Category Archives: Musical

PREVIEW Rock of Ages UK Tour – Interview with star Kevin Kennedy

No stranger to the small screen, television’s Kevin Kennedy has left the cobbles of Coronation Street far behind him as he takes to the stage and embraces his inner rock’n’roll star in the UK Tour of ROCK OF AGES which comes to the New Theatre Cardiff from 17 – 21 May 2022.

Not just an actor, you’ve also been part of many bands over the years. Have you been enjoying indulging your musical side in Rock of Ages?
Oh yes, it’s incredible to be able to put your two passions together – one being of course acting and the spoken word and the other being music, which is something I’ve loved throughout my life. To put those together is a perfect marriage, and in a vehicle such as Rock of Ages it is a whole lot of fun as well!

Rock Of Ages Musical The Alexandra Birmingham New Tour Cast 21/22 ©The Other Richard

For those who don’t know, could you tell us a bit about the story of Rock of Ages?
Rock of Ages is set in Los Angeles, California in the mid 1980s. It’s about a rock club called The Bourbon Room, which is absolutely legendary, every single band you could think of has played there. It’s an icon of rock’n’roll and absolutely the place to be, but the local council are attempting to close it down so we are fighting them. Alongside all of that there’s a beautiful love story, lots and lots of jokes and of course some of the most incredible music from the 80s like “Here I Go Again”, “The Final Countdown” and “I Want To Know What Love Is”.

And how does your character, ‘Dennis’ fit into this?
So, Dennis is the owner of The Bourbon Room and he’s an absolute rock guru. He’s given all these now legendary bands their stars and he’s been in bands himself. He’s also embraced the drug culture and intense sexuality of the 1980s with much enthusiasm and regularity! He’s a very interesting man to play – he’s got a good heart at his core but he’s a child of his culture and loves his sex, drugs and rock’n’roll! He’s a lot of fun to play!

Kevin Kennedy as ‘Dennis Dupree’ ©The Other Richard

Audiences may know you best from your time on television, particularly as ‘Curly Watts’ in “Coronation Street”. What are the biggest differences between working TV and theatre?
TV is a totally different skill and technique to theatre. Not least because you may put something in the can after filming and not get the payback of that for months or event years. You can almost film it, and then forget about it. With theatre however, it’s obviously live and live theatre is one of the last true shared experiences you can have – along with football! In the theatre you are all together and sharing one experience which is happening live, right in front of you and there’s not a lot of that left. That in itself generates its own energy and excitement as no two shows are the same. The show that you come and see will never been exactly the same as that ever again which is quite an exciting thought.

“ROCK OF AGES” boasts some of the biggest hits of the 1980s as its soundtrack. Were you a fan of 80s rock music?
I was a young-ish man in the 1980s and not a huge fan of some dance music, so the last refuge of guitar music to a certain extent was that brilliant American glam-rock that we showcase in Rock of Ages. They play their own instruments and perform live on stage so I had a huge respect for that.

Kevin Kennedy as ‘Dennis Dupree’ ©The Other Richard

Are there any challenges to performing this style of music on stage? Have you drawn from your experience as a musician?
It requires a lot of energy! However, once the show gets going it’s so much fun and no longer feels like work. Once you’ve done the hard work of learning the lines and where to stand we’ve been allowed to just have so much fun with it. Audiences are absolutely loving it because it’s just bonkers.

Do you have a favourite moment or number in the show?

Numerous moments! Although what I really enjoy is watching the other members of the cast doing their big solo numbers because they’re all so incredibly talented and it’s great to watch and learn from them. It’s been so lovely to see them grow into their characters from the first rehearsal through to our performances on tour now, where it all comes to fruition.

Rock Of Ages Musical The Alexandra Birmingham New Tour Cast 21/22 ©The Other Richard

What about a favourite song?
Oh the entire finale is my favourite as it is just one big fat rock’n’roll number.

Do you have any ‘must-have’ items whilst on tour?
A cafetière, some coffee (obviously), my Manchester City mug, and of course the most important thing – a PlayStation!

Rock Of Ages Musical The Alexandra Birmingham New Tour Cast 21/22 ©The Other Richard

Finally, what can audiences expect when they come and see Rock of Ages?
They can just expect to have a great time. If you’re a seasoned theatre-goer or you’ve never been to a show before you will have a lot of fun. If you want to come dressed in your leather trousers and embrace your inner 80s rock star then do that! Even bring along an inflatable guitar if you want – everything is just a whole lot of fun.

Review Six, Wales Millennium Centre by Lauren Mallin

SIX by Marlow ; Directed by Moss and Armitage ; Set designed by Bailey ; Costumes designed by Slade ; Lighting designed by Deiling ; at the Malvern Theatres ; UK tour ; 2021, Marlowe Theatre Credit: Johan Persson

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Divorced, Beheaded, Died. Divorced, Beheaded, Survived.

The age-old nursery rhyme, right? History buff or not, most of us know it, have recited it, skipped and handclapped to it, used it to our advantage in a pub quiz…

But how often do we stop to think that these six words that have been periodically used to sum up the legacy and lives of six remarkable women in history? Six individuals flippantly reduced to six words. Words that ultimately reduce these women to the impact their husband had on them.

Henry VIII and his Six Wives have dominated the school curriculum for decades; a period romanticised by Hollywood, become an inspiration for artists, playwrights, authors… but how much do we really know about the women behind the marriages? The women behind the tyrant.

Time for history to be overthrown, thanks to the feminist fuelled ensemble that is SIX.

Prepare to feel empowered, uplifted, and hit by a wave of strength as these powerful Queens finally get their chance to sing their truths and become named, REAL women – not just one word in a stupid rhyme.

SIX perfects the unbelievably difficult task of towing the line between light-hearted, historical romp, while highlighting the major injustices and abuse faced by women in the Tudor Court. What’s more, the show ingeniously shows the hurdles faced by these women through a modern lens – everything from unachievable beauty standards, harassment, gaslighting and predatory behaviour that could easily paint Henry VIII as the Harvey Weinstein of his day. We quickly come to realise modern day women are still fighting the patriarchy in similar ways to that of our sisters 500 years ago.

But this isn’t a show to get you down!

Enough of Henry and his penchant for wedding (and beheading) – SIX shines a literal spotlight on each Queen, allowing the audience to learn more about their individual trials, tribulations and achievements over and above simply being wife. Their stories come to life through a range of girl power-fuelled song and dance numbers that give off a gig-like atmosphere as opposed to that of a traditional musical. The live band on stage, fabulously called The Ladies in Waiting, bring so much vibrance and energy to the show, making it almost impossible to stay still in your seat.

A gloriously diverse and talented cast bring the insanely catchy and clever score to life, with their real strength found when they come together to sing as the ultimate Tudor girl band! You’ll spend long periods of the show taking in the unbelievable detailing of each Queen’s costume, which mix Tudor embellishments with modern day sass – each one is completely different to the other, giving the Queens individual styles and silhouettes on stage. There is lots of funny and heartfelt moments too – the energy is infectious, and it is so obvious the cast are having the time of their lives on stage, which radiates into the audience. Feel good vibes all round!

No longer Divorced, Beheaded Died. Divorced, Beheaded, Survived. They are Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Anne of Cleves, Jane Seymour, Katherine Howard, and Catherine Parr: inspirational women in their own right and so much more than who they married.

Too many years lost in history, these six remarkable Queens are finally free to take their crowning glory, so do your royal duty and spend the evening at the most inspiring royal court in HERstory!

SIX is LIVE at the Wales Millennium Centre until 14th of May

Review, & Juliet, Shaftsbury Theatre, by Hannah Goslin

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

Anyone is this World knows of the story of Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare. A tragic love story of “two star crossed lovers” who marry against their enemy family’s wishes but unable to be together, die for true love.

Now… what if that hadn’t happened? What if Juliet got to live on? What would happen next?

& Juliet takes this concept, pumps it with musical numbers, upgrades the costumes and set to meet its traditional roots but tickle the modern fashions and includes some more up to date language, slang, which ol Shakey I’m sure would approve of.

I will start this critical approach out by fully admitting that Musicals are not in my top loves of Theatre. I enjoy, and have grown to love them but I wouldn’t say they are what first interests me and nor is it my own training or practice. However, I appreciate the love of these as well as the popularity of them and the talent it exudes.

Beginning with & Juliet, I really liked that how we got nearer the beginning of the show, characters began to pop out on stage, dance and interact with the audience. However, this is a little where my dislike started and made me wonder if I would really enjoy this musical. It felt a little like CBBC; jumping out, waving manically and screaming hello. I did begin to wonder where this would go.

As the production starts, it is strong. Not original songs by any means, this production wraps millennials and 90’s babies in a warm embrace as it brings back the 90’s/00’s boy and girl bands, Britney Spears, and some contemporary popular songs as well. They do a really good job of finding the appropriate songs and fitting them to match the scene. Sometimes, it just made you laugh at the choice and how it fit with the narrative.

Juliet continues her life, finding out that Romeo was a little of a lothario, travels to another city to party and live life, only to end up back in another engagement. But this whole journey and how it ends is all about empowering her as a woman, as an individual and it makes a great point for young females everywhere of breaking out of the patriarchy and being your own person. Points are also touched upon with a gender neutral character; of who they are, who they are becoming and their own love story in between this. It felt contemporary, right and well supported.

They cleverly mirror life with William and his wife, Anne Hathaway – little records exist but it is believed that their marriage was of convenience and so & Juliet aims to bring back some love between this unhappy married couple through the retelling of one of his most famous plays. Anne gets to have a hand, and they break the fourth wall, jumping in and out of scenes to help facilitate. They reconvene and discuss what happened and next steps and we realise that this is a tactic to save their marriage, like a baby or a puppy may be traditionally. Perhaps real life isn’t like Anne and William, or Romeo and Juliet in both the original, real life and this musical, but it makes us believe in love and we can’t help but feel happy leaving the theatre.

However, with the glitz and glamour, the era setting, the choice of pink aesthetic and glitter as well as the hammed up characters, at times, felt more Pantomime than Musical, and for a while it continued to not sit right with me.

Don’t get me wrong – I LOVE a Pantomime. But I came to see a Musical… After a while, this dissipates and you find yourself singing along, laughing at the crude jokes, feeling for the characters and just having a really good time. The campiness is arguably what a Musical is and maybe the choice of this is something other Musicals are lacking. I couldn’t help but whoop and cheer and appreciate the talent, the vocals, the set, the costume, the music and everything in between.

Overall, & Juliet is a less pressured, fun night out. The songs and well performed, there are jokes, dancing and a wholesome feel to what was once a tragic play. You come away dancing, singing and with a smile on your face.

REVIEW Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, New Theatre by Barbara Hughes-Moore

Your first ever trip to the theatre is always a magical experience. It’s a rite of passage, that first step through those doors and into a world of fun and fantasy. What you see on that first trip is something that sticks with you: for many children, that show is Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, the first musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice whose subsequent megahits include Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita, and Cats. Whether you grew up on the Donny Osmond VHS, or watched Jason Donovan, Philip Schofield or Lee Mead don the icon dreamcoat on stage, everyone has their own Joseph story – and local boy Jac Yarrow is now the definitive Joseph for a whole new generation of kids as he returns to his home town for a show like no other.

Our story starts way, way back many centuries ago – not long after the Bible began, in fact. Our hero is Joseph, Jacob’s favourite son. After his father gifts him with the titular dreamcoat, Joseph’s jealous brothers sell him into slavery. While in Egypt, Joseph gets himself thrown in prison over a misunderstanding – but it’s only while he’s locked up that he finally unlocks the secret power of his dreams, and finds himself becoming the right-hand man of the Pharaoh himself.

Directed by Laurence Connor and staged at the London Palladium in 2019 and 2021, this new UK tour brings with it all the glitz and glamour of the West End. As the latest to don the dreamcoat, Yarrow has quite the legacy to live up to – and he does so with ease. It’s hard to believe this is his first role right out of drama school; a belter of a debut that has garnered much deserved praise, including an Olivier Award nomination. Yarrow might have implored us to ‘Close Every Door’ to him but I’m sure many more will be opening in future. His performance of ‘Close Every Door To Me’ is easily one of the best things I’ve ever seen on stage, and is well worth the price of admission alone.

X Factor winner Alexandra Burke, is not only a multimillion selling artist and West End star (Sister Act, The Bodyguard, Chess) but is fast proving herself as one of the most talented and versatile performers onstage today. She brings tremendous energy and charm to The Narrator, at ease in every moment whether she’s cheerfully corralling the young cast or playing a half dozen characters – each one more hilarious than the last. With such a dazzling repertoire to her name, when I say this is the best she’s ever been, that’s really saying something.

The whole ensemble is on top form, from the lively young cast to the cracking orchestra directed by John Rigby (who, in a nice touch, conducts music with a Welsh flag in place of a baton!) JoAnn Hunter’s zesty choreography really shines in ‘Go Go Go Joseph’, ‘Jacob and Sons’ and especially ‘One More Angel in Heaven’, which turns into a full-on rootin’ tootin’ hoedown, complete with Seven Brides for Seven Brothers-style gymnastics.

Speaking of brothers, Joseph’s are a blast: from a pitch-perfect Will Hawksworth who leads a riotous rendition of ‘Those Canaan Days’ led by, to Jabari Braham’s top-tier acrobatics, to Shane Antony-Whitely and young castmate Nadini Sharma who bring down the house with ‘Benjamin Calypso’. And as Pharaoh, Bobby Windebank is every inch The King – as a rock ‘n’ roll Pharaoh straight out of Graceland, he leads a rowdy Vegas-style set that leaves no hip thrust or ‘uh huh’ unturned.

Morgan Large’s stage is one big rainbow explosion, a technicolor utopia which gives way to a golden paradise once Joseph gets to the Pharoah’s court. It’s spectacular – and the titular dreamcoat, much like the show itself, is the best it’s ever been. Joseph has been performed for over 50 years in over 80 countries and counting, and it’s easy to see why. It had the whole audience on their feet, dancing and singing along. As Joseph sings that ‘Any Dream Will Do’, but this isn’t just any old dream. Technicolour, transcendent, triumphant, it’s the easiest 5 stars I’ve ever given. It really is the show that dreams are made of: so go, go see Joseph and see for yourself!

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is playing at the New Theatre Cardiff until Saturday 7th May

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: Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat – Interview with star Jac Yarrow

What follows is a syndicated interview with Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat star Jac Yarrow.

Joseph is such a fun, upbeat musical. Is that what we all need right now?
Oh my gosh, 100% yes. When we did it at the London Palladium our favourite shows to do would always be the Saturday or Sunday matinees because we’d get the crowds from all over the UK, not just the London crowds. To be able take this show to the regional theatres that have been closed for so long is just the tonic everybody needs. And particularly this incarnation of Joseph, which is the same production you got at the Palladium. It’s lavish and no-expense-sparred, and it’s really going to lift everyone’s spirits.

You first played the title role in 2019. How did that change your life?
It completely changed my life. I was still at drama school when I got the part and it was literally over the course of two or three days that I went from getting the role to it being announced. I went from being a student living in digs dreaming of being in the West End to suddenly living that dream for real.

You returned to the show again last year and now you’re touring in it. What keeps drawing you back?
It’s massively to do with the fans of the show. It has such an amazing fanbase and it’s ingrained in people’s DNA in the UK. Everybody knows the music and everybody’s grown up with it, even if they’re not aware of where it comes from. People come along and see the show all the time and go: ‘I didn’t realise that song was in it. I love that song and I used to sing it in school.’ I’m thrilled to keep coming back to it for that reason, plus to pass up the opportunity to take this incredible, up-to-date production that changed my life to people’s hometowns would have been crazy.

The show is a perennial school favourite. Were you in any school productions yourself?
I wasn’t in a school production as such but when I was around ten I was in a 30-minute condensed version of Joseph at my Saturday drama school. I did play Joseph himself but I don’t think I had a dreamcoat, just a makeshift little jacket or something. That was my only brush with the show as a kid, although I did see it later when it came to my hometown of Cardiff. I remember really enjoying it and it’s going to be a nice full-circle when I go back to the New Theatre and am on that stage myself.

Can you relate to Joseph in any way?
Yes, especially when I first started. There was the naivety and moving from the home comforts of Cardiff myself and Egypt in his case. It was like somebody flipped a switch and everything turned Technicolor. [Laughs] But my family isn’t as big as his and they certainly treat me a lot nicer.

Do you hit the gym to make sure you look good in the shirtless scenes?
Doing eight shows a week where I’m constantly running around keeps me in pretty good shape but I go to the gym, I eat well and I drink a lot of water – but that’s the stuff you have to do anyway when you’re doing such a full-on show as this.

Jason Donovan, who now stars as Pharaoh, played Joseph in 1991. How is it following in his footsteps?
It’s great. From day one Jason has been the most supportive person. I was terrified when I had to sing Close Every Door in front of him at rehearsal but he’s been amazing. He was the first person to throw his arms around me, congratulate me and give me the boost that I needed early on. Now we have such a laugh. He’s such a fun guy and he’s another reason why I wanted to go on tour with the show, because who better to do that with than Jason Donovan?

Might you play Pharaoh yourself one day?
This is the joke we always make. You could do Joseph forever because you could graduate from Joseph himself to Pharaoh and then you could finally move on to Jacob.

The West End production was one of the first to open to full capacity after social-distancing restrictions. What was the atmosphere like?
It was unbelievable. The atmosphere at Joseph is amazing anyway because of the fans and the way the Palladium is figured it’s such an intimate space, even though it’s huge. Then when the restrictions were lifted and we had full houses it was unbelievable. It’s such a tonic and, as I say, just the kind of show people want to see to lift their spirits. We were all emotional and it was quite overwhelming.

Joseph has been going strong since the early 70s. Why do you think audiences still love it?
I think it’s just timeless and, as Jason always says, it’s a very simple story. What you see is what you get and what you get is a really good time. It’s a wholesome tale about a boy overcoming adversity and it encourages you to follow your dreams. The message is so uplifting and it’s one of those shows that continues from generation to generation. We get people at the stage door saying to Jason ‘You were my Joseph when I was a kid’ and then I meet kids at the stage door and their mums say ‘This is their first time seeing it’ so I’m their Joseph. And it’s such a famous show that it’s kind of ingrained in everybody. It’s a huge part of our theatrical culture in the UK.

The Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice score is full of great songs. Do you have a favourite to perform?
Definitely Close Every Door and I love Go, Go, Go Joseph because we have an amazing cast and they’re all on stage for that one. It’s a huge production number and I think that’s what is so exciting about taking this particular incarnation of Joseph around the country because it’s like we’re taking the West End production to everyone.

What have been your other favourite in-between-Joseph stage roles?
I’ve been lucky to have taken part in some concerts and some TV stuff as well, and I’ve loved doing panto. My first panto was in Birmingham in 2019, then I was in panto at the Palladium this Christmas just gone with another Joseph, namely Donny Osmond. I love doing panto for the same reason I love doing Joseph, because you get an amazing audience response and it’s such fun and so entertaining.

Is this your first big tour and what are you most looking forward to about taking Joseph around the country?
It’s my first tour ever. I’ve never toured before and I’m really looking forward to it because I actually haven’t visited that many towns and cities in the UK and Ireland. It will be amazing to see all these new places, get to know them better and sink my teeth into the role even more. We did it for ten weeks in 2019 and just shy of ten weeks at the Palladium last year, and it almost felt like that as soon as we were getting into the groove the run was over. Now we’re doing eight months on the road and it will be so rewarding to throw myself into it for all that time.

Are there any stops on the tour that are dear to your heart?
I did panto at the Birmingham Hippodrome so I’m looking forward to being back there. I was there in Snow White in 2019 and I love the people, the Hippodrome is beautiful and the audiences go wild. There are a lot of places I’m excited to see, like Blackpool and Glasgow. We’re closing the tour in Edinburgh and I’ve heard the theatre there is amazing. It’s also going to be really interesting to see how different audiences respond to the show in different places.

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is playing at the New Theatre Cardiff until Saturday 7th May

Review Dreamgirls, Wales Millennium Centre by Gary Pearce

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

What a vocal sensation Dreamgirls brought to the WMC last night, I loved every minute of it. Enter the glitzy glamorous world of the music business, where the public sees only what the business wants them to see. But scratch below the surface and you soon find the harsh reality of it all, the struggle to get into the music business in the first place, the constant fight to stay there.

The racism, sexism, financial exploitation, the backstabbing, the lies, the hurt and the fight for recognition in a world saturated by wannabes, has-beens, and could-have-beens, all still vying for attention, a taste of the highlife and a share of the money that comes from others hard work. The Dreamgirls has it all! Take away the back story and Dreamgirls is a visual and sound explosion.

The listener is immediately transported to mid-1960s Detroit. The music and songs are well written and typical of the era with the Motown sound very prominent throughout.

The show’s cast is incredibly talented and versatile, great acting, great dancing, and fabulous singers. No credit can be taken away from any of them, but some spine-chillingly brilliant solos stand out above all else and bring the audience to their feet. If you’ve seen Dreamgirls you’ll have lived these moments, if you haven’t seen it then I suggest you do!

Absolutely brilliant 10/10

REVIEW Orbit’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, New Theatre by Barbara Hughes-Moore

Orbit Theatre has dazzled and delighted Cardiff audiences for five decades and counting. As Wales’ number one amateur theatre company, it’s staged productions of everything from Grease to Godspell, and now Orbit is back at the New Theatre with an enchanting new version of L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

Sophie Baker as Dorothy Gale (and Ella as Toto)

The story follows Dorothy Gale, a young girl from Kansas who dreams of escaping her dreary existence. She gets her wish when a tornado sweeps her and her little dog, Toto, to the fantastical land of Oz, a place filled with lions and tigers and bears – oh my! With a pair of magical ruby slippers and three new friends – a scarecrow, a tin man, and a cowardly lion – she heads to the Emerald City to meet the only person who can grant her wish to return home: the great and powerful Wizard of Oz – that is, unless the Wicked Witch of the West doesn’t catch her first.

Deryn Grigg as the Wicked Witch of the West

Directed by Rob Thorne Jnr, the show is every bit as magical as the beloved movie starring Judy Garland. It’s hard to believe this is an “amateur” production because everyone both onstage and behind it is working at such a professional level. As Dorothy, Sophie Baker steps into the iconic ruby slippers with ease and sings an enchantingly beautiful rendition of Over the Rainbow, leaving not a single dry eye in the house. Her duet with Paige Hodgson’s glamorous Glinda the Good Witch is a highlight, as are her interactions with the Wizard himself (Lewis Cook). The timeless songs you know and love all sound incredible here – everything from We’re Off to See the Wizard and the Merry Old Land of Oz to If I Only Had a Brain / a Heart / the Nerve.

Dorothy’s new friends are all on top form, from Daniel Ivor Jones’s nimble Scarecrow to Fran Hudd’s graceful Tin Man, and especially Matthew Preece as the Cowardly Lion, who has all of Bert Lahr’s mannerisms down pat (you’ll truly believe he’s The King of the Forest). The Gatekeeper might have been a throwaway role in other hands than Joe Green’s, who brings a real star quality to his scenes, while Deryn Grigg is devilishly good as the Wicked Witch of the West. Orbit’s talented young cast bring spirit and spectacle to the stage as munchkins and monkeys and trees – oh my! – and really deliver on Nicola Boyd-Anderson’s fabulous choreography. No-one, however, steals the show more than the adorable Ella as Toto who is easily one of the cutest canines to ever grace the stage – not to mention the most mischievous.

Lewis Cook as Professor Marvel/The Wizard of Oz

Orbit has won countless awards and has launched numerous careers, but their real magic comes from the fact that they make dreams come true. Their ‘Open Audition’ process means that newcomers have the opportunity to tread the boards and learn from the best. Dorothy’s story tells us that while there’s adventure to be found over the rainbow, there really is no place like home – and there’s no show quite as charming as The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. If you and your family want a little bit of magic and a lot of fun this half term, then all you have to do is click your heels three times and follow the yellow brick road to the New Theatre.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz will be playing at Cardiff’s New Theatre from 20 – 23 April, with performances at 1pm and 5pm each day.

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 Dreamboats & Petticoats: Bringing On Back The Good Times! New Theatre by Barbara Hughes-Moore

With the pandemic having made the future uncertain, we’ve been compelled to look back at the past, to the glory days of our youth when everything seemed possible. That’s always been the magic behind Bill Kenwright’s smash-hit jukebox franchise, Dreamboats & Petticoats, based on the multimillion selling compilation albums. The latest installment, Bringing On Back The Good Times!, is the third in the series, but you don’t need to have seen the first two to enjoy this fabulous, feel-good show.

Written by Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran, the story centres around sweethearts Laura (Elizabeth Carter) and Bobby (David Ribi), as their musical dreams threaten to keep them apart. While Laura’s chart-topping success earns her a starry residency in Torquay and equal billing with Frankie Howerd, Bobby is booked for the summer at the far-less glamorous Butlins in Bognor Regis, along with his old crew from St Mungo’s Youth Club. With both his career and his relationship in jeopardy, Bobby makes one final bid to save both: a wildcard run at becoming Britain’s entry in the Eurovision Song Contest.

The show really captures the feel of the era, thanks to an energetic cast, playful direction, and magnificent renditions of some of the decade’s most beloved songs, from Pretty Woman and C’mon Everybody to Keep on Running and Mony Mony. Sean Cavanagh’s colourful set of scrapbooked ticket stubs and album sleeves, and Carole Todd’s zesty choreography, also capture the fun and flamboyance of the decade. It’s a non-stop party from beginning to end: a joyous celebration of the music that made us, featuring more iconic tunes than you can shake a (rhythm) stick at! Everything is played and sung live onstage, and you won’t find a finer ensemble this side of the 60s. Ribi is excellent as the budding Buddy Holly and Carter as the Lesley Gore-alike, while Alastair Hill as the roving eyed frontman of Norman and the Conquests is responsible for some of the funniest moments in the show, especially when paired with Lauren Anderson-Oakley as his beleaguered wife, Sue.

The song list is bursting at the seams with some of the most iconic tunes in music history, and they’ve never sounded better than they do here. For a band aptly called ‘the Conquests’, they really do take no prisoners – so huge kudos to Benji Lord on bass, Joe Sterling on electric guitar, Alan Howell on acoustic, Daniel Kofi Wealthyland on drums, and musical director Sheridan Lloyd on keys. There’s fantastic musical backup by Lauren Chinery and Chloe Edwards-Wood on sax (and dancing) duties, plus some bravura brass courtesy of Rob Gathercole and Mike Lloyd, the latter of whom also plays a tyrannical Butlins Redcoat who steals every scene he’s in (imagine if Tom Hardy’s Charles Bronson joined the cast of Hi-De-Hi and you’re halfway there).

The songs fly so thick and fast that there’s often not enough time to applaud them all, which is what happens when the incredible Samara Clarke sings an utterly breathtaking rendition of Where the Boys Are. And while the music is staggering (Baby Now That I’ve Found You is a knockout), some of the show’s most powerful moments come from their a capella arrangements of Blue Moon (a real showcase for David Luke) and Come Softly to Me. Lord, Sterling and Gathercole playing twee Eurovision hopefuls was a standout (The Kennies were robbed!) and David Benson’s pitch-perfect Kenneth Williams’ ‘Ma crepe suzette’ bit had everyone in stitches. The cast also boasts a genuine star of the 1960s music scene: Mark Wynter (of Venus in Blue Jeans and Go Away Little Girl fame), who portrays Laura’s sagacious manager, Larry.

The show really comes to life in the second half, and while some of the ‘lead in’ dialogue is tenuous at best (‘How would you describe Laura?’ Cue ‘Pretty Woman’) but it’s all very tongue in cheek and who needs an excuse to sing Roy Orbison, anyway? If you experienced the music yourself the first time round, or if you’ve grown up listening to your parents’ or grandparents’ records, this show is a must-see. The 1960s aren’t just an escape: they’re a mirror. It was a time, like ours, filled with rebellion, political upheaval, and the threat of war on the horizon. The songs, and the performances, underscore the show’s clearest, loveliest message: that the good times will return, and better than ever.

Dreamboats & Petticoats Bringing On Back The Good Times! is playing at the New Theatre Cardiff through Saturday 16 April

Review Anyone Can Whistle, Southwark Playhouse by James Ellis 

Photo Credit: Danny With a Camera 

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

Please note this is a review of a preview performance

Floods of tributes for Steven Sondheim have poured in since his death in November. Send in the Clowns often gets in my head, I doubt I could think of a song more perfect. A legacy has been left with highs and lows, featuring lesser known stage work going back decades. Anyone Can Whistle is one such example.

The Grey Area Theatre and Alex Conder have taken a risk with this musical, certainly not one of his shows which comes to mind, more of a Pointless answer on that TV quiz (I remember getting Merrily We Roll Along as a winning answer). It reeks of mid 60’s, on the cusp of free love and the big revolutions of the day. The book by Arthur Laurents is not as sharp nor comical as it should be. Sondheim here has the promise of great songs, with that machine-gun quick lyricism that comes later, more defined more acclaimed pieces. The story tries to put under a microscope miracles, society, identity and the medical professions, yet doesn’t achieve any deep insight or whimsy. Strangely, there was a feel of Mark Twain and Dr Seuss for different reasons.

Past this, here is a peppy, diverse ensemble who put a lot of effort in a confined cat-walk with a band up on a rampart. The theatre has little of a set, a rock for the miracle MacGuffin to occur, some motels signs and a wheelbarrow full of glitter being passed of as the holy water. The leads have charisma. Jordan Broatch is J. Bowden Hapgood, Donovan meets The Darkness in a role full of subtle swagger and a happy-go lucky, deception. Alex Young gets most of the laughs as Cora Hoover Hooper, the silly-billy mayoress in a state of constant corruption, her only paranoia to be struck out of office, an act on a knife edge of occurring throughout. Christina Symone as Nurse Fay Apple, is the up tight sort, losing herself in her daft French disguise, proving some decent vocals. The full cast had enough energy to conduct electricity, the buzz of the space hard to deny. Costumes hark back to the psychedelic, hipster days, with an 80s nod in the second act as well.

I saw the last preview performance and noted the screens with music director Natalie Pound in the last two acts lost a signal, with some desperate attempts by a stagehand to fix this. The band were alive with the upbeat plateau that the musical little left. I feel the show might have suited a slighter large venue, I noted a few near slips off the platform, though nothing dramatic. Perhaps then you would be able to drink in the notorious sanatorium dance numbers, a larger rock set might have added to the drama as well.

Review We Will Rock You, Wales Millennium Centre by Rhys Payne

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

One of the key reasons that I love musical theatre is the fact that it transcends language barriers, cultures, age etc. While I thoroughly enjoy straight plays, they do rely heavily on the understanding from the audience whereas regardless of background everyone can enjoy a pretty tune, incredible vocals or even some insane choreography. Even if you don’t understand the words that are being sung, every one person can appreciate the performance elements to it which spans across languages for example. During the summer of 2016, I travelled to Hungary to help teach English to a group of learners attending a summer camp. At the end of the week, we hosted a talent show where anyone could showcase the weird and wonderful talents they possessed (and there absolutely was a range!) As the British team, we decided to do a lip-sync to the extremely unmistakable styles of Freddie Mercury and David Bowie by putting on a performance of under pressure. Going into our act I was concerned that the Hungarian kids would be bored and not enjoy their act but in fact, by the end of the number everyone was singing along in their own mother tongue which was incredible to witness! I was tasked with the colossal responsibility of taking on the role of the wonderfully eccentric Freddie Mercury who who is known for his over-the-top and striking personality. Physicalising these nuisances and personality quirks were very intimidating for me as everyone know how much of an enigma the Queen front man used to be and regardless of our placement within the talent show itself, I was proud that I managed to strut across the stage (in a semi-Freddie way) with everyone getting involved regardless of the language they spoke!

We Will Rock You is a musical that is based entirely on the musical of Queen and revolved around a group of characters who rebel against the people in charge and try to reignite a love for rock music. The year is 2300 and the entire world has been taken over by an international platform called global soft that almost brainwashes everyone into thinking and acting in exactly the same way. Firstly, the idea of a social media platform slowly taking over the world to control the minds of selected people is a lot closer than we as a race would like to hope. With the announcement of Meta by Mark Zuckerberg and the rise of popularity in certain social media sites, we are already being influenced by advertising and the censorship at times of free speech does suggest that if these media giants wanted to, they could easily create a false reality! Before we could even take our seats in the audience, we were greeted with signs telling people not to sing along to the performance as the performers should be the focal point. There have been hundreds of arguments online about whether or not people should be allowed to sing along with, and I totally appreciate the fact that especially for jukebox musicals we are aware of the songs before the musical is even created! However, I thought it was nice for the show to make a definitive stand and outright discourage audience participation. This was pitched as “do not sing along unless invited by the cast” which was clear but there was really no point where the cast explicitly ask the audience to sing along. As this is a musical of Queen’s greatest hits and the audience were discouraged from singing, I thought that it could have been done with a mega mix at the end of the show where the audience can sing and dance their little hearts out! There was an incredible encore performance of Bohemian Rhapsody at the end of the show, but it was never explained if the audience should should not join in with this iconic number. I think that as many audience members were able to stay quiet throughout the entire show (which even I struggled with at certain points) there should have been an opportunity at the end of the show tie the audience to sing and dances as well! Despite being a show set almost one hundred years into the future, the show is riddled with many popular culture references including clever weaving song lyrics/titles into dialogue, references to social media and mentioning of COVID (including one hilarious joke about needing protection with our two lovers simply putting on face masks before going to bed!)

As the story progresses the audience discovers that it is not just over two lead characters Galileo and Scaramouche (played by the wonderful pairing of Ian McIntosh and Elena Skye respectively) who feel as if global soft is brainwashing people and so join a rebel alliance to help and re-discover the power of rock music that is banned across the land! As discussed earlier my extremely short performance as queen singer Freddie Mercury filled me up with a lot of fear due to how eccentric he was, and this has in turn developed and a deeper sense of sympathy from me to anyone who even attempts to re-create the magic Freddie possessed! It seems that Ian Mcintosh was extremely comfortable performing some of Queen’s most iconic numbers throughout the show. While he was not taking in the role of Freddie per-say but as our lead character, he was responsible for heading up the performances of many of Queen’s most popular songs. I thought that as the show progresses, Ian becomes increasingly comfortable and confident in this role with his physically be the end of the show being the most Freddie-esque which complimented to narrative perfectly! Alongside Galileo for the majority of the show was Scaramouche played by Elena Skye who managed to perfectly portray the journey from outcasted student to official rock star fanatically with her performance of “Somebody to love” being absolutely incredible. It is very rare to see members of the audience giving standing up ovations halfway through an act, but many people were up on their feet after this incredible performance!

My personal highlight through the whole show however would have to be Jenny O’Leary who played the wicked Killer Queen and delivered some of the best vocal runs I have seen in an awfully long time! Her performance of the show must go on was quite possibly one of the most vocally powerful performances with her insane riffs being highlighted throughout. It is clear that Jenny is not only a ridiculously talented vocalist but also contains a stage presence that cannot be matched! She was able to command the audience’s attention and own every single piece of the staging ever when being in the foreground, I still found myself focusing on this gifted performer. During the first act, this character can be seen performing extremely powerful hand gestures and rather unique accent which to me seed very reminiscent of the iconic Devine/ my favourite Disney villain Ursula. The latter of these two inspirations was clearly embedded by the fact that Killer queen spent the majority of act one in a mermaid sequin outfit that not only looked incredible in Jenny but also paid homage to the iconic Villain form the little mermaid! Apart from being hit after hit from debatably the world’s greatest rock band, there were also a few moments of raw emotion in this production. There was an insanely moving performance towards the end of act one of “No One But You” which by itself is very moving but added on top of this it was performance by the character referred to simply as meatloaf and as we are all away meatloaf recently lost his life after a battle with COVID. This performance was respectfully done and had many audience members (myself include) awfully close to tears! While talking about recognition, I thought it was great that the band of this production were actually given an opportunity for a stage bow which is even more important knowing that the show has heavily reliant on rock music. The band were included in scenes at certain points and accompanied performers throughout and so I thought it was a nice touch that they received some praise at the end of the show!

Overall, this is a show crammed full of some of the Queen’s most iconic songs and so if you are a fan of the band or were around during their meteoric rise to fame then you will love hearing some of your favourites being performed live! I did find that the songs were the focal point of the show with the narrative almost being a second thought which is great if you are coming with the intention of celebrating queen and their music! Every member of the cast was incredibly talented and performed excellently at all times and so I would rate this show 4 out of 5 stars!