respond to clowning…the result is more personal, more intelligent and intriguing than anything you might  have experienced at a birthday party or witnessed on cheesy Saturday night TV.

The scenes created on stage are wonderfully inventive – a bed becomes a boat, a coat stand becomes a person and curtains become snowy rocks.  The action on stage spills out into the audience frequently.  Slava’s clowns walk over the backs of audience chairs, a giant cobweb is passed over the heads of the audience and without spoiling any surprises – there is carnage in the theatre at the end of the show. I feel sorry for the people brushing that up!

Even if clowns really aren’t your cup of tea – this is unmissable.

4 stars

***

Type of show: Theatre

Title: Slava’s Snow Show

Venue: Wales Millennium Centre (Cardiff)

Dates: 17-21  October

 

Created and staged by Slava Polunin

Stage Technician: Ivan Yarapolskiy

Sound Technician: Alexey Lavrentyev

Light Technician: Alexander Iakolev

 

Review: Hairspray, Wales Millennium Centre – By Eloise Stingemore

(5 / 5)

Hairspray is back and bigger than Tracy Turnblad’s hair. It’s louder than the Corny Collins show at full volume. It’s a big bouffant of a musical!

Set in 1962 Baltimore, Tracy Turnblad, a big girl with big hair and an even a bigger heart, is on a mission to follow her dreams and dance her way onto national TV with The Nicest Kids In Town. Tracys audition not only makes her a local celebrity, she sends sales of Ultra Clutch Hairspray through the roof and bags local heartthrob Link Larkin. However, when Tracy uses her newfound fame to fight for equality, it puts her at loggerheads with Velma Von Tussle the producer of the show but also mother of the show’s “star” teenager, Amber Von Tussle, jeopardising her place on the show and her freedom.

From the opening vamp of “Good Morning Baltimore,” to the final chorus of the finale, “You Can’t Stop the Beat,” the shows score a mixture of bubble-gum pop to rhythm and blues is irresistibly catchy. Rebecca Mendoza shines in her professional debut as Tracy whereas Edward Chitticks plays Link Larkin with the right amount of cool that manages to capture your attention and make your heart flutter every time he is on stage. As for Layton Williams who is best known as Stephen Carmichael in the hit BBC Three show Bad Education, he presents a dazzling array of dance skills all whilst crafting a touching relationship with Liard-Bailey’s Penn. However, it is the coupling of Mat Rixon and Norman Pace as Edna and Wilburn Turnblad that gives the show a fantastic comic spark. Their duet of “Your Timeless To Me” was delivered to perfection and Pace body language had the audience in stitches, which makes it shame that the audience saw so little of the two together during Kerryson’s production.

The show features an impressive variety of costumes by Takis from the fabulous ’60s fashions Tracy and Edna get from “Mr. Pinky’s Hefty Hideaway”, to Corny’s comical red sequinned suit, and, of course, the giant hairdos sprayed with the titular product. However, Takis’ reliance on a projected backdrop to capture the Civil Rights protests meant at times the stage felt slightly bare but nevertheless did an excellent way of demonstrating the two sides to American society at the time.

Hairspray is full of colour, soul and free spirit that defined the 60s. It is the ultimate feel good show and judging by the amount of smiles in the foyer as people left the venue they didn’t want the beat to end.

Hairspray opened in Cardiff on August 16, 2017, with a tour around the UK until June 2018. Tour dates and ticket information available can be found here: http://www.hairsprayuktour.com/tour-dates/

 

 

 

 

 

 

REVIEW: ‘HAIRSPRAY’ BY GEMMA TREHARNE-FOOSE

(4 / 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 / 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.

Review Funny Girl, WMC by Eloise Stingemore

 

(5 / 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/