Category Archives: Musical

Review Lovecraft (Not the sex shop in Cardiff) Carys Eleri by Lois Arcari

I usually like my comedy in darker shades, but if you’re looking for an irreverent comedy that’s packed with positivity and threaded with catchy musical numbers, Lovecraft (not the sex shop in Cardiff) is the perfect night out.

It all hinges on the winning charisma of Carys Eleri – a woman who wins over the audience even before the first word of her show. Introducing everyone with a genuinely warm hug, not even a cynic could be against this show as they wait for it to start. Her spoken comedy is brassy and fizzy. While there are only a few standout jokes once you leave the theatre – never to look at A&E Glangwilly the same again – her general aura of energy and enthusiasm sticks with you.

It truly is ‘something for everyone’ comedy. Using hugs and chocolate, plus general affability, Carys had the audience in the palm of her hand the whole way through. Even better, her broad range of jokes from shitty exes to loneliness and online dating meant everyone could relate to something. My personal favorite came when she described her alternative and decent ex. How he stood out in Camarthen, which ‘breeds rugby players like rabbits.’ He was:

‘‘absolutely not a rugby player. He wore eyeliner!’

I’ll always relate to that one!

Her musical numbers show a panache for parody and wordplay. While a few in the first act seemed a bit repetitive, they find their feet as more genre variation comes in. Carys luckily also gets the chance to show off her genuinely fantastic voice as the numbers progress. ‘I Brain you,’ ‘Magic Taxi’ and ‘Rat Park’ get points for the perfect balance of witty and catchy. The animation that accompanied them was basic but effective and had a few moments of great visual humour – like the unicorn’s cigarette horn.

If you’re missing Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and wish that Rachel Bloom would have swapped some Hollywood malarkey for Valleys realism, this show is for you. There are a few humourless gripes to be had – the basic science, the repetition of some musical numbers – but Carys Eleri pulls off her one woman show with charisma and bellyaching comedy.

My one big gripe was with the central conceit. This was that the neuroscience of love can be replicated with friendship and community.

While it is in itself a positive message, and it’s humbling to know such an extroverted figure as Carys experienced loneliness, it is somewhat accidentally incomplete. In the valleys or anywhere poor and hard to get to, social isolation has been the catalyst for many a horrible relationship. While her takeaway is a great message for people with good friends to stop worrying about romance, many people only do because those friends can be so hard to find.

Still, even when your physical community is desolate or disappointing, millions find community through art. And a happy, slightly tipsy, and adoring community watched Lovecraft (not the sex shop in Cardiff) that night.

Review tic toc, Parama 2 by Helen Joy

Reminiscence is a tricky thing. It can border on the nostalgic if you’re not careful.


Those factory workers faced a lot of tough times and made a lot of tough decisions. But they laughed a lot too. They made life long friends. They forced some change. They probably sang a fair bit along the way as well.


I like a sing song, I’m very fond of a musical and I like a good story. I like characters I recognise and a history I know just enough about to give that story ballast.


Clearly, I am not alone. A whole audience agrees with me for sure. What a glorious romp! Parama 2 gives us an all singing, all dancing romp of a performance with every body on that stage playing to her natural strengths effortlessly and with joy.


Such witty pithy solos and duets with heart, a heart ripping trio trips us towards the end of an excellent saga.


I love it. I am watching everyone around me, sitting around candle lit, cloth covered club tables laughing, listening and sad for times past and people too. Touched by the factory workers, wondering how much has really changed and what this future holds. No woman is an island.


I am sitting with Olwen’s daughter, ‘that’s my mum, the one in the silly skirt’ and when she sings her ballad, we are both a little moved, a little teary.

It would be impossible to single any one actor out for particular accolade – each song matched their style, each scene matched their character, each laugh and each sigh was earned.


Please join this troupe, this band of friends, at their reunion and prepare to tap your toes and reminisce and glimpse behind the aprons of our past.

Seen: Friday, 1st November at Chapter Arts

Review Heaven on their minds, Calvary Baptist Church By Rhys Payne

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

This is the best concert-style show that I have ever seen in my entire life! This was an incredible show vocally but on top of this everything about the show was well throughout and planned. Ben Smith who organised this event had a very clear idea for the type of show he wanted and was able to execute this perfectly.

This show ran inside Calvary Baptist Church which firstly provided a beautiful backdrop for each singer. Secondly the whole premise of this concert was songs that had a connection to religion whether this was through lyrics or songs from musicals that have religious connections (eg Joseph, Godspell, Jesus Christ Superstar etc.) having a concept that ties together the whole show just makes for a consistent, easy-to-watch show that the audience can follow in a logical way. Ben had come up with a very clever theme for the that allowed a wide selection of songs to be sung as well as being relevant to the venue itself which is incredibly clever.

The name itself together tied the two ideas of ‘church’ and musical theatre as ‘Heaven on Their Mind’ is a song from the faith-based musical Jesus Christ Superstar which is again the entire concept of the show. I can’t express how impressed I am with Ben and the other organisers who managed to come up with this incredible branding and theme of the night as it is tremendously clever so they should be proud of this. Despite the importance of musical theatre in this night, it was made explicitly clear that this is not a musical theatre night. The show had a mixture of songs from popular shows that everyone would know to shows even the most theatre crazed people would struggle to name. Some people there would know all the musicals the songs are from as some would know none and so it was not a celebration of musical theatre rather the overall concept of the show being executed. Even those you had never heard of a musical would be able to enjoy the songs which made the show more accessible to a greater range of people.


The standard in this show was already incredibly high set from the opening number from Godspell and it seemed to just increase constantly as the show progressed. In a non-competitive way, each performer appeared to listen to the previous song and then try and top it which helped to keep the audience engaged. Every person was amazing and managed to play perfectly to their strength and so the person who chose the songs should be proud they were able to fit the songs to every singer so perfectly. This was like a west-end level show for the price of a local show, actually, this show was higher quality than many of the west-end professional shows I have seen. The talent was only aspirated as the focus was solely on the performer and their vocals. This show had no dancing, no props, no fancy lights and no MC instead the focus was just on the singers and so each person was able to fully showcase their ability and amazing talent. Even from a non-performance aspect, each individual was dressed in their smartest attire which helped elevate the event and made the audience feel as if they are witnessing an exclusive and high-calibre event (which they were.) I am not sure if this a part of a stated ‘uniform’ as such but if so, then this worked as it should have and gave the right effect to this effect while still making it visually accessible to everyone.


Ben-Joseph Smith, who is a recent graduate from the Welsh academy of music and drama, sang the opening solo of this show which was a beautiful city from the musical Godspell. This song was sung beautifully and he managed to blend the softness and intensity of the song in the most perfect way. Later on, we had a section from Les Mis where Ben sang a very intense version of Stars which again sounded incredible.


Simon Jennings, who is a pastor and worship leader based in Eden Church Penarth also graced the stage with his operatic and powerful voice. His Rendition of Close every door to me from Joseph and his amazing technicolour dream coat was incredibly moving and in fact, I was in tears by the end of it. Being able to create such strong feeling from this song is an incredible act and only goes to show Simon’s talent and ability. Simon also was involved in the Les Mis section were he sung Bring him Home which is perfectly in his skill set. His powerful voice worked perfectly within this song and he was able to easily achieve the range of this song. He also covered a song I didn’t know about titled ‘why God why’ from Miss Saigon which is a song that I now have to listen to more as it is so moving and relevant in today’s society.


The biggest highlight for me was the rendition of Gethsemane from Jesus Christ Superstar which was sung by Ashley. Ashley is known for recently playing Jesus Christ in Everyman Cardiff’s open-air festival which is regrettably missed this year. To cover such an iconic and difficult song is a very big task but Ashley seemed to not even flinch at this mammoth song. I have listened to a wide range of people covering this song from local people singing a somewhat shaky version to Ben Forester in the arena tour to John Legend in the most recent adaptation but this cover was the best I had even heard. He blew spots off even the most established and professional performers who had taken on this role and he received a standing ovation from the crowd which is even more astonishing as it was the end of act one. Ashley visibly poured everything into this performance which led to an out of this world cover. This song on its own was worth more than the price of admission and now I am devastated that I missed JCS over the summer.

The opening group number from Godspell was a little shaky as people did look visibly uncertain about entrances and parts etc but it was so bad that it affected the show. In my personal opinion, the solos in this show we’re better than those in groups or duets etc as it allowed each person to fully showcase their skills and so possibly next time this should be the focus. Also, there were a few tedious links within this show to tie the theme of the show and the actual songs sang such as certain songs from Les Mis as it contains the words ‘God’ in them but this is a tiny issue that can be sanded out possibly in the next show.

Overall this is a phenomenal concert that demonstrated the skills and talents of each performer which led to a fantastic evening of performances. In all honesty, I would probably prefer to return to this event over many of the professional shows I have seen. The show itself was well thought out and constructed which was the ‘icing’ on the already ‘incredible cake’ which helped with constancy from the audience. If this show returns with a similar cast I would strongly recommend you buy a ticket as it an evening of West-end quality singing for a fraction of the price. I would rate this show 5 out of 5 stars and would give it 6 out of 5 stars if this was possible.

Review, Eye of the Storm, Theatr na nÓg at Pontio Arts Centre by Gareth Williams

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

My love affair with theatre began a few years ago with Under Milk Wood. Theatr Clwyd’s production of Dylan Thomas’ most famous work was a revelation, a conversion experience that has led me to take a seat for many a show since. Over the last year or so, such journeys have become less frequent. Life has a habit of evolving with time, and I think I lost a sense of what made theatre so special for me in the first place. Two plays have recently rekindled the fire within me. I do not think it a coincidence that both happen to be made and based in Wales. Along with Emily White’s Pavilion, Theatr na nÓg’s Eye of the Storm reflects the nation in which I live; the nation from which I claim part of my identity. I wonder whether a lack of representation has been a factor in my dulled appreciation of theatre. If so, these two plays have supercharged my passion for the medium back to life.

Set in a small town, post-mining community, Eye of the Storm draws numerous parallels with Pavilion. This includes a focus on young people and the theme of aspiration. Writer and director Geinor Styles chooses to tackle the challenges faced by this demographic through an excellent supporting cast that circle around the main lead, played by Rosey Cale. Cale gives a strong and quietly emotive performance as Emmie Price, an intelligent and practical teenager whose ambition to study tornadoes at an American University is severely tested by the circumstances of her present reality. Living in a caravan with her mum, who has bipolar disorder, Emmie must juggle her role as a young carer with the demands of school and household chores, along with negotiating the rent and constant electricity problems with inept park manager Mr Church (Keiron Bailey). It is a wonder that she has the time, let alone the inclination, to dream big. Yet Styles has created a dogged and determined young woman whose empowering presence makes her the perfect role model for those facing adversity. She represents what can be achieved if you pursue your dreams in spite of your present situation.

Geinor Styles

Eye of the Storm is an uplifting narrative that does not shy away from the difficulties of life but adds splices of humour throughout. The poise and astuteness of Emmie is beautifully contrasted with the lovesick innocence of Lloyd, the cartoonish physicality of Dan Miles making for a truly affectionate character. Along with Keiron Bailey, who is fantastically hilarious as class clown Chris, Miles ensures that laughter is never far away in this production. For all that it deals with bigger issues such as climate change and the effects of austerity, like Pavilion, the real joy of Eye of the Storm is in its shrewd observance of ordinary life. The characters on stage are recognisable, relatable; all the more so to a predominantly Welsh audience who see and hear something of themselves reflected, including in the witticisms and references that season the script with a particularly Welsh flavour.

The script is bolstered by an original soundtrack created by prolific songwriter Amy Wadge. Most recently known for her work on Keeping Faith, here the ethereal, soulful sounds that accompanied Eve Myles and co are nowhere to be found. Instead, country music provides the backdrop to the action on stage. And it complements the narrative really well, offering extra pathos to the character arc of Emmie in particular. ‘Emmie Don’t Say’ is my personal favourite track, not least because Cale and Caitlin McKee (Karen) duet with such gorgeous harmonies, creating a poignant and tear-inducing moment that also represents a neat summary of the character of Emmie. It is a song that will stay with me for some time to come.

Awarded ‘Best Show for Children and Young People’ at the Wales Theatre Awards, such an accolade could lead to some confusion over its target demographic. Indeed, if my motivation to see Eye of the Storm had not come off the back of meeting Rosey Cale in her other guise as an independent singer-songwriter, it is highly likely I would have overlooked it entirely, considering I’m now approaching thirty. It is certainly a show suitable for children and young people but do not mistake Eye of the Storm as a show written exclusively for this age group. It can be enjoyed and appreciated by everyone from 8-98. Indeed, overhearing the feedback as the audience filtered out at the end, it was overwhelmingly positive, from old and young alike. Coming off the back of Pavilion, it certainly made its mark on me. It reignited that spark which I had lost somewhere along the way, returned through seeing something of my own life reflected on stage. Eye of the Storm has been, for me, a reminder of the importance of representation on stage.

Click here for show dates and tickets.

gareth

REVIEW Curtains (UK Tour), New Theatre by Barbara Hughes-Moore

From the creators of Chicago and Cabaret, Curtains marks John Kander and Fred Ebb’s third musical with a one-word title that starts with the letter ‘C’ – and also the third jewel in a storied career that has graced us with some of the best musical theatre in history. Curtains features a starry, multi-talented cast, an enthralling mystery and simply some of the best theatre I have had the pleasure of watching in quite some time.

Originating in the US with David Hyde Pierce in the lead, this version is directed by Paul Foster, and written by Rupert Holmes, based on the original concept/book by Peter Stone. Drawing on the fourth wall-breaking, metatextual mischief of Kiss Me, Kate and The Producers, Curtains is set in late 1950s Boston and centres on the beleaguered cast and crew of the Broadway-bound Robbin’ Hood of the Old West (basically Robin Hood meets Oklahoma, a hilariously bizarre mix). When their lustre-lacking leading lady is murdered onstage on opening night, it’s up to detective Frank Cioffi (Jason Manford) to root out the true culprit – that is, if he’s not too busy turning his dreams of theatrical stardom into a reality.

Curtains The Musical ©The Other Richard

Though the mystery keeps you guessing right up until the end, it’s a show that’s more ‘musical’ than ‘whodunnit’, but that’s no bad thing when you have an ensemble as tremendously gifted as this one. The sheer power of the assembled cast is on full display in thrilling numbers like the captivatingly extravagant ‘In the Same Boat’, the chillingly operatic ‘The Woman’s Dead’, and the hilariously effervescent ‘He/She/They Did It’ (in which the company’s collective paranoia imagines each character to be the culprit in turn). Every single person is a triple threat and a triple delight, whether it’s gloriously hamming up their pleas of innocence or pizzazz-ing the hell out of a showstopping number. But it’s Jason Manford’s leading performance that anchors the show, and further proves his West End mettle after lauded turns in Guys and Dolls, The Producers and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

‘It’s curtains for you, pal!’ is something that Cioffi might be used to saying in his day job, but it also hints at his secret desire to become one of the ‘Show People’ who appear to be the prime suspects. His wish to waive the workaday in exchange for a life in the arts might remind you of one Leopold Bloom (a role Manford has played in the past) – but he’s far from The Producers’ mousy neurotic. Manford brings a Jimmy Stewart-esque everyman quality to this role and continues to impress as an all-round performer, with his characteristic comic timing, killer vocals and some terrific moves – even though the cast also boasts Strictly Come Dancing champ Ore Oduba, it’s Manford who gets the showpiece dance sequence!

Curtains The Musical ©The Other Richard

As songwriter Aaron Fox, Oduba is a revelation here, imbuing his character with classic elegance and Clark Gable charm. We already knew from his 2014 Strictly win that he could dance, but I was surprised and delighted to find out how wonderfully he could sing too! It’s a shame that (other than as part of the chorus line) he doesn’t get a showcase dance scene – but he melds excellently with the ensemble, and his songs (including the melancholy ‘I Miss the Music’) are some of the loveliest in the show. His chemistry with Carley Stenson’s Georgia Hendricks (Fox’s songwriting partner/wife) is fantastic, and Stenson is superb in the role – having already earned her West End stripes in a multitude of hits including Legally Blonde, Les Miserables, Shrek and Spamalot, Stenson rocks some of the show’s most exciting numbers, especially act one closer ‘Thataway!’

If that’s not already enough, there are also masterful turns by the brilliant Leah Barbara West as rising ingénue Niki Harris (who, on the strength of this performance, is surely destined for the role of Christine Daaé in the not-too-distant future), and Samuel Holmes as hilariously haughty director Christopher Belling, who lays claim to some of the finest sarcasm this side of Dr Perry Cox. But it’s Rebecca Lock as Carmen Bernstein, the delectably brusque producer of Robbin’ Hood, who truly steals the show every time she’s onstage. Lock is a powerhouse in the role, breathtakingly charismatic and possessing the timeless quality and sheer presence of theatre greats like Dolores Gray and Ethel Merman, especially in her magnificent solo number ‘It’s a Business’.

Curtains The Musical ©The Other Richard

This whole production is a creative marvel, gorgeously crafted from top to bottom. David Woodhead’s lavish sets are a spectacle in themselves, none more breath-taking than a striking evocation of the theatre rafters that you simply have to experience for yourself. The vibrant orchestra is incredible; a beautiful reminder that there is nothing quite like live music. Gabriella Slade’s costumes are utterly magnificent (the sheer amount of material in the ‘Kansasland’ dresses deserves an award – the way they move!), and Alistair David’s thrilling, innovative choreography evokes the joyous, pin-point precision of classic movie musicals – Frank/Niki’s love duet (‘A Tough Act to Follow’) on the stairs is pure Singin’ in the Rain, and the ‘Kansasland’ sequence is Seven Brides for Seven Brothers perfection; I, personally, can give no higher praise. It hasn’t aged well in some aspects – there’s a dance/song sequence featuring a Native American character that feels inappropriate (especially as she is portrayed by a white actress), and Bambi (Emma Caffrey) is kind of over-sexualised for laughs, so the script could do with a little updating in those respects.

It’s rare to see such a thoroughly brilliant and beautifully devised show of this calibre outside of Broadway or the West End, but Curtains ticks all the boxes. It’s a self-aware love letter to musical theatre that ribs the genre for its tropes and celebrates it for its virtues. Ultimately, the show isn’t interested in what the critics think – it views them in much the same way as M. Night Shyamalan circa Lady in the Water, but when they’re as deliciously snobby as resident killjoy Daryl Grady (Adam Rhys-Charles), who can blame them? – because what it truly cares about is entertaining its audience. With a classic feel and a show-stopping quality in every scene and song, it’s clear the curtain won’t be dropping on this superlative production for a very long time indeed.

Curtains is playing at the New Theatre, Cardiff this week before storming its way through the UK through next year. A genuinely unmissable treat.

Review And she, Bonnie and The Bonnettes by eva marloes

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

The perfect antidote to autumn blues, And She is a fun and moving exploration of our relationship with our mothers. It is a play, a musical, and comedy gig. Dressed in bright orange costumes, the talented trio Hattie Eason, Rebecca Glendenning and Cameron Sharp, re-enact the conversations they had and have with their mothers. They do so by intersecting dialogues, monologues, and pieces of life.  

The audience eavesdrops on the trio’s conversations with their mothers, their memories, their misunderstandings and excuses, and their drunken singing. And She strikes the right balance of comedy and drama. The mothers have gone through bad marriages, breast cancer, alienation and reconciliation with their child, have given up work to look after their children and care for grandma, and have dared wear sexy lingerie with a curvy body on stage. These mothers are great and ordinary. And She is distilled everyday life.  

The show is sophisticated without pretension; yet it is let down by songs that never really take off. The move from comedy to drama could be helped by a change in colours in terms of costumes and lights. This would help accentuate the more emotional parts. Bonnie and The Bonnettes celebrate their mothers in style and remind us that family relationships cannot and shouldn’t be taken for granted. Off to call mum.

A family trip to see Annie at the WMC with Tempo Time Credits by Rhian Gregory

On my Facebook newsfeed , a post from Tempo Time Credits page caught my eye. It was offering tickets to see Annie, in exchange for Time Credits.

When musical theatre offers come up with Time Credits they usually sell out super fast.

We were in the car on our way to Bristol Zoo to celebrate my partner and our son’s birthday. I thought let’s try see if I can get any! It took about 40 minutes to get through on the phone, my hopes were slowly fading. They offered 3 different days, I could only do the Bank Holiday Monday evening as my partner was working the other days. I got 3 tickets including a wheelchair space, carer ticket through the HYNT scheme and another seat. This cost me 4 time credits. (2 Time Credits per ticket, but with the HYNT scheme the carer is free).

I wasn’t sure at first who would go, myself my mum and dad (it was my dad’s birthday that day too), or myself and oldest two children. I firstly offered them to my parents. I felt they deserved a treat, and that it was my dads birthday. Cody had been to see Madagascar the musical earlier in the month, and Cerys went to see The Little Mermaid with her nan and cousin. They kindly declined and wanted Cody and Cerys to have them to enjoy.

Sunny warm Bank Holiday Monday came. May I emphasise sunny and warm, as most bank holidays are cold, windy and wet in Wales.

It was a super busy day for us all. Cerys attended her extra gymnastics session in the morning. They were celebrating their one year anniversary being open.

Chris’ sister managed to get us tickets for the Chepstow Racecourse Family Fun Day, so we went along and met up together.

From here we called in to see my dad and sang happy birthday. I would have liked longer there, was a very short visit.

Then off we went to the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff Bay. My partner Chris dropped us off and looked after our youngest, while Cody, Cerys and I went to watch Annie.

If you are visiting the Wales Millennium Centre, or Cardiff Bay in general, there are a few places you can park. A blue badge holder can pay to park backstage, on site at the Millennium Centre. Or anyone can pay to park at the Red Dragon Centre close by. If you spend money (over £5 I believe) in any of the places at the red dragon centre, parking is free.

There is a multi storey car park close by too. I’m unsure of the prices I’ve never used it. Very slightly further away, a lovely little walk taking in some of the sites, is the Mermaid Quay 2 floor car park, and a pay and display car park near the St David’s Hotel and Spa.

My son likes to use the toilets and go straight up to our seats, even if the doors haven’t been opened to go in yet. We were outside the theatre doors an hour early, first in line! Then he asks every 2 minutes what the time is and how long is it until the open the doors and how many minutes for the show to start. I believe this is part of him, his additional needs. Still no diagnoses for him. (I know a lot of children do ask what time is it and how long etc many times, but this for Cody is different. He appears to get overly anxious, and become more unsettled if the time isn’t told and seen. I was probably asked over 20 times at least.) Cody decided he wanted to wear ear protection headphones out this evening, for the journey here and for the performance. He doesn’t always use them, only occasionally when he feels he needs to. I noticed he was tapping on the wooden side of the balcony and rubbing his hands against it to make a squeaky sound.

I felt like including this in my blog post today, because my eldest does have additional needs and requires that extra support. I’ve mentioned it a little before in my blog, in the post called ‘is it the A word?’ These behaviours stood out to me during our evening. and I mindfully notice this more and more.

We hadn’t had tea, so we were snacking on buffet style foods while waiting, mini sausages, savoury eggs and strawberry lace. What a selection!

A little bell sounded, half an hour before the start time of 7.30. Cody jumped up and down, shouting mum it’s time, get your tickets out. He ran after the usher going to open the doors. I haven’t really mentioned Cerys in this. But she was with me too. She’s quieter and more mellow. Cerys was taking it in, asking about Annie, saying she had seen the modern film version and clips of the older Annie musical film. Standing by my side, walking nicely as we go in.

A bit of background about the Broadway Annie the Musical. It was put together by a player writer named Thomas Meehan who wrote the book, music Charles Strouse and lyrics Martin Charnin. It was originally based on a comic strip called Little Orphan Annie created by Harold Gray.

Annie the musical is about a little orphan girl called Annie, who lives in Miss Hannigan children’s home. A billionaire (Mr Warbucks) invites an orphan (Annie) to come stay with him for Christmas, his love grows for Annie as a daughter and he wants to adopt her. Annie clings on to hope of finding her real parents and Mr Warbucks tries to help her. Miss Hannigan makes a plan with her brother and his girlfriend, to pretend to be her parents in order to get the money reward. They are caught out and arrested. Annie finds out her real parents are no longer alive, and Mr Warbucks adopts her.

I’m always quite contented and happy with the wheelchair space at the WMC (Wales Millennium Centre). We have always had seats in the front on the middle stalls. It gives a good view and plenty of leg space, apart from when the ice cream and merchandise cart comes around, which is very close, and lots of people nearly pile on top of you, but I can put up with that for a few minutes. I’m usually in a good mood at this stage, with being blown away with how good the first half of the show has been.

That certainly was the case with Annie. The start of the musical began in the dorm of the children’s home, the orphaned girls in their bed waking up to Molly having a bad dream and singing the first song “Maybe” followed by Miss Hannigan first entrance and then the song “It’s the Hard Knock Life”.

I was impressed by the talent of the children straight away. I wasn’t sure what to make of Miss Hannigan at this point but in a later scene with her brother and his girlfriend, their trio performance was fantastic. How they interacted on stage with their superb singing and choreographed dancing in the song “Easy Street” and “Easy Street reprise”, absolutely brilliant! They seemed to just click perfectly!

Another of my favourite moments of the musical was “I Think I’m Going to Like it Here” and “N.Y.C”. It reminded me of that ‘classic’ musical feel I get from the older musicals with the likes of Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra. The variety of different types of dance including tap was wonderful to see.

My little girl said to me, before the end of the first act, can we come back and see it again mum, I really like it.

Annie, is a vibrant family musical with catchy tunes and a talented mixed cast of children and adults.

The Time Credit opportunity to pay for tickets, gave us this chance to experience and thoroughly enjoy it.

When we came out of the main auditorium, and back down into the main foyer, the Luke Jerram artwork called Gaia, planet Earth looked spectacular. It’s there from July 30th – September 1st.

When we previously saw it during another visit in day time, my children laid down underneath mesmerised by it.

Annie plays at the Wales Millenium Centre until the 31st of August.

Review of Les Misérables – the concert @ Gielgud Theatre london by Patrck Downes

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Based on Victor Hugo’s door-stopper of a novel, it follows one man’s story of survival in the face of persecution amidst social and political upheavals in 19th Century Paris.

The original London show, a collaboration between the Royal Shakespeare Company and Cameron Mackintosh, opened at the Barbican on 8 October 1985. It then moved to the Palace Theatre, when in 2004, moved to it’s current home of the Queen’s Theatre. The Queen’s is currently being refurbished, and whilst this happens, Les Mis has moved next door to the Giegud as a concert version.

Starring some of the biggest names to have graced Les Mis, this version strips back from the acting and provides some of the most powerful versions of the most famous songs in musical theatre.

From the very first bar to the last encore, Les Mis the concert does not fail to entertain, and to take you on an emotional journey a normal musical would find it difficult to achieve.

With Alfie Boe as Jean Valjean, and Michael Ball as Javert, leave no doubt in anyone’s mind that this is a star-studded cast that have the “miz” running through their veins. Add into the mix Carrie Hope Fletcher as Fantine (who’s previously played young Éponine and older Éponine), and Matt Lucas – probably known best for comedy with Little Britain and in Dr Who) – you have one of the finest casts to hit London’s West End in many a year.

With a musical concert, the main staging is different, and the orchestra becomes the backdrop. This also helps I feel bring a different level of emotion to the soundtrack. You feel you’re completely immersed in the sound. That together with the lighting brings this production to a different level to a normal musical.

Stand out moments for me include Carrie’s “I dreamed a dream”. You could feel she knows the character inside out so knew how to being the emotion from within the lyrics. Also, Alfie Boe’s “Bring him home”. I would say it’s one the most amazing performances I’ve seen, if I could say I saw it, as I spent pretty much the entire last 2/3 of the song with tears running down my face (damn Hay Fever).

I will admit to being not the biggest Michael Ball fan. Having seen him previously in Hairspray, wasn’t really expecting much (sorry Michael), but was pleasantly surprised. Having previously played Marius in the original production in 1985, becoming Javert certainly made me appreciate how good Michael is.

Favourite Matt Lucas moment happens when Jean Valjean comes to take Cossette from the Thénardier’s. If you know the plot, then you’d know where the songs fit and their meaning. If you weren’t a massive fan, then Matt Lucas questioning who Jean was and what’s he doing there may have just confused you a little. That aside, Matt Lucas is one of musical theatre’s hidden gems!

Your opportunity to see this amazing show is quite limited (end of November 2019), and I’m hoping there’ll be a filmed version released so more people can witness how brilliant this show is.

I went into the Gielgud Theatre as someone who’d seen the musical few years back and quite liked it. I came out as a massive fanboy. The cast, the staging, the sound – all amazing!

✶ ✶ ✶ ✶ ✶

Review by Patrick Downes

Review: Tokyo Rose, Burnt Lemon Theatre, Edinburgh Fringe Festival By Hannah Goslin

2 out of 5 stars (2 / 5)

A wonderful way of bringing more unknown stories to light is through theatre. Burnt Lemon Theatre have done this with the story of Tokyo Rose.

An American woman, of Japanese heritage finds herself under the fire for treason in a case of mistaken identity, tricks and conspiracies. Burnt Lemon Theatre, through musical storytelling, bring us the story of this woman, from early life to the trial.

Not the biggest of musical fans, I have in the past be pleasantly surprised and converted. Unfortunately, Tokyo Rose does not do this for me. With musicals, some involve moments of script to break up the music, and some are back to back songs. With Tokyo Rose, this is more of the latter and it feels a little as if we need a break to take in the information. It feels quite full on.

What cannot be argued in how much the performers put into their series of characters, the choreography and singing itself. It is pristine, well formulated and executed with 110%. There are times that the singing is slightly off – throwing in quite often what I would call a ‘Mariah Carey’ flare; this over the top harmony that does not quite hit the right notes and could really be done without.

Unfortunately, Tokyo Rose was just not my cup of tea. Bringing such an important and not well known story to the forefront in this way is entirely commendable, and the performers are obviously very talented and bringing their all to the production. I really wanted to like it more – an all-female production bringing the injustice of a woman in the 1930’s/40s in a story missed slightly by time – it just missed the mark and did not seem to gel well with a musical approach.

REVIEW: CLUB TROPICANA BY GEMMA TREHARNE-FOOSE

Club Tropicana 

Press Night: 13 Aug 

Wales Millennium Centre

After a long absence from theatre reviews this last year and with the media a toxic cesspit these days, I felt so ready to be entertained. Like, seriously entertained. I have been awaiting the next chance to review something lively and upbeat, like a demonic glitter leopard stalking her pray. Yes, I was so desperately in need of an escape from the grim reality of Britain in 2019, that when news came from our friends in the WMC of a spectacular 1980s musical that harked back to the cheesefest pop era of my childhood, it truly felt like a gift. 

So it’s quite appropriate that in order to share this therapeutic time-warp, I should invite along my older and let’s face it superior older sister. Even though we only really got to know one another when I was already in my twenties, I have always looked up to her. Not least because my earliest fleeting memories of her were when I was a little nipper and she was already in her teens. At this point in the 80s, Wham were still going full pelt and George Michael wasn’t gay yet. My sister had Wham and A-ha posters on her wall and her teenage bedroom was a treasure trove of jewellery – wowwwww, magazines – wowwww and hairspray – wowwwwww.

It was a warm fluffy 1980s memory, a defining moment. Perhaps even stronger than my memories of the more grim aspects of the 80s – miners strikes, recession and poll tax riots. But look – kids need a dream! They need icons! Which is why I once cos-played as Madonna with a friend when I was eight and we called for a boy we both fancied. Back-combed hair. Beads, lace gloves – and a black kohl beauty spot penciled onto our top lips. Papa don’t preach, it seemed appropropriate at the time. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea as an era, but Maggie Thatcher or not, the 80s was epic! 

This was my frame of reference for coming along to the press night for Club Tropicana – I was already buoyed by my love of cheese, the 80s and musical theatre. I must admit I had my reservations about Joe McElderry (X Factor) as lead, but I learned my lesson after judging former X-Factor contestant Lucie Jones before seeing her utterly slay in the role of Maureen in Rent. I was also skeptical about the use of ‘Love Island’ references in the musical’s marketing literature. I might like cheese and pop music but even I have my standards.

The premise of this family friendly show is that a budding young bride and groom get cold feet and take a hiatus ahead of their impending wedding only to – surprise! – find themselves at the same resort where the drinks are free and tans glow. The show is an unapologetic romp through some of the poppiest, cheesiest anthems of the 80s. I wasn’t sure to what degree these anthems could complement or dovetail with the storyline or how the proposed story would hold up…this is something I suffered I mean ‘struggled with’ with at Son of a Preacher Man in 2018. You can love the songs, but if a musical isn’t delivering on the storyline then it will fall on it’s arse. 

So what then of Club Tropicana? 

Let’s be frank. It won’t win any prizes for being clever or original. The characterisation (bar a few stand out examples) is challenged at times by a simple (to the point of dumbed down) script and carosel of smash hits that come so thick and fast, it’s dizzying. It was difficult for me to connect to the characters, some of whom felt like musical theatre stereotypes and perhaps lacking in personality at times. The story hardly allowed for any development of some of the supporting cast’s stories beyond a few lazy jokes.

Imagine Hi-De-Hi mashed up with Mrs Brown’s Boys and a splash of Alan Carr and Eldorado. There are jokes about sex, farting, diarrhoea, being sick. There is humping, there is more innuendo than a Carry On comedy, more ham than a Danepak factory. But while all this stuff may leave an extremely nasty taste in the mouth of the more sophisticated theatre-goer (like the couple in front of me who seemed to have gotten lost on the way to a Chekov play or the ballet and cringed and recoiled with any hint of smut), we were mosty all there to unwind, have fun and enjoy the tunes – like refugees from the toxic wastelands of 2019.

Joe McElderry is hard to dislike and he works his socks off to win over the crowd, he plays the part of super-camp holiday rep Gary and is great fun, getting the audience to their feet and joining in a locomotion-type dance from the get-go. His personality shines through and vocals are super strong. The choreohraphy, costumes and hair – all excellent – one highlight being that gravity-defying quiff on Christine’s sidekick Andrea (played by Tara Verloop).

There are some surprisingly lovely musical arranegements in the show, with a beautifully crafted accoustic version of ‘Take on Me’ being a standout song, performed by lead actors Neil McDermott as Robert and Emily Tierney as Christine. I hate to be predictable but in every musical there is a suporting cast member who lingers in the memory (perhaps unfairly sometimes, given the pressure and scale of task facing the lead role actors). They seem to have a presence that even surpasses the role they embody – carrying with them an effortless ability to shine, no matter how lame or stereotypical the role they play.

For this show, it’s Kate Robbins as hotel maid Consuela – a Spanish trope so tired, they had to bring it back out of retirement. But her physical comedy and impersonations of a raft of 80s stars throughout the show is the backbone of Club Tropicana. For all the dazzling choreography, pretty musical theatre performers and bright lights – you need someone who will cut through the noise and make you belly laugh. More than that though, her impressions of the vocals of Tina Turner, Madonna, Shirley Bassey and even Cilla Black are truly sensational.

In places Club Tropicana was clunky, and yes – it’s possible to eat up so much cheese you are quite tired of it and need to lie down afterwards, but it’s a show that is unashamedly for those of us who remember the 80s as a time when sitting on the floor doing the ‘Oops up side your head’ dance seemed like such innocent fun. It’s nostalgic and warm and you won’t even mind being part of a Butlin’s-style Spanish package holiday experience where you wouldn’t normally be seen dead.

Take your Mam or your mates, listen to Cyndi Lauper in the car on the way down….eat the cheese! You can always have a lie down afterwards….