Category Archives: Musical

Cher and Cher alike: An Interview with Director Arlene Phillips

What follows is a syndicated interview with The Cher Show director Arlene Phillips.

The Cher Show is a brand new musical which tells the life story of the legendary recording artist, and is packed with 35 of her biggest hits, including ‘If I Could Turn Back Time’, ‘I Got You Babe’, ‘The Shoop Shoop Song’ and ‘Believe’. With book by Tony and Olivier Award-winning Rick Elice (Jersey BoysThe Addams Family), direction by Arlene Phillips (Saturday Night FeverStarlight Express), choreography by Oti Mabuse (two-time Strictly Come Dancing champion) and costume design by Gabriella Slade (SixIn The Heights), The Cher Show is playing at Cardiff’s New Theatre between 23 – 27 August and continues touring around the UK and Ireland through to 1 April 2023.

Both have successful decade-spanning careers. Both are driven and fiercely independent. And then there’s the mutual love of sequins. Arlene Phillips talks to Vicky Edwards about Girl Power, refusing to act her age and why The Cher Show is an unmissable and fabulously feel-good extravaganza.

“I loved Cher’s music from the first time I heard it, but it’s more than that;

Cher is an icon,” says Arlene, confessing that she is thrilled to be directing The Cher Show.

“I am so excited! Cher is a woman who right from the start of her career was ahead of her time. She’s had hits in every decade, she’s a great actress and she’s whip-smart. She has also been a great pioneer for women’s rights. If there’s something to shout about then Cher shouts about it.”

All of which results in an international following that transcends age, gender and race. And now the show that carries her name seems set to do likewise. Having debuted on Broadway in 2018, earning two Tony Awards, Arlene’s production of The Cher Show marks the European premiere. Telling how Cherilyn Sarkisian went from truck driver’s daughter with big dreams to the Oscar-winning Goddess of Pop and Queen of Reinvention, Cher takes the audience by the hand and introduces them to the influential people in her life; from her mother and Sonny Bono to fashion designer and costumier Bob Mackie.  Recalling how she battled the men who underestimated her and defied convention, the story is told, Arlene explains, as if Cher is looking back on her life.

“There is a great story running through as she looks back at the moments where she made an impact, whether through a relationship, a hit, a movie or fashion. We want the audience  to embrace her story and have a good time.”

And a soundtrack of all her hits? Arlene is quick to reassure:

“Oh yes. There are so many hits and the show will have a great party feel to it, as the story builds and builds, finishing in a full-on full-out concert.”

And if all that weren’t enticing enough, joining Arlene on the journey are some impressive names. Written by Olivier and Tony Award-winning Rick Elice (who also wrote Jersey Boys and The Addams Family), choreography is by double Strictly Come Dancing champion Oti Mabuse.

 “Oti’s choreography is SO exciting! She is really gifted and people are going to see something that hasn’t been seen before,” promises Arlene, who as one of the world’s most respected choreographers is, let’s face it, pretty well-placed to make such a pronouncement.

And of course you can’t possibly tell Cher’s story on stage without fabulous costumes. Enter costume designer Gabriella Slade, the super-talented creator of costumes for international smash hits including Six, In the Heights and the 2019 Spice World tour. 

“The impact Cher has made in fashion has been enormous. She isn’t afraid to say I want to stay as young as possible for as long as possible and she isn’t afraid to wear the fantastic clothes and look as glamorous as can be. We have phenomenal costumes from Gabi – the details are incredible. It’s a feast of costumes!”

With a female icon as the subject of the show and Arlene, Oti and Gabriella all adding their superpowers to the mix, there’s definitely a whiff of Girl Power about the show.

“I love that,” beams Arlene, who admits that directing rather than choreographing does require a gear shift.

“It is different, but mainly it’s about how you tell the story. With choreography you look at the story, but you listen to the music. As a director you look at the story and then you use the music to help you tell the story; you’re really conscious of seeing the arc all the way through. The audience have to fall in love with the star and find things out about Cher that they didn’t already know.”

Both she and Cher are fiercely independent women. Does Arlene identify with, as well as admire, Cher?

“I totally identify with Cher in that I want to continue doing what I do for as long as I can and not be defined by my age. I am enjoying life and if I can make an impact in some way then I will.” 

With over 100 million record sales and heaps of prestigious awards, including recognition from The Council of Fashion Designers of America, Cher has certainly influenced popular culture more than most. 

“The invention and the reinvention and the ability to use her body in a powerful way is inspirational,” sighs Arlene, going on to tell me that The Cher Show has had a little reinvention of its own, having been reworked since its award-winning Broadway run.

“We have clarified every detail and I can’t wait for people to see it,” she says, passing me a list of the venues that the show will play.

“There are so many theatres on this tour that are special to me, but every theatre is making sure that they are Covid-safe and that audiences feel confident about visiting them. I hope people will support their local theatre. There really is no substitute for live performance and I urge people to go and feel the love and warmth of this show.”

Adding that she sees the production as being “absolutely a show for now,” she continues:  “Escapism is a wonderful mind-healer, and that’s what you get with The Cher Show.  We’re all more fragile than we’ve ever been before and the future feels unsure. This is a show that brings pure post-pandemic joy.  People will go home having laughed, possibly having shed a tear and dancing up the aisles. They can put aside their worries and in that moment they’ll be wrapped up in this extravaganza of a show!”

The Cher Show UK & Ireland Tour is produced by ROYO with Fiery Angel, Cuffe & Taylor/LIVE NATION and Playing Field in association with Tilted, Aria Entertainment and JONES Theatrical Group. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram: @TheCherShowUK

Here, Cher and Everywhere: An Interview with Choreographer Oti Mabuse

What follows is a syndicated interview with The Cher Show choreographer, Oti Mabuse.

The Cher Show is a brand new musical which tells the life story of the legendary recording artist, and is packed with 35 of her biggest hits, including ‘If I Could Turn Back Time’, ‘I Got You Babe’, ‘The Shoop Shoop Song’ and ‘Believe’. With book by Tony and Olivier Award-winning Rick Elice (Jersey Boys, The Addams Family), direction by Arlene Phillips (Saturday Night Fever, Starlight Express), choreography by Oti Mabuse (two-time Strictly Come Dancing champion) and costume design by Gabriella Slade (Six, In The Heights), The Cher Show is playing at Cardiff’s New Theatre between 23 – 27 August and continues touring around the UK and Ireland through to 1 April 2023.

A bundle of zesty energy, Oti Mabuse may be on a rare day off when we meet but she’s still operating at warp speed. But then the double Strictly Glitterball champion has good reason to be so happy and animated.

Currently revving up for the hotly anticipated brand new production of The Cher Show, directed by national dance treasure Arlene Phillips and with a book by Tony and Olivier Award-winning Rick Elice (of Jersey Boys fame), Oti will be choreographing the show, which will tour until April 2023.

Telling the story of the Armenian American truck driver’s shy daughter who rose to global stardom, The Cher Show charts superstar Cher’s meteoric rise to fame. And of course there is a cracking soundtrack. Packed with 35 of her biggest hits, it’s part show and part party. 

“It’s the story that so many women connect with, but it’s also the songs and the clothes. It will be epic!” beams Oti, adding: “It has to be bigger than anything because it’s her; it has to live up to Cher’s iconic status. Shehas been such an inspiration to so many people and this musical is going to be a celebration of everything people love about her.”

And so it’s down to Oti to weave that star quality into the choreography – a challenge that she is absolutely thrilled with.

“What I love about choreography is that, when I’m dancing, I am only part of the picture, but when you are choreographing, there are so many elements that are so exciting. Creating a storyline through dance means you go through the smallest details – is there a connection or a secret between the dancers that we need the audience to share? What props are there? What is the dancer at the back of the stage doing?”

As for the music, Oti’s exuberance ratchets up yet another notch when we start talking about Cher’s hits.

“I grew up with a family that always listened to music and we all loved Cher’s music. Her songs have stories behind them and I LOVE choreography that has a story behind it! It has an intention you can then give to the movement. It makes everyone in the theatre part of the story. And everyone connects to Cher’s music because it is timeless. SHE is timeless!

“The show starts from the beginning of her life and comes to present day, so if you don’t know Cher’s story you will learn it. There are so many great songs that will make people feel uplifted too. And the show is going to almost every theatre in the country because Cher is an international phenomenon!”

But while she won’t be on the road with The Cher Show, Oti will be touring with her own dance production, I Am Here.

“This is very exciting because it’s my first official tour. It’s such an honour. It’s going to be loud, funny and truthful, and people will meet the real me. We have a live band, great music and a cast of great dancers.

“I love touring and the audiences make it for me. People have paid to come and be entertained and it’s lovely to do that; to create a memorable moment in their lives.”

And, it seems, Oti relishes the educational aspect of touring life.

“I love learning and when you tour in the UK you learn crazy things like whether you put cream or jam on a scone first! I love hearing the different accents and the different way people greet each other depending where you are.”

With an infectious chuckle she adds: “I think touring is the best way to understand human beings!”

“All the theatres my shows are visiting are so supportive of people who come to put a show on; they are so welcoming and so, so hard working. After lockdown and the terrible time that theatres had, it is so lovely to be taking The Cher Show and Here I Am on tour.”

But even with two stage shows hitting the road, human dynamo Oti is still thinking ahead.

“I have a lot of things that I want to achieve in life and I am lucky that my parents raised me to be driven and ambitious. But my goals come from a good place and I really enjoy the journey of pursuing my dreams. Anyone who hires me knows that I will be the hardest working person in the place. For instance, there were very few books about dancing for children, so I wrote one.”

And that’s by no means all. Born in South Africa in 1990, Oti has been dancing since childhood. From making a name for herself in South Africa as the undefeated  eight-time South African Latin American champion, she also managed to train as a Civil Engineer while competing in dance competitions. Winning awards and championships across Europe, TV soon beckoned and Oti joined the German version of Strictly Come Dancing. After two successful seasons, she joined the original BBC version of the show. Winning the coveted trophy in 2019 with actor Kelvin Fletcher, the following year Oti became the first Strictly Pro ever to win the Glitterball two consecutive years, alongside her partner Bill Bailey. TV and theatre work continues to flood in, which she juggles with running The Oti Mabuse Dance Studio, but, I ask, was performing always the dream?

“I wanted to go into Musical Theatre straight from High School, but my mum said I should be first academic and then pursue my passions. Since she was paying the bills, I didn’t have much choice!”

Reflective for a moment, she adds: “Engineering and dance are both about problem solving and precision and I love them both equally. I’d love to do a TV show about it.”

 A TV show about engineering told through the medium of dance? If anyone can pull that off then it’s Oti. Stand by for the Reinforced Concrete Rumba…

The Cher Show UK & Ireland Tour is produced by ROYO with Fiery Angel, Cuffe & Taylor/LIVE NATION and Playing Field in association with Tilted, Aria Entertainment and JONES Theatrical Group. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram: @TheCherShowUK

Review The Lion King, Wales Millennium Centre by Rhian Gregory.

The outstanding Lion King musical has returned to Cardiff this summer.  The Serengeti of Africa was transported to the Wales Millennium Centre.  It brings warmth, light and darkness, with an emotive contemplative story line, and fantastic rhythms and lyrics. 

The Walt Disney animations studio created  The Lion King feature film back in 1994.  The Lion King musical, which is based on the original animated film,  made its first debut in 1997, in the state of Minnesota in the United States of America. In 1999, it was opened in the U.K. at Lyceum Theatre, and has been running ever since. 

The story follows Simba’s journey from a cub to an adult lion, becoming  the King Lion.  Simba is the son of Mufasa and Sarabi, and his jealous uncle Scar kills his brother Mufasa, blaming Simba, and as a scared grieving cub he is forced to run away.  Timon (Meerkat) and Pumbaa (Warthog) come across Simba, and they grow up together. The Pride Land in the mean time, is suffering under Scar and the hyenas reign.  Nala, who was Simba’s best friend as a young cub, is now grown up, and  while out hunting she is reunited with Simba.  Simba’s confusion on whether to go back is helped by a spiritual meeting his dad Mufasa. Simba returns, the truth is out who really killed Mufasa, Scar falls to his death, and now Simba is the rightful descendant King of the Serengeti pride land.

The classic songs “ Hakuna Matata”, “Can you Feel the Love Tonight?” and “Circle of Life” by Elton John and Tim Rice feature in the musical. 

There are a few song additions that don’t feature in film version, such as “Grasslands Chant” and “One by One”. 

In the musical Rafiki, who has a narrative role, is played by a female. It was decided this as production felt it needed another stronger leading female role.

The hyenas, although dark and scary, have a comedic side to them alongside Scar, and of course not forgetting the jokes from Timon and Pumbaa, and Zazu (Hornbill).

The cast ensemble play absolutely incredible roles, from different animals, to dancing grass features. The super creative costumes, alongside the fantastic choreography, bring the auditorium to life. Performing not just on the stage, but in with the audience too. This gives such an immersive interactive experience. 

My children who came along with me, age 11, 9 and 4, had their mouths wide open in awe of them, and couldn’t stop smiling. It really adds to the experience, and I got this warm magical feeling inside. We loved how the percussionists were positioned in the side boxes of the audience.

One thing I did notice with the performance I watched, I felt the volume needed to be increased as I felt it had reduced sound. I did question whether  it was a relaxed performance because of this, but it wasn’t. 

The first act seemed to be significantly longer than the second act. My children did start to fidget slightly towards the end of the first act and ask when they could get a drink and use to the toilet. 

On a personal note, The Lion King musical has always had a play in my heart and in my top 10 musicals of all time! I enjoy the storyline along with African musical rhythms, inventive vibrant costumes and artistic set design. 

The Lion King was also the first ever  live musical theatre performance my son at age 3 watched in Cardiff back in 2014.  He has been hooked on musical theatre ever since, and has a CD collection of soundtracks from the musicals he has seen since. 

The Lion King musical in Cardiff Wales Millennium Centre 2014, my son Cody at age 3. 

It’s certainly a musical for all the family.  Guidance is from 6 years plus, and no under 3’s.  It was approximately 2 hours 30 minutes long with a 15 minute interval. 

It has to be said the whole cast and crew are incredibly talented. 

You can book tickets here

WNO’s Migrations, a review by Eva Marloes

WNO Migrations The Mayflower WNO Chorus photo credit Craig Fuller
2 out of 5 stars (2 / 5)

The new opera Migrations, developed by the Welsh National Opera (WNO), brings together disparates histories and issues to send an anti-racist message. The opera consists of six interlocking tableaux protesting racism, slavery, and violence to the natural world. These issues deserve to be told and dramatised, yet drama requires tension, emotions, and characters, which are wholly absent in this production.

Migrations is a pot pourri of protest banners without a trace of life. None of the librettists took the trouble to write a character with real emotions, pain and joy, hope and disappointment. Singers explain disparate histories and issues to the audience rather than tell a story. The message is right and timely, but an opera is not a protest march.

Migrations was conceived as part of the celebrations of the 400th anniversary of the sailing of The Mayflower in 1620. This shows little understanding of the Pilgrims, who are here presented erroneously as oppressed people escaping persecutions. In reality, they were theocratic colonisers with little tolerance for each other never mind anybody else. The choir as Pilgrims singing ‘Freedom’ sits awkwardly with the overall anti-colonial, anti-racist, and anti-slavery message.

There are only two tableaux that stand out. One is Flight, Death or Fog, the story of Pero Jones, enslaved to the Pinney family in Bristol. Aubrey Allicock’s Pero has an impressive presence on stage which confers dignity and gravitas. The other is This is the Life! set in 1968 and depicting two Indian doctors coming to Britain to ‘fill the NHS skills gap,’ as they tell the audience. The Indian classical music and flamboyant Bollywood dance manage to lift the spirits.

WNO Migrations This is the Life Natasha Agarwal Neera Jamal Andreas Jai Bollywood Ensemble photo credit Craig Fuller

Treaty Six by Sarah Woods depicts the plight of the Beaver Lake Cree Nation in today’s Canada trying to stop a pipeline going through their land. The English Lesson features a group of refugees reflecting on who they were at home and their status as refugees in a new country. Eric Ngalle Charles’s Birds sees children as birds migrating and endangered by humans destroying the natural world. The music and the children’s singing lack the necessary sombre tone to convey the message.

On the whole, this mishmash is kept together competently by the singers, the always excellent choir, and orchestra conductor Matthew Kofi Waldren. The music too often resembles a second-rate musical, with the exception of the chorale and Jasdeep Singh Degun’s Indian classical music.

REVIEW Chicago, New Theatre Cardiff by Barbara Hughes-Moore

Chicago, 1920s. In a city ruled by mob bosses and moonshine, misbehaviour ain’t just on the menu: it’s a way of life. If it’s fame you’re after, you might get fifteen minutes or fifteen to life – and Roxie Hart’s dream of seeing her name in the papers is one she’ll kill for. With blood on her hands and a song in her heart, Roxie (Faye Brookes) teams up with sleazy lawyer Billy Flynn (Lee Mead) to fool the masses, stealing the thunder of her rival cellmate, Velma Kelly (Djalenga Scott), in the process.

‘All That Jazz’: the Chicago ensemble, led by Djalenga Scott as Velma Kelly

Featuring classic songs by Kander and Ebb and original choreography by Bob Fosse (the trio behind the iconic Cabaret), Chicago is fresher, funnier and fiercer than ever. 25 years after its revival swept the Tonys, and nearly 50 since it first premiered on Broadway, the show’s satire of law, politics and the press could hardly be more relevant: after all, what’s the difference between a theatre and a courtroom when showmanship, not integrity, is the order of the day? Even when the actors are playing judges and reporters, they’re wearing mesh, fishnets, and leather: justice is showbiz, darling, and you’d better pray for an encore. Chicago is self-consciously theatrical, drawing attention to its own artifice: a gilt frame encloses the stage, but the set itself has no frills and few props: its simplicity spotlights the performances instead of the staging.

‘We Both Reached for the Gun’: Billy Flynn (Lee Mead) puppeteers Roxie Hart (Faye Brookes) through a press conference

And what performances! Faye Brookes brings lashings of wit and charm to Roxie Hart: one part hapless crim, one part ruthless dame. Brookes is a hilarious and vibrant stage presence, particularly when pitted against Djalenga Scott as Velma Kelly, whose stylish swagger makes for an effective foil to Brookes’ wide-eyed ebullience; their ‘Hot Honey Rag’ duet is a veritable dance masterclass.

‘The name on everybody’s lips is gonna be “Roxie”‘: Roxie Hart (Faye Brookes) and her ‘boys’

There are excellent supporting performances by X Factor finalist Brenda Edwards as the sultry Matron ‘Mama’ Morton, Jamie Baughan as Roxie’s hangdog husband Amos and B.E. Wong as big-hearted but gullible journo Mary Sunshine. Meanwhile, Lee Mead as Billy Flynn really does give the audience the ol’ ‘Razzle Dazzle’, and Scott’s sensational rendition of ‘All That Jazz’ brings the house down by the time the show’s barely started. But the Cell Block Tango might just be the standout: by the final chorus, you’ll really believe ‘he had it coming!’

A chain-smoking tap-dance

The incredibly intricate dancing is executed with effortless precision, with every Fosse finger snap and hip roll present and accounted for. The ensemble is on top form as is the superb live band, directed by Andrew Hilton, who are seated onstage in striking, asymmetric tiers. You won’t find better singing, dancing or live music this side of the ‘20s: the cast prove once again why Chicago is still one of the best musicals around. If you love the Oscar-winning movie, you’ll be in your element; if you’re new to the medium, then you’re starting out with the best. Stylish, sexy and spectacular, Chicago is all that jazz and then some – it’s the most fun you can have without breaking the law!

‘I Can’t Do it Alone’: Velma Kelly (Djalenga Scott) and Roxie Hart (Faye Brookes) take their criminally-good show on the road

Chicago is playing at the New Theatre Cardiff until Saturday 25 June

Review by
Barbara Hughes-Moore

Get the Chance supports volunteer critics like Barbara to access a world of cultural provision. We receive no ongoing, external funding. If you can support our work please donate here thanks.

Review Waitress by Bethan Lewis, Wales Millennium Centre, Tuesday 31st May 2022

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Take one charming leading lady, a dollop of catchy songs, a ballad or two to pull on your heartstrings, sprinkle with silliness and mix with loveable characters to create the perfect recipe for a feelgood musical.

The ingredients were expertly balanced at the performance of the Tony Award nominated hit musical Waitress in Cardiff’s Wales Millennium Centre on Tuesday evening.

Based on the 2007 Adrienne Shelly film, Waitress tells the story of Jenna who works in Joe’s Pie Diner in the Deep South.  Jenna is unhappy in her marriage to the controlling Earl and feels trapped in her mundane life where every day is a carbon copy of the last.  To make matters worse, as the show opens, Jenna discovers that she is pregnant, expressing her disappointment during “The Negative” where she is consoled by her colleagues Becky and Dawn.   Jenna finds solace in baking and, in particular, in making pies – she makes a different pie for every day of the week and there isn’t an occasion that she can’t think of the perfect recipe, including “my eggs failed me pie” and “in the pursuit of happiness pie”.  Even though she knows it’s a “Bad Idea” Jenna embarks on an affair with her hunky gynaecologist Dr Pomatter.  We follow her journey as she tries to escape her hum drum life.

On the face of it the storyline is fairly predictable but as it develops we realise there is more to the characters than meets the eye.  Jenna is a complicated leading lady, describing herself as being “imperfect but she tries” – she has an affair, she is unmaternal and she lies to her husband.  In fact, in a turn from traditional musical theatre, all the characters are in some way flawed and morally ambiguous, making them more relatable to the audience. 

The cast are impressive in portraying these characters and all give strong performances, approaching their roles with sensitivity.  Chelsea Halfpenny is particularly noteworthy as Jenna, bringing the house down with her vocal ability in the heart wrenching “She Used to Be Mine”.  Evelyn Hoskins and George Crawford pitch their performances of goofy couple Dawn and Ogie just right, providing plenty of laughs while still making the audience believe in their love story.

The production, directed by Diane Paulus is incredibly slick with effortless scene changes supported by the ensemble.  The majority of the action takes place in the diner which has a view of the open highway projected through the windows.  The performance space is reduced in Jenna and Earl’s home, with the ceiling being lowered and the walls drawn in, giving a visual representation of her claustrophobic life. 

The band, which does an excellent job of executing Sarah Bareilles’ Nashville worthy score, is situated on stage and form part of the action as patrons of the diner.  Although this is a nice effect, it is distracting at times.

There are moments when the show touches on darker, more gritty themes; Earl is abusive towards Jenna and it is suggested that she witnessed domestic violence as a child.  Jenna’s attitude towards her pregnancy is controversial and Becky is clearly struggling in her role as a carer for her husband.  The show only mentions these issues on a surface level and shies away from exploring them in any depth.  Instead, it reverts to lighthearted humour, opting for a “life must go on” attitude.

The influence of Waitress’ female-led creative team is clear to see – the show is ultimately a celebration of friendship and femininity.  Jenna’s transformation is inspired by the birth of her daughter and the support of her friends rather than being influenced by the male characters in her life.

Just like a slice of freshly baked homemade pie, watching Waitress the musical leaves you with a warm, comforting feeling.  This sweet story isn’t necessarily ground-breaking but it will leave you with a smile on your face, a song in your heart and a skip in your step. 

REVIEW Footloose the Musical, New Theatre by Barbara Hughes-Moore

In the Year of our Lord 1984, a hero rose from obscurity to show a nation – nay, a world – how to lose its blues. The hero was Kevin Bacon, the movie was Footloose, and the story of a teenage boy who convinces a small town to dance again became legend. Now, the creatives behind the ultimate 80s feelgood film have brought it to the stage in a brilliant new musical: a blood-pumping, barnstorming thrill ride that’ll get you out of your seat and onto your feet!

The whole rootin’ tootin’ ensemble

Daniel Miles (filling in for Joshua Hawkins) is fantastic as the rebellious Ren, stepping into Kevin Bacon’s dancing shoes with ease. Star of stage and screen Darren Day does a superb job as the Reverend Moore (his interactions with the crowd are a highlight) and Lucy Munden makes a very impressive stage debut as his daughter Ariel.

Quite the quartet! Left to right: Oonagh Cox (Rusty), Jess Barker (Wendy-Jo), Samantha Richards (Urleen) and Lucy Munden (Ariel)

Every single person on the stage gives a 5-star performance and no-one misses a step, a note or a beat – no small feat, given that the actors are constantly having to swap between costumes, props, and instruments. The multitalented ensemble is on top form, bringing fun and flair to 80s classics like Holding Out for a Hero, Almost Paradise, and Let’s Hear it for the Boy – not to mention the riotous title track, brought to bubbly new life here – but X Factor star Jake Quickenden might just run off with the whole show.

Left to right: the brilliant Oonagh Cox as Rusty and Jake Quickenden as Willard

Playing Ren’s redneck wingman Willard, and simultaneously making the case for Magic Mike: The Musical, Quickenden has the charm and the chops to land every comedic curveball that’s thrown at him. I won’t spoil the best musical number but let’s just say if you’re holding out the a hero, you won’t be disappointed (Kylie Minogue, eat your heart out…)

Left to right: Ben Barrow, Alex Fobbester, and Ben Mabberley – a tremendous musical trio

Fun, frothy and fabulous, Footloose The Musical will truly get you to kick off your Sunday shoes and lose your blues!

Footloose The Musical is playing at the New Theatre Cardiff through Saturday 4 June

You can follow on social media @FootlooseTour  #EverybodyCutLoose

Review by
Barbara Hughes-Moore

Get the Chance supports volunteer critics like Barbara to access a world of cultural provision. We receive no ongoing, external funding. If you can support our work please donate here thanks.

PREVIEW: Interview with Footloose designer Sara Perks

What follows is a syndicated interview with Footloose designer Sara Perks

Following two critically acclaimed tours and huge popular demand, Footloose The Musical is back and better than ever! Touring the UK until August.

This brand-new production of Footloose is created by Sara Perks who has designed in the region of 250 productions. Sara has been nominated for Broadway World Awards, a Whats On Stage Award and an Offies Award. She holds an Edinburgh Fringe First; The John Elvery Theatre Design Award and a Vision Design (Costume) Award from the BBC.

We spoke with her to find out more about the life of a Theatre Designer and to find out more about her inspiration for the Footloose Uk Tour.

Can you tell us a little bit about life as a theatre designer – what made you go into this field and who or what were your inspirations

At the moment it’s very busy but it tends to be a bit ‘feast or famine’.  Currently I’m working on four shows which are all at different stages in the process.  For me Covid has meant that all my work suddenly got bunched up together which makes for a lot of plate spinning and juggling of schedules.

My inspirations were and still are the ability to create a live experience that an audience is able to experience together and enjoy together in the same room.  To be connected to something visceral that is happening in front of them – nothing will ever replace that.

You have designed both the costumes and the set for this brand-new production. What is the process of making this happen?

A designer’s process follows a set of deadlines really.  I discuss the needs and wants of the production with producers and the director initially, then filtering in what the choreographer, musical director and lighting designer would like to achieve. 

All of this along with my own creative reaction to the piece results in a preliminary design – a ‘white-card’ model box which is a scale model of the proposed design at 1:25, with technical drawings.  This is then commented upon by the creative team and producers and roughly costed, because of course there is a budget attached to every production that needs to be considered as well.

I would then take the design and model to the next stage – a final.  This would be in full colour with all the chosen finishes and renders. This is then costed and signed off precisely. 

An independent scenic workshop is selected on tender to build.  From that point I work between them, the production manager, the rest of the creative team and rehearsals to try to ensure everything is on track, and make sure information and alterations proceeds as required

And that is just the set.  What about costumes?

Amongst this whole process (which can span over years or just weeks depending on the size of project) I’m busy designing costume. There are similar deadlines, but these tend to be a bit more fluid especially if it is a show that is more based on sourcing vintage items to buy, rather than having a lot of costumes made.

Footloose being set in the 80s was almost all vintage sourcing so I worked very closely with a costume supervisor, my right hand really when it comes to costume, to make that happen.  We shop, buy online, fit and alter, adapt and repurpose all through the rehearsal process and well into the technical rehearsals in order to create the right looks.

It’s a big cast – how many costumes were sourced and created?

After we got past 80+ we stopped counting!

Can you tell us about what audience expect to see in terms of design and what helped to influence this.  Can we expect a real 80’s vibe?

When we started the process (over 2 years ago – a small thing called a pandemic got in the way!) the restyling 80s retro look was very in vogue. 

We looked at shows like Stranger Things and 2 years later – Sex Education, in the way that they are clearly 80s but restyled with a modern eye, and not completely slavish to period.  It was all about looking cool and right for character.

However I’m old enough to the remember the film when it came out and was the same age as the characters in the 80s so my own experience went to some of the costume and hair inspiration!

In regard to the set the inspiration for it really is the classic iron rivetted bridges that you find all over America spanning rivers and gorges.  Like the Potanwey bridge that is mentioned by Ariel in relation to her brother.  The Williamsburg bridge in New York is another example.

The bridge and town limits are central to the plot of the show and why the town of Bomont is under restrictions on socialising, so it seemed a good metaphor to use as a frame for the whole concept.

Do you have a favourite costume in the show?

I love Wendy-Jo’s yellow jumpsuit; and there are several great classic 80s prom dresses in purple; green and cerise, but I think the Rev’s white sequin jacket for the mega mix would have to be the favourite.  And Darren Day wears it so well!

Many might say ‘the gold pants’ (and those who see the show will know why!)  Tell us a bit about the gold pants! Although most of the design is new they’ve been revived from previous productions is that right?

These are a bit of a ‘surprise’ in the show – I  won’t give it away completely – but they always go down a storm with audiences so we decided to keep it in for this new production.  For me it’s the highlight of the show!

Finally, what would be your top tip for audience members who might come along dressed up for the show – how do you create the perfect ‘Footloose’ outfit?

It’s not just a pair of legwarmers or neon socks.  You could choose to go full ‘cowboy’ and join in with some line dancing at the ‘bbq’ at the start of the 2nd half; or grab a taffeta block colour party dress or ra-ra skirt for the prom.  If you want a more tailored look a velvet or sequin tux with jeans would fit right in as well.

Based on the 1980s screen sensation which took the world by storm, Footloose The Musical sizzles with spirit, fun and the best in UK musical talent. With cutting edge modern choreography, you’ll enjoy classic 80s hits including Holding Out for a Hero, Almost Paradise, Let’s Hear It For The Boy and of course the unforgettable title track Footloose.

Everybody cut loose for a night of dazzling excitement music and dancing!  

For full listings visit www.footloose-musical.com  follow on social media @FootlooseTour  #EverybodyCutLoose

PREVIEW: Interview with Footloose star Darren Day

What follows is a syndicated interview with Footloose star Darren Day

Following two critically acclaimed tours and huge popular demand, Footloose The Musical is back and better than ever! Touring the UK until August. TV star and musical theatre favourite Darren Day joins the cast of the tour as Rev. Moore and we caught up with him to find out a little more about the tour and his role in the show. 

You’re back on the road In Footloose The Musical how does it feel to be back on tour?

We were about to go into rehearsals for Footloose when the Pandemic hit and the tour was rescheduled a few times before dates were set for our 2022 opening, almost a full two years later than originally planned and it is amazing to be back out there with the show.

2020 was devastating for us all.  But coming out of the other end things have really started moving quickly for me. Having not been able to perform during the pandemic, going back on stage and being part of a big musical feels so magical, in the way it felt when I landed the role of Joseph at the Palladium at the beginning of my career.  

I recently finished the UK tour of Chicago which was brilliant and during that tour I saw a genuine thirst for live theatre so couldn’t be more delighted than to move straight into another tour with Footloose.

In all of my years as a performer in Musical Theatre I don’t think I have jumped straight from one tour into another… I feel very lucky.

Can you tell us a little bit about this tour of Footloose?

This production of Footloose is particularly a special, even if you have seen it before you will want to see it again… and this new version will blow you away.  It’s been reworked with a new set, new costumes. The lot. 

Racky Plews, who’s directing, has brought an edgy and exciting new take on the show. She’s been working closely with the writer of the original movie and songs, Dean Pitchford and his input into this new production has been invaluable.

The cast and the whole team on this are truly ‘the cream of the crop’ a really gifted bunch of performers. Acting, singing, dancing and playing instruments throughout the show.

And what about your role as the Reverend?

I’m so happy to be playing the Reverend. Over a decade ago I met with the producers for Footloose and Chicago within about three months of each other. I was told I didn’t look old enough! So … the only downside of me playing these two roles back-to-back is that I must now look ‘old enough!!’

Since those meetings all those years ago Billy Flynn and the Reverend have been on my bucket list of roles I desperately wanted to play, so to get the opportunity to play them both in one year is incredibly exciting for me and I feel deeply grateful.

Having a teenage daughter myself (in real life!) I have a lot of ‘method’ experience to draw upon! It’s tough letting your ‘little princess’ out into the big bad world!

What do you think keeps Footloose so fresh and keeps audiences coming back for more?  

The great thing about Footloose which I think separates it from other ‘jukebox’ shows is that Dean Pitchford wrote the songs specifically for the movie. So, not only are these songs instantly recognisable the second the intro to them begins. they also carry the plot forward in a very truthful way. Apologies for that sounding incredibly ‘arty’ and ‘theatrical’ But they do!

In the show there are these massive hit tunes that everyone recognises along with a strong and beautiful storyline.  It’s a really feel-good show – no doubt about it.  

Do you have a favourite moment in the show?

I guess one of my favourite moments in the show is my solo song ‘Heaven Help Me’ It’s a brilliant tune with beautifully written lyrics. Also the poignant moments with the Reverend’s daughter are lovely to play – and the revelations that happen to him.  

My favourite moment in the rehearsal room was when I sat and watched the cast perform the opening number of the title song. I got goosebumps and thought to myself if this is how it feels in a rehearsal room the way it’s going to feel with a set, costumes and on a stage with an audience will be breath-taking.

Finally – why do you think people should come and see Footloose this year across the UK?

You are going to have the most incredible night. You’re going to hear songs that are instantly recognisable, and I challenge you not to sing along to them. There are big numbers, there’s a beautiful story going on, the cast are ridiculously talented.  You’ll leave the theatre buzzing after having a very special night out.  We will have a ball and I can’t wait to see everyone up on their feet at the end to cut loose!

Based on the 1980s screen sensation which took the world by storm, Footloose The Musical sizzles with spirit, fun and the best in UK musical talent. With cutting edge modern choreography, you’ll enjoy classic 80s hits including Holding Out for a Hero, Almost Paradise, Let’s Hear It For The Boy and of course the unforgettable title track Footloose..

Everybody cut loose for a night of dazzling excitement music and dancing!  

For full listings visit www.footloose-musical.com  follow on social media @FootlooseTour  #EverybodyCutLoose and follow Darren @DarrenDayOfficial for a peek behind the scenes of the tour!