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
Jane Eyre is fearsome and blazing, with an inevitably symbolic of the plays presentation of temptation and restless desire, the audience succumb, engulfed by the ferocity of its cast and the boldness of Sally Cookson’s direction.
Amongst the haunting moors, trepidation is a state of being and, yet, our female heroine embodies its antithesis – fired by generational anguish, past and contemporary, Bronte – mediated by Cookson – defies the societal dismissal of the wholly feminine nature of yearning and discontent. The National Theatre’s ‘Jane Eyre’ is soaring and liberated, necessary as an, ever-contemporary, evolved feminist narrative.
Hope, within the play, is almost embodied as a metaphorical rejection of the play’s desolate and dire setting, in its weighted suppression, through the stark opposition of the cast’s spirited elevation and weightlessness. Through Jane’s experiences of; the people she meets, the places she sees, and that which she cannot understand, she is subjected to sinisterism and character-dimming corruption – preaching a passive dignity, in favour of her (societally embedded) feminine duty – yet, ultimately love is professed as the only true salvation. Conflicting, in nature, as she is bound through desire, love liberates Jane as simultaneously she is chained to one man for all eternity. Ultimately pre-occupied by the pondering of existentially-defying love, I do wonder how the Bronte’s would respond to Love Island.
The solidity and grounding conveyed by the set band embodied an inevitability of Jane and Mr Rochester’s unity through an unbridled and innate devotion conveyed by the all-encompassing folk instrumental. Originated within, what was considered, the English ‘country’, in its expression of working-class tradition, custom and superstitions, it is mystifying and fiercely optimistic in wanderlust.
Michael Vale’s set design, earthy and raw, preaches and idolises childlike innocence, as the cast boundlessly throw and exert themselves to-and-fro the minimalistic tree house. In the pure and sanctified white sheets hanging to enmesh the space it is the projection of our own thoughts, the play’s narration and the immorality of the characters themselves which taint and stain the clean, preserved walls of the godly, proper, Victorian society that they abide to.
Dan Canham’s movement spurred and propelled its cast with agitation, injected spirit, yet, ultimately, underlined an active mistreatment and suppression of Jane Eyre. The production’s movement and instrumental accompaniment evoked and transpired a wanderlust and disquietude from Jane unto us as the continuous action pounding from the stage beat within my stomach.
The production’s frenetic energy combined with the haunting spectre of Melanie Marshall’s Bertha Mason, a raw, wretched and pitiful operatic presence, magnified the sparsity of the set, with its bare isolation that, arguably, embodies the desolate origins that drew, boundlessly, the souls of Jane and Mr. Rochester to clasp together.
The halting, sharp scenes and the multitudinous use of rough sound gave the play the same raw emotion that categorises the book as such an elegant and unflinching exploration of the human heart. In the flurry, and succession, of such striking performances, the cast achieve flawlessness in their execution of truly turbulent multi-rolling with a rejoiced creative ferment.
Nadia Clifford was a spectacle to behold brimming with the fever of Jane’s restlessness. Feisty and crumbling, neither over-bearing, Nadia created the unrelenting independence and the secret longing that characterises the eponymous heroine. Nadia’s portrayal allowed Jane to be flawed, multi-faceted in her complexity, to the extent, at which, exposing Mr Rochester as a truly rigid and canvased enigma of a man. Devastated and defeated, yet hopeful and triumphant, in equal measure, the National Theatre’s ‘Jane Eyre’ was stunning, shocking and soaring.
Cardiff welcomed one of France’s most famous singers in the form of ‘Piaf! The Show’ as part of the Festival of Voice event in association with ‘Directo Productions’. ‘Piaf! The Show’ celebrates the centenary of Edith Piaf’s birth and is a wonderful production that sees French singer Anne Carrere filling the impeccably large boots of Edith Piaf. Edith Piaf holds very special memories for me as my family and I would regularly go on holiday to Jersey. When I was four I asked the hotel pianist if she would play Edith Piaf’s ‘Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien’. The pianist as well as my family were astounded at my request, but as we would return year after year to the same hotel every time I walked into the hotel the pianist would always play the song for me and even gave me some of my first ‘piano lessons’.
With a packed line up of almost thirty songs we are taken on a musical journey of Edith Piaf’s life starting firstly in Act 1 with the beginnings of Edith Piaf singing in café’s for customers and serenading people alongside the River Seine. However, Act 2 is totally different with the show changing into a concert style performance and Anne Carrere’s performance as Piaf is totally mesmerising. There were countless famous numbers included allowing the audience to sing along with the music. The settings used on the stage were minimal yet extremely effective some of which being a streetlamp in Montmartre, seedy clubs of Pigalle and even the world famous Carnegie Hall in New York.
While performing on stage Anne Carrere was backed by a live band simply made up of a piano, doublebass, drums and the most amazing accordionist Guy Giuliano who was simply outstanding. The songs performed were a great mix from the well known such as Jezebel and Autumn Leaves and those not so well known to me such as ‘Bravo Pour Le Clown’, ‘Milord’ and ‘La Foule’.
The audience were left feeling as though we were watching the show in France as it was all in French. I really enjoyed the use of French as it brought more meaning to the music and made the portrayal of Edith Piaf by Anne Carrere even more special.
For those who have listened to Edith Piaf’s music you will know that she had a very specific sound to her voice and this is extremely difficult to impersonate, however, Anne Carrere manages to exemplify not only the spirit of the singer but also her unique sound. The legendary vibrato is captured with precision and even when dancing with men she had picked from the audience she stayed in character and didn’t let the accent go for one second.
The setting was also very effective in that during the singing a large projector at the back of the stage showed photographs of Edith Piaf through her many stages of life. Simple sets of a streetlamp alongside a park bench, bar and cafe tables provide the audience with a visual aid when listening to the music and following the story. This created the most fantastic atmosphere for the audience but the music with Anne Carrere alone is enough to entertain any audience and the enjoyment on stage was infectious.
For me this show was a dream come true and is the closest I will ever get to watching Edith Piaf singing her music live. It was therefore a terrible shame that the audience was so small in number as the performance deserved a packed audience. However, this did not deter the audience giving Anne Carrere and her band a standing ovation which was very well deserved.
I would recommend this show to everyone whether you are a fan of Edith Piaf or not as it is simply a wonderful celebration of all things French and the fabulous Anne Carrere is outstanding and I am sure when she performs at Carnegie Hall in New York I am sure she will be loved there also. If you ever get the chance do not think twice about buying a ticket as it is a must see show and your guaranteed a wonderful night out. Merci Anne Carrere vous étiez un artiste incroyable et vraiment fait Edith Piaf fier!
Merci d’avoir lu mon commentaire sur le fantastique Piaf ! Le spectacle.
Only the Brave is the first home-produced full musical from the Wales Millennium Centre with Soho Theatre, Daniel Sparrow Productions & Birdsong Productions. The production is an emotional portrayal of the hardship and suffering felt by the soldiers and their families during the Second World War. The story behind the musical was utterly compelling and is based on a true account, that of Captain John Howard his wife Joy, and his friend and colleague Lieutenant Denholm Brotheridge and wife-to-be Maggie and the company who went with him during June 1944, to capture the famous Pegasus Bridge to allow British forces to cross into France once they had landed.
I have been fortunate enough to visit Normandy a number of times and have seen all of the landing sights and War cemeteries left from the Normandy landings. When visiting these places it can be very emotional but you don’t really feel a connection with the graves or the people who fought and died there. This musical however brings to life the people involved and allows the audience to really feel what it would have been like for the soldiers as they flew over to France to fight the enemy. So much so there were many moments during the musical where I would forget I was in a theatre and instead in a cinema watching a movie.
The characters are wonderfully written and show the hope and anxiety during the time of war. The production had many heart-in-mouth moments and tissues are essential as there are endless eyes being rubbed throughout the auditorium. Especially when one of the soldiers Wally Parr delivered his speech about the Nazi’s simply having ‘Different shirts, same heartbeat underneath,’ Another reason behind the tears flowing is of course in part because of the music composed by the brilliant Matthew Brind, who’s musical ability is second to none and has produced a simply outstanding score, with poignant songs that also have a relevance to the current events in today’s world. Some of the songs included ‘Band of Brothers,’ ‘Regret and Sympathy’ and especially ‘Only The Brave,’ which simply made the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. The mix of the performer’s voices was champagne casting and worked extremely well together.
Portraying war and fighting on stage is never easy and can sometimes look obviously pretend, however, Only The Brave was outstanding. The inclusion of pyrotechnics for the explosions was brilliant and kept the audience on the edge of their seat. The make-up was also very effective with the use of stage blood that gave the audience a further insight into the reality of war.
Only The Brave was a truly prodigious, outstanding musical and a pleasure to watch. The whole team behind Only The Brave have created an audacious and aspiring production with an amazing cast including the fantastic David Thaxton and Caroline Sheen who played their characters really very well. This show is destined to do well and is a must-see with a story that is so very important and should always be remembered. The inclusion also of the real War veteran Peter Davies as John Howard (Senior) was a lovely touch and felt very fitting. A really powerful show that should be watched by all and one which I believe is destined for the West End.
Only The Brave is currently showing at the Wales Millennium Centre until Saturday 02 Apr 16 and is simply a must-see for all!
Omidaze… I think their company name pretty much sums up this performance. Yvonne Murphy, director and executive producer took on a challenge with Henry VI, one of Shakespeare’s confusing and pretty long histories and made it thoroughly engaging. With an all female cast they have broken many of the existing traditional theatre conventions and it was completely worth it. The show was performed in the roof space of the Wales Millennium Centre, where during every scene they move the audience into a different space. Even though my knees were hurting by the end of the performance it was a perfect way to keep the audience engaged.
Before I saw this production I was hesitant that an all female cast could take on the roles provided in Henry VI, yet they completely proved me wrong. For the most part I completely forgot it was an all female cast. The reasons for this was that the acting was phenomenal, some of the best acting I’ve ever seen. One part that completely stood out to me was Richard Plantagenet, The Duke of York’s final scene when Queen Margaret and Clifford are about to murder him. The way Sioned Jones played the Duke was outstanding, she turns from a grieving father into someone with such malice, cursing them both, a great end speech.
Hannah O’Leary, playing the role of Henry VI not only portrayed him amazingly, she did most of her speeches in the air. Using aerial rope and silk, she had the audience in bewilderment. In a lot of cases they used aerial as a way of symbolising the power balance between Henry VI and the other characters. This and the use of contemporary movement to symbolise the fight scenes is one of the reasons they excelled in creating a theatrical masterpiece.
Photo: Kirsten McTernan Photography and Design
Personally Henry VI isn’t my Shakespeare’s play of choice yet Omidaze Theatre Company has turned me into a complete fan. I would recommend everyone to watch this show, Shakespeare fan or not. Omidaze are challenging theatre conventions even more than we’ve ever seen and you should be a part of this experience.
You know something special must be in town when the outside and interior of the Wales Millennium Centre is lit up luminous green. I must admit I was a little apprehensive that I would not enjoy the show and it would be something more suitable for younger children opposed to teenagers but I could not have been more wrong!
The show began with a voice over giving the usual warning to the audience regarding mobile phones but this warning certainly came with an unusual outcome! The penalty being an ogre breaking wind in your face. It was from this you were able to get a pretty good feel of what you were in for with this musical.
Shrek The Musical is based on the Dreamworks animated film, and takes the audience on a magical and fun adventure with Shrek and his trusty companion Donkey who set off on a quest to rescue Princess Fiona. Their intention is to take her to the evil Lord Farquaad who intends to marry her so he can claim his rightful place on the throne.
The stage production very cleverly captures everything that was loved about the film. Ranging from the fairy-tale characters, like the gingerbread man who cringes at the thought of losing any of his gumdrop buttons to Peter Pan who is described in the show as being ‘a 30 year old who is in need of a shave’.
It was obvious that Gerard Carey stole the show as the strangely short Lord Farquaad, who had the audience laughing all night as he scuttled around the stage and repeatedly spread his legs, not to mention his entrance song ‘What’s Up, Duloc’ when he was sitting on top of his castle crossing his small legs.
It would be wrong, of course, not to mention the equally brilliant Shrek and Fiona. Shrek is played by Dean Chisnall who brings the well-loved character to life and his voice is so distinctive as that in the film. Fiona is played by the brilliant Bronte Barbe who shot to fame when she competed in the critically exclaimed Andrew Lloyd Webber search for the next Dorothy in ‘Over The Rainbow’. The complimentary pairing of these two characters reaches a whole new level when they sing the song ‘I think I got you beat’, the song is a sing off between them where they battle to prove who has had the worst upbringing before taking it to a whole new level with a competition of who is best at burping and passing wind. It also oddly becomes clear they are made for each other and should be together.
Another magical pairing in the show is Donkey and the Dragon. The Donkey is played by Idriss Kargbo who did a wonderful job and brought the playfulness and energy that Eddie Murphy brought in the film. Eddie Murphy is an extremely hard act to follow but Idriss Kargbo does it wonderfully. One of the big differences between film and stage is the lack of animation available and so for the show the Dragon was brought to life in the form of a gigantic puppet controlled by four puppeteers. The voice of the Dragon was provided by Candace Furbert who brought an amazing Gospel and Motown feel to the Dragon. The blend between actress off stage and the Dragon onstage was seamless making the audience feel the Dragon was alive and with them in the theatre.
The show is wonderfully written and performed and crammed packed full of great jokes and innuendo that passes right over the heads of younger audience members. A must see Musical that is fun for all the family. Hurry up down to the Wales Millennium Centre because I guarantee you will be left shouting at the end “I am a believer!”.
Shrek The Musical runs at Wales Millennium Centre until Sunday the 10th of January 2016. Tickets can be purchased online at the Wales Millennium Centre website.
With the exciting news that Jukebox Collective have recently become a new Regularly Funded Organisation funded by Arts Council Wales. As well as supporting their young dancers to perform in Groove on Down the Road at the Wales Millennium Centre. Young Critics Wales project coordinator Guy O’Donnell caught up with Liara Barussi, Company Director and Zoe Munn, Development Manager to discuss the companies past present and future plans.
Hi both, thanks for taking the time to chat, firstly can you tell me about the background of Jukebox Collective?
Jukebox Collective is a creative company based in Cardiff, focused on the delivery of the highest quality street dance education, performance and consultancy. The creation of Jukebox in 2004 was a reflection of the increase in demand, as well as the need to provide an outlet for some of the most talented young dancers in the UK. Over 10 years since its creation, we still keep the core emphasis on nurturing fresh young talent up to professional level, as well as producing high-class work for stage and screen.
The Jukebox mission statement is – “Founded on the principle of excellence in street dance being a right for all, our mission is to inspire, create and educate through street dance and hip hop culture”.
Thanks I wonder if you can tell us how you apply this in practice?
We apply this through the development of a multi-strand approach: Participate, Theatre, Creative Services and The Academy. The approach developed is based on a deep knowledge of the dance forms taught with a growing understanding of the different avenues for dance. By bridging the gap between community and professional work, we provide the platform to support talent from grassroots through to professional. We continue to work with respected industry artists to inspire dancers and support our vision of excellence and education being accessed by all.
The company has its own premises and has held events like the Social Saturday’s can you tell us more about the intention behind these events?
Jukebox is all about sharing and exchanging dance, and these events are needed to create a sense of community within what we do. It’s important to keep an open door and have free public events so that anyone can access what we do. We want to get people together, to enjoy and exchange, to have fun and to explore something different. We want people to leave with memorable experiences and a taste of what dance can bring to them. These events allow us to reach out to new people, introduce dance styles that may be unfamiliar, and to showcase that street dance forms are a vibrant and vital part of the cultural narrative and to local communities. The get together’s are also a chance to encourage collaboration between dancers as well as with other art forms.
Liara you and Jukebox Collective have been very involved in the annual Breakin’ the Bay Weekend at the Wales Millennium Centre. It appears the WMC have been very supportive of Hip Hop culture. I wonder could you tell us more about your relationship with the WMC and involvement in this event?
Yes, I have been involved in curating the festival since its creation, over 10 years ago. We support Breakin’ the Bay to enable the Welsh dance community to become internationally recognised, as well as educating, inspiring and connecting them with other dancers across the world. This year we focused on sourcing some of the freshest national & international talent in Europe including dancers from France, Switzerland, Germany, Holland & Sweden. Jukebox’s reach on the International Hip Hop scene has attracted dancers from around the world to spectate and participate in the annual event. It’s the perfect opportunity to celebrate Hip Hop culture and all its diversity and bring it to the center of Wales. This year we also introduced a new “Experimental’ category, not only specific to this event but to the local dance community. This was very exciting and showcased a dynamic approach to street dance fusion.
Arts Council England have invested funding in Breakin Convention which takes place at Sadler’s Wells and companies such as Zoo Nation to support their touring. We note that Jukebox company members have just been involved in Zoo Nations ‘Groove on Down the Road’ (which also forms part of Cardiff Dance Festival) at the WMC 13-22 Nov. Could you tell us more about your involvement in this performance?
It’s great to see not only Arts Council England but also the theatre venues across the UK welcoming street dance and making it available to mainstream audiences. The involvement gives further opportunities to local youth to develop professionally and consider a career in street dance theatre. The Groove on Down the Road production features Jukebox Collective dancers – Jo-el Bertram, Shakira Ifill playing ‘Little Wiz’, and Renee Brito playing ‘Wicked Witch of the West’. We are delighted to participate and work in collaboration with Zoo Nation.
Arts Council Wales have recently named Jukebox as a Regularly Funded Organisation, congratulations! Can you tell us what led the company to apply?
Thank you! We applied as we felt with the support of ACW we could collaboratively grow the organisation to its full potential. Becoming a Regularly Funded Organisation provides us with more opportunity to produce creative work and to realise initiatives that support and celebrate talented creatives. We will also be able to plan further ahead and work more strategically. We are looking forward to developing this partnership and creating some fresh new work.
Your work supports a wide demographic of participants, I wonder if you think your organisation works with young creatives who wouldn’t otherwise be engaged in mainstream arts in Wales?
Yes, absolutely, we attract a diverse group of participants with our programs, and continue to have a point of view that talks to all people, regardless of location, gender, race and income. We are able to relate to a diverse group of people and cultures through their shared common interests. This commitment to equality and diversity is at the heart of all the work we do.
Welsh Assembly Government culture minister Ken Skates has been supportive of your company, Liara could you tell us more about your relationship?
The progressive discussion that the Minister is encouraging is very exciting, and the support really highlights the progression of our arts community in Wales. We are seeing the Senedd opening up to hear younger voices in the arts, and I’m very excited to be a newly appointed member of the Welsh Government’s Arts and Creativity Forum.
What are the long term plans for Jukebox?
We will focus on creating and expanding our dance Academy as well as continuing to produce compelling high quality dance productions. We want to keep creating opportunities and working closely with the local community, as well as touring professional work, and creating bespoke work for special events and campaigns. We are keen to support the development of young creatives in all aspects of performing arts. We want to work with local businesses and form partnerships to support all the strands of our work, aiming to build a healthy, sustainable company.
My aim with the creative work is to build a collective of dancers who develop a language that can be pushed to the very edges of expressive, aesthetic and visual possibility. I want to make collaborative work that pushes the language of dance to new, deeper levels – exploring the edges of possibility through movement and expression.
And finally how do I find out more if I want to get involved?
To get involved in any strand of the company, from professional development and performance or just for fun, if you have collaboration in mind or would just like to hear more about our work, you can contact email@example.com.
Keep a look out for our new website, which will be launching in January 2016.
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.
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.
Young Critic James Briggs with cast member Noel Sullivan who plays Freddy Benson
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