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
Returning once again to the Welsh capital, the 115 strong National Youth Orchestra of Wales took to the stage at St David’s Hall for the final performance of their 2015 tour. Performing an equally exciting and exhausting compilation of early twentieth-century Parisian ballet works, the orchestra was in the capable hands of internationally acclaimed conductor Paul Daniel (CBE) whose ambitious second half of the programme pushed the orchestra to their limits.
Easing in with Paul Dukas’ lesser known La Péri, this was an apt work to sit alongside Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring as the two pieces premièred in the same year. Daniel’s was a subtle interpretation; the introductory rousing brass fanfare moved into a contrasting web of gorgeous full bodied melodies in the strings and ethereal orchestral pianissimos that captured the mysticism of the Persian legend of Alexander the Great that the work is inspired by. This was followed by Florent Schmitt`s La Tragedie de Salome, another atmospheric piece during which the impressionistic oboe and cor anglais passages were particularly enticing. Set in two, the second part was characterised particularly well. Full of suspense and percussive pathetic fallacy, the thunderclaps added colour and maintained the momentum of the storm.
It was a well thought out programme. The first half of the concert passed quickly with beautiful melodies and subtlety that was set up to be utterly shattered in the second half by Stravinsky’s savage The Rite of Spring. When I discovered that the NYOW were braving Stravinsky’s finest work, I felt a pang that I was no longer sitting in the violin section. This is a work that every musician wants to experience on stage.
Prefaced by a harp fanfare written during the NYOW residency by two young composers, the intricate introduction was confidently conducted by co-writer Daniel Soley. Immediately following this, Paul Daniel waited for complete silence before handing over to Llewelyn Edwards to initiate the singing bassoon opening to The Rite of Spring during which the orchestra’s capability was showcased.
For the most part, the relentless rhythmic frenzy was precisely executed and the tumultuous full orchestral sound during the sacrifice was attacked with sheer force and commitment; it is clear that Paul Daniel has worked tirelessly with the responsive orchestra to pull off such a monumentally challenging work. Many would be sceptical about whether a programme this ambitious could be effectively performed by a youth orchestra but, as always, the National Youth Orchestra of Wales stepped up to the challenge. Incorporating The Rite of Spring into the programme gave soloists particularly in the woodwind section, the opportunity to demonstrate their maturity as players.
After a two week intense rehearsal and concert schedule, the professionalism and commitment from these talented young performers will come at the usual price. Today the famous Nash Crash begins for them all!
On the 6th of June 2015, I had one of the best experiences of my life. I went to a One Direction concert. I had been waiting for this concert, ever since I got the tickets the day they were put on sale. I cried when I got that text from my uncle saying he had been able to get tickets! With this in mind I am going to try to keep this review as concise and babble free as possible!
The Experience: Seeing your favourite band live for the first time is bound to be amazing. I’d been waiting for One Direction to do a concert which I’d be able to attend for about three years. So there was a lot riding on this one night. I can honestly say that it was the best experience of my life. From the moment I sat down in the line waiting to go in at 2pm until the encore and even after the concert had ended and I was on my way home, I was fully enthralled. The atmosphere of the stadium was immense! It really added to concert. It somehow made it that much better. Obviously seeing one’s favourite band live is to cause some bias towards giving them a good review; however, my mum even enjoyed the concert. She said and I quote “What an amazing experience and concert that has been” Beforehand there had been some projects set up to show Directioners support for the One Direction boys and some to even add the experience of the concert itself. These included the bandana project (you wear a bandana of a certain colour that correlates to your favourite member) and the balloon project (you threw balloons around during a certain song) this again added to the whole experience, just seeing how dedicated us fans are and how excited we were. Although social media could probably tell you that.
Support act: The supporting act was McBusted, another band which I hold very close to my heart. Id seen them live before though, so it wasn’t anything new. That being said, I was still very excited to see them live again! They are great performers, and really added to the excitement of seeing One Direction. During their performance, they just talked to the audience, asking if we’re having fun and if we’re excited to see One Direction. They kept the energy in the room alive, and not once did it feel like they were bored, or just there because they were getting paid to do so. The only thing about the concert was in the leaflet that came with the tickets it stated that there would be two supporting acts, but there weren’t. This is neither a criticism nor flaw; however I think I would’ve liked to see another band/artist performing.
One Direction: There is a lot to say about these guys! This is about the fifth time I’ve written this section and once I literally wrote out the whole concert and commented on what happened. I’m trying really hard to keep this concise.
When the opening sequence started – which was just a mix of the songs they would be performing – I burst into tears. They hadn’t even gotten on stage. I was just so excited. They opened with a song from their newest album Four. They came on with energy and excitement and passion. It’s fair to say, their energy stayed that way through the whole concert. They are great performers, and singers. They talked to the audience, and even attempted to say “Diolch” due to the fact a lot of fans had it written on signs and they were in Wales! They asked about birthdays and asked if we were having fun. They spoke to each other and acted as friends. They messed around, and generally had a good time. They came to Cardiff knowing that we don’t hug, we cwtch. They just enjoyed themselves and that was what really made the concert. The whole time they were on stage, I was bawling my eyes out. It was such a surreal event and I loved every single minute of it. I love these boys to bits, but I loved the concert even more. To be honest, I was slightly disappointed with the set list as they had said new songs would be added, however, I still loved the concert.
Overall: From beginning to end, I loved the whole thing. The experience was amazing, and I’m still wishing that I could go back to that day and relive it. If you have the chance to go see them live, go. Whether you know every song, lyric for lyric or only know What Makes You Beautiful, either way you won’t be disappointed. One Direction put on an amazing performance and they love every minute, which is contagious and you find yourself screaming the lyrics you know at the top of your lungs, no matter how tone-deaf you are. There is only one word for the whole concert and experience: Phenomenal!
I had heard through various people that Owen Pallett was renowned for putting on outstanding performances and from local knowledge to worldwide reports this was not near enough a statement worth reckoning with; as this being his performance in Portland House, Cardiff it was not only heart touching but body rocking, he proceeded to take “outstanding” to a whole other level!
Looking around the music hall and speaking with people in the audience I noted that this feeling of “another level of outstanding”was mutual felt with everyone there and the age groups of people in attendance were as wide-ranging as his music.
From start to finish the ambience at Portland House was electric not just because the genius Owen Pallett performed but from the supporting acts some of which being local to Cardiff to the venue , the feeling embarked was surreal. Soloist act Scriber who classes himself as a folk artist to King of Cats band and then to the grand hall with tall ceilings, pillars are stone engravings and that ancient medieval feel which carried the music perfectly creating a very special feeling of appreciation in myself. I really did feel honoured and lucky to be there.
Portland House, venue interior
I arrived at the venue at about 8.30pm to catch the last fifteen minutes of Scriber who I am glad I didn’t miss. Scriber seemed to be singing from the heart and playing the guitar, cord plucking his way into the audiences hearts also. Everyone was quiet in the audience and showed great respect for this solo artist as his version of folk was very captivating.
During the interval myself and a friend went to grab a dink at the bar where the staff were very friendly and inviting. I indulged in and enjoyed the range of beers from local to foreign influenced tastes and the pricing was deemed very modest considering the overall experience was anything but for your average night out!
King of Cats (the band before Owen Pallettt) is a band made up of males and one female but fronted by the very interesting Max Levi. Putting their hands to most instruments and styles this band really did give the ultimate performance. Max Levi’s voice is the squeakiest voice you may hear but that put together with a clean-cut life desire for music made the show even more interesting. Quoting “history, Plate, Pallett, I am a creature of habit” was just a small taster of some of the verses included in their new album “Microwave Oven”. This band could be deemed controversial as their topic approach is very alarming for some but for me it was perfect.
Another short interval commenced before the star of the show Owen Pallett was to bless us with his skill of enlightenment!
I never imagined Owen to grab the audience’s attention quite as he did but I wouldn’t change it for the world. His skill on the violin together with the looping of his own music to his keyboard skills then right down to social skills were berserk!! Owen was very involved with the audience and was chatting to them from the stage giving it a very personal and intimate feel. He showed a great sense of humour and I can definitely see why this gentleman is so loved all over the world. Owen appeared on stage by himself at times and was accompanied by an extremely talented drummer and guitarist at other points, throughout the one and half hour showing . Collectively noting their clothes, style and skills they seemed like very different people but together they seemed very connected, and almost as one! This on stage projection made me feel the show even better in my eyes. With Owen Pallett and the band putting an end to touring together this year and from what Owen said looks to be the foreseeable future I can honestly say that I am almost heart-broken as I would have booked to see them again absolutely and without hesitation.
I would like to give a big thank you to everyone at Portland House Cardiff to the artists and behind the scenes people for making this happen as I had a wonderful musical experience that I have never had before.
High up in the God’s, this wonderful theatre (The Savoy) is currently housing the renowned and critically acclaimed ‘Gypsy’ starring Imelda Staunton. With tickets selling fast, it was understandable that such a lengthy theatre in height was filling up every night, and so my interest continued escalating.
The story behind Gypsy is based upon true events of the Burlesque actress, Gypsy Rose Lee. Taken from her memoirs, the musical sees the hardship and struggle of Louise (later to become Gypsy) as the shadow of her performing sister, and her determined Mother, struggling to keep grips with her youth and dream of stardom. Events take place, where Rose and Gypsy happen to be in the right place at the right time to perform in the House of Burlesque, where Gypsy is created. This tale of triumph, difficult beginnings and relationships hits every nerve and every feeling.
The staging itself was beautiful and very clever. Scenes appeared and disappeared with a never ending back stage, floating into the shadows and were simple yet effective in illustrating the different areas. No expense has been spared on these ever changing scenes which are rarely used twice, to bring the sense of the character’s constant travelling. Lighting beautifully enhanced specific characters and areas, drawing your eye to the correct moment and to the specific details of the performance. Costumes were also relatable to the times and enhanced each character’s personality correctly. The end costumes of Gypsy, are astounding and lavish – what every vintage loving girl dreams of wearing (including myself!).
Of course, a review could not be written without mentioning Ms Staunton herself. And where could I start? Well known in the acting world, some may have seen her in the likes of Vera Drake and the more contemporary, Harry Potter- it is well known what a fantastic actress she is and the passion and creative skill she has for her characters and projects. However, to see her as Rose, the mother in Gypsy, is something different. Something spell bounding. To quote a patron I heard on the night:
‘I knew she could act but… I didn’t know she could do that! THAT was … something else!’.
Staunton has what myself was unknown of, and that is an incredible voice! Singing every song sent shivers down your spine; her final song, ‘Rose’s Turn’ raised every goose bump and every hair.
Laura Pulver, as Gypsy also brought an amazing depth to the show. Perhaps easy to be in the shadow of Staunton, she makes Gypsy her own and stands out in her own right. Known for shows such as Sherlock and Robin Hood, Pulver brings a completely difference essence to the stage than what you see on television. Her dramatic change from mousey Louise, slowly to sultry Gypsy Rose Lee is fantastic in her change of personality, look, body language and even change in her voice. She shows, simplistically but in a very talented way the growth in age and maturity of the character, so convincingly that it is hard to forget this truth when you feel as if you are growing with her.
If you do anything with yourself till November, make a date with Gypsy. The musical will take you under her spell as Gypsy Rose Lee was known well to do herself.
Palace Theatre, London
The intimate and ornate setting of the Palace Theatre in itself was a great experience. Picking seats close to the action, I felt it was a perfect place for The Commitments. A story about a group of working class North side Dubliners trying to hit the big time with a make shift band – my seats allowing me to look up in awe at the action.
Set in the 80’s, even the relatively young in the audience would be able to relate to the stereotypical costuming with large mullet-ed hair and velvet ruffles in abundance. To complement this, the songs that are either in full performance or even snippets of are well-known and repeated by the audience – a real concert style atmosphere begins.
As a regular visitor to Dublin with close Irish friends, many of the references to the ‘North Side’ and the prominence of U2 during this era with the dislike of this fact, tickled a funny bone. I wondered if all of those who had come into this performance would have understood the gags and puns as well as others.
The actors themselves were very inspiring. With Dublin accents and enlisting the same amount of professionalism as one would expect from a continuous running show. Despite this, the performance seemed new and fresh; not expectant of a performance which would have been shown a mere hours before. General movements and speech in the background, interaction with one another and the set was constant and almost naturalistic in such an exaggeration of comedy; showing the subtle skills that these actors are capable of. Such a talented group of performers – not only do their acting abilities rival many of this genre in the West End, but their singing and musical abilities are also top-notch, giving something very special and unique to this show.
Ending on a high is an understatement. The Palace Theatre was turned into a concert, leaving you forgetting that this is a written play; with little bits of improvisation, along with a borderline of acting versus personality of the actors themselves; This production was wonderful to see as it showed the joy and excitement that the performers themselves have with this production. The standing sing along, clapping and dancing of the audience looking onto this pretence band was a strange but also an endearing ending to a West End musical and brought a great sense of the Irish community to London.
Photograph credit R Davenport.
Bianco’, performed by ‘No Fit State Circus’ was the last show I went to see at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. I left the circus tent shaking in awe. When a performance has given you a lump in your throat that makes it hard to even cheer or clap, you know they have done well. Every section beautifully designed that was enhanced by the power of the live band.
There were no individual stars but an ensemble of talented performers, each bringing their own expertise to the stage. Even though this was a stereotypical contemporary circus show, they brought so much emotion to the way they performed that it stood out from any other circus acts. The music and the lyrics especially helped create this emotion and made mini-narratives for each section. There were moments in this show where I felt I’d left reality behind and stepped into a dream. It was aesthetically pleasing in every sense that I couldn’t believe it was happening before me. I never wanted it end. What was more interesting is that I felt like I was part of the production myself. The constant change of positions to re-arrange the performance space made it become even more immersive. Sometimes it took away from the essence of fantasy, yet it was necessary.
It was evident that every aspect of the show was well thought out and infused with professionalism. Every person so physically fit it was inspiring to watch. Overall ‘No Fit State Circus’ is heightened with pure talent, innovative imagery and a set to be admired at. Step into this tent and leave reality behind.
21/06/2014 – 22/03/2014
In this glorious sunshine, I went up to Llandeilo to the Dinefwr Literature Festival. Well renowned for this yearly display of culture and my lack of festival experience, I was very eager to attend.
The festival is known for its promotion of literature from novels, to poetry, musical displays, workshops, comedy and much much more.
Food stalls were provided from local vendors that made delicious smells across the area with the use of local produce. Little shops including bookshops, tokens from the weekend and a Dylan Thomas styled book van also was a nice addition and admittedly, much of my money went on these, coming away with much reading to get started on! Between this, it was great to meet the sales persons; at times were writers themselves giving inspiration, for example a lady who felt that a poetry book wasn’t for her so made pockets of her collections and hand made them with a sewing machine and a printing kit. Myself as one who isn’t necessarily conventional, felt that this initiative was very appealing.
The variety of mediums gave a great choice throughout the weekend. The ability to also drop into these and drop out when needed gave great flexibility to the weekend. However, the programme itself didn’t give a great indication at times to how long these sessions would last and with so much going on, there were times when I missed events that I wanted to see as I was so interested in the one before that crossed over.
Workshops were also few and far between. Many seemed to only appeal to the same persons to which I lacked interest in. I didn’t manage to attend any of which I am sure they were interesting none the less, but there seemed a similarity to who they wished to appeal to and that wasn’t enough to evoke my personal interest. If more diversity in these workshops and a great deal more workshops overall were offered then I would have attended these.
Lectures and talks also seemed to follow a similar pattern. While, very interesting none the less, such as a combined talk with two novelists on their new books that looked at characters with mental health issues was very interesting, and gave a great insight to anyone at times of stress of need to talk to someone, showing that writing is an excellent medium to express this, the pattern of talking about the books, and for us the audience to watch and listen, waiting for question and answers which were limited in time, felt very routine and almost like a conference, not a festival.
Interjections of music and comedy, however, did give a little break from this. Hilarious feminist comedian Bridget Christie gave a session of work in progress, giving an insight to how comedians write material, giving a good way of audience interaction and us feeling more a part of the event. Adrian Edmondson and the Bad Shepherds ended the Saturday on a high with fantastic covers of well known songs, but with a folksy twist definitely evoking the festival goers inside everyone.
Dylan Thomas’s boat house also made an appearance, with the encouragement for poetry writing from the festival goers. Myself and my friend had a go at this, and my piece on the ‘Voyeuristic Cow’ inspired my younger self inside who used to love and write poetry to now continue this again.
The festival provided a range for all ages, S4C also made appearances for the children and comedians gave risky performances for the adults. As a festival, it was fantastic and completely revitalised my creativity in literature aspects but I wonder, with all the eagerness of participants, more could be gotten out of the weekend if extended so not to go away feeling regret at missing other possible inspiring and interesting activities.
We have had requests for the lyrics from Ruffstylz TCWA2014 Rap so please find it in all its glory below!
For the second year it is with the greatest support
The Theatre Critics Of Wales Awards
Welcome to a world of world/Many rabbitholes
That show what we have at home stands its own to match the globe
These Living Pictures we live in when we visit ’em are limitless
A visionary link to our religion
As we hand shape our urges ’cause Praxis Makes Perfect
Let’ celebrate the landmarks on the landscape we’ve furnished
Classic opera filled the stage/So did ballet
We can even innovate in No Fit State
It’s a Sherman tank that whirrs and cranks with steel traction
And drives off the middle of the road to find real passion
So our Waking Exploits/Stimulating like sex toys
Activating the bed’s noise/Making the legs moist
For ugly matters we sing a Bloody Ballad
But if you want some lovely action in a cuddly fashion
Here Be Monsters Sleeping Beauties and Silly Kings
Colourful fun like silly string as we stay addicted to delivering
New types of life’s depth yn Gymraeg neu Saesneg
Theatr Genedlaethol/Clwyd/Tonypandy-monium/A nice spread
The next Chapter in our Art’s Centred around you
And you and you and you too with you too
Gather up actors dancers emcees and others too
And use the country as a stage like NTW
So let the Earthfall and planets shift out of balance
Manipulating thoughts into matter/Talent
Being part of the never ending quest for true art
‘Cause it’s like being shot in the chest with a new heart
That’s why we push to make things we’ve never seen ever in our lives
Then equal it eleven times along Parallel Lines
Now we’re all filled up with petrol and ready for the next road
But for now let’s be amazed at our achievements/Let’s go
HOLLYWOOD RHYMING OUT NOW
2x Longest Freestyle Rap world record holder (17 hours)
The Zeitgeist Movement (Cardiff Chapter)
Facebook – Zeitgeist Cardiff www.facebook.com/home.php?sk=group_104282302969121
Please note the credit for Winner of Best Music and Sound TCWA2014 should read;
Best Music and Sound
‘ The Bloody Ballad- Lucy Rivers’
‘ The Bloody Ballad- Dan Lawrence and the Bloody Ballad Company’