Category Archives: Musical

Review: Hello Kitty Must Die, Alchemation, Ed Fringe, By Hannah Goslin

 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

I think such a gripping title as Hello Kitty Must Die would entice anyone into what this production may be about. And it for sure wasn’t what I expected.

Hello Kitty Must Die is a feminist musical, combating the patriarchal stereotypes in the female and Asian communities but also throwing in dark humour and a bit of… murder.

This musical takes the said stereotypes, giving examples but turning these on their head, with a satirical but unapologetic approach. As a non-asian person, it was interesting and eye opening to hear how Asian women are treated in their own cultures as well as western cultures. The mixture of the two, including the opportunities in both, compete with one another and this transpires on stage, satirically making fun of these but subtly highlighting the issues with these thoughts.

As a musical, the voices are beautiful, powerful and harmonise well. However, I find with a lot of musicals, and those particularly in smaller venues, that the music often overpowers them and so some of the words were missed for me. Catchy in rhythm, they just lacked what was obviously important commentary on the story-line and the feminist opinions.

The actors were brilliant and those who were not the main character did well to jump and change into different characters throughout, embodying these physically and vocally. However, the story begins to be a commentary on how particularly Asian women are expected to be perfect, virginal and live for their husbands. When the narrative somewhat changes to a murder spree, it feels disconnected and a little out of the blue. The moral is in essence that any woman, especially a stereotyped Asian woman can take back their control and be above white men, but it felt a little of an abrupt narrative tact to take. There was no shock to it, nothing surprising with the ending and left us wanting a lot more.

Hello Kitty Must Die is fun, it is professional and full of talent in the singing and acting, but felt a little lost in what the narrative was meant to achieve.

Review: Heathers the Musical, Wales Millennium Centre by Vicky Lord

“September 1st, 1989. Dear Diary…”

Veronica Sawyer, Heathers the Musical

Heathers the Musical, based on the 1988 black comedy film of the same name, follows Westerberg High’s Veronica Sawyer as just another nobody dreaming of a better day. But when she joins the beautiful and impossibly cruel Heathers and her dreams of popularity may finally come true, mysterious teen rebel JD teaches her that it might kill to be a nobody, but it is murder being a somebody.

Continue reading Review: Heathers the Musical, Wales Millennium Centre by Vicky Lord

Review: Puppets, Olivia Ruggiero Productions, Ed Fringe, By Hannah Goslin

 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

A lover of puppets, but also a lover of bringing these family friendly items into the adult universe, a show about dating and puppets sounded up my street.

Liv has been brought up, as we all have, of the idea of a White Knight and Prince Charming. But in a modern world, we have to wade through the frogs on dating apps that may seem like good deals or quickly not, but there is awkwardness and a need to stick with it to find this dream. Liv is crazed by this and, to bring her dating woes to life, these poor matches become our familiar favourite puppets from Sesame Street.

In between the stories, Ruggiero ties these up with contemporary and musical bops, showcasing her phenomenal voice. With this, her voice and ability to perform musical theatre is spectacular and it’s clear how much talent Ruggiero possesses. To bring this into a fringe show, featuring puppets and adult humour is a brilliant idea and should be commended. Despite this, for one who is not a novice but also not an expert on Musical Theatre, there were many songs and references that I wasn’t clear on their origins, with some being quite niche and so lost me a little with this. I guess, if you are happy to not think too much about where they come from or accept complete lack of knowledge of this genre, it’s great to absorb these but it felt distracting to me with recognition of some and not others.

The concept is of course interesting – it touches on predecessors such as Avenue Q or Hand of God, using puppetry to give a humorous approach to adult topics. However, I found myself a little lost with who was who and the story-line and with this, possibly missed some of the comedy or point of the story telling. With Liv’s dating life being summarised as not tying up the search for the love of her life and instead, realisation of confidence in herself, it felt a little out of the blue without us seeing more work on herself that could lead to that conclusion.

Puppets is great fun, with a beautiful voice belting through the walls and fantastic performance in general. I just felt a little lost with the story and felt that the important elements such as the songs were rather niche for an ordinary audience.

Review 42nd Street, Wales Millennium Centre by Tracey Robinson

Jazz hands and happy feet, an exuberant, joyful, uplifting, seam of bright positivity runs through 42nd Street, originally a book and film dating from the midst of the Great Depression. A musical within a musical is a celebration of show business, it hints at the era’s economic atmosphere. 

The iconic show, with tunes such as “We’re In The Money” and “Lullaby Of Broadway”, tells the tale of a young aspiring performer, Peggy Sawyer, played by Rhianna Dorris, straight off the Greyhound bus from small-town Pennsylvania, she has wound up in New York City with only 40 cents in her purse, and there’s talk of skipping meals and breadlines, she’s aiming to make her dreams a reality, she longs to see her name in lights.

Stumbling into big-time director Julian Marsh, played by Michael Praed, and catching the eye of Billy Lawlor, she’s asked to join the chorus line of Pretty Lady, the latest musical to make it to Broadway. Unexpectedly she soon gets her chance at stardom, as leading-lady Dorothy Brock (who’s a nightmare to work with) is injured and Peggy finds herself thrust into the limelight, taking centre stage. The whole cast are superb, all strong characters, with amazing voices, working together as one to create a spectacular show. The character of leading lady Dorothy Brock (played superbly by Samantha Womack) certainly demonstrated incredible vocals. 

But, in my opinion, the real star of the show was the overall production – Robert Jones’ set and costumes are clearly fantastic. Utilising lighting and projectors to great effect. A lot of money and a lot of time has been spent making this production look as amazing as possible. The clever use of curtains allows us to see backstage as the production is happening, and other musical numbers like Shadow Waltz and 42nd Street have a very simple but incredible set design that really helps them stand out. 

Les Dennis and Faye Tozer are hilarious, they have great chemistry, a perfect comedy double act. Michael Praeds’ solo numbers are wonderful, he plays a very charismatic character. The leads are all outstanding, a plethora of household names, with years of experience on stage and screen“42nd Street” is a show that doesn’t come around too often. If you’re nostalgic over the era of Gene Kelly and Singing in the Rain then this is the show for you – and if you just love musicals, you won’t go wrong with this glitter-dazzling, tap-dancing delight!

INTERVIEW AJ Jenks, star of Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story

Get the Chance Community Critic Barbara Hughes-Moore speaks with AJ Jenks, one of the stars of the number one national UK touring production of Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story. Birmingham-born AJ trained in actor/musicianship at the Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts and has since gone on to play musical icons like Elvis Presley, Barry Gibb and Mick Jagger before taking on the role of Buddy Holly (which he shares with Chris Weeks).

Buddy is one of just a few iconic musicals including Les Misérables, Phantom of the Opera, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, Miss Saigon, Evita and Cats to reach three decades on stage. It follows the musical icon’s meteoric rise from his rockabilly roots to international fame and his legendary final performance at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa, before his untimely death at the age of 22. In just 18 months, Buddy revolutionised the face of contemporary music, and would influence everyone from The Beatles to the Rolling Stones.

Featuring a super talented cast of actor-musicians, Buddy includes 20+ of his greatest hits, including the timeless classics That’ll Be The Day, Peggy Sue, Oh Boy, Everyday and Rave On. It also features classics from Buddy’s contemporaries, like the Big Bopper’s Chantilly Lace and Ritchie Valens’ La Bamba, as well as rip-roaring versions of Shout and Johnny B. Goode.

Buddy plays at the New Theatre Cardiff from 14 – 16 September 2023. For more information and to book tickets here.

Review A Strange Loop, Barbican, London by James Ellis

 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Photo credit: Mark Brenner

The Barbican is ablaze with a new musical offering. A Strange Loop remains an unforgettable encounter, leaving many fine images and tunes in the brain. The songs by Michael R. Jackson are packed into this show, no interval and no prisoners here. Our leading man Usher, is his namesake at the theatre putting on The Lion King. As a young, black, gay, overweight male, he tries to find his way through and writing musicals is his escape, his passion. Yet, can Usher make it as a musical master?

There is a lot going on in this show, many themes tackled and many relatable moments for a lot of different people. Usher is very sweet as a character, down trodden by his fellow gays, snobs, family and more. A wonderful ensemble of singers dubbed his ‘Thoughts’ loiter around the stage and fill him with insecurities. Said ensemble are just one of the many highlights of the show, I’m thinking back to the outrageous musical number where black figures from history come to haunt Usher: Maya Angelo, Harriet Tubman, James Baldwin, aside an embodiment of 12 Years A Slave, clutching an Oscar. The show does have many shocking moments, never shying away from sexual, racist and homophobic bursts that left us all upset.

Director Stephen Brackett has made a wonderful production, fabulous use of the stage. I’ve yet to recover from the head turning finale scenes featuring gospel, a 80s style sitcom and even a funeral. Amazing how honest we hear truths about the parental figures in this story, the lack of support for Usher as an artist and as a gay man. Some of these songs are so catchy that I cannot even sing them now due to the context within.

The show very much belongs to our Usher: Kyle Ramar Freeman. Hardy ever off stage and with great comic timing, I was taken so much with how endearing the role is. You need a great voice and even bigger theatrical presence, Kyle does all this and more with aplomb. His brings these truths out to the role, the exhausted, bottled up emotions exploding at the end were majestic. His turn as the gospel preacher was another sensation.

This was a surreal, outrageous thrill that needs to seen at once.

A Strange Loop continues at The Barbican till 9 Sept 2023.

Review Annie, Wales Millennium Centre by Barbara Michaels

 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

Based on the book by Thomas Meehan
Music: Charles Strouse
Lyrics: Martin Charnin
Director: Nikolai Foster
Choreographer: Nick Winston.
Set and Costume Designer: Colin Richmond
Reviewer: Barbara Michaels

Back on stage again, and touring after a highly successful London run, ‘Annie’ the musical, based on the book by Thomas Meehan and the popular comic strip Little Orphan Annie, the original Broadway production of Annie the musical, back in the Seventies, was an outstanding success, running for six years. Not surprising, really – the rags to riches story of eleven-year-old orphan Annie couldn’t fail to grab at the heart strings. The same is true now in this latest production, directed by Nikolai Foster. A musical with the heart-warming theme of a young girl living in an orphanage from which she is determined to escape and find her parents, never fails to be popular with audiences around the UK.

This time around, the darker side is given more prominence. Set in New York, in the Thirties, the time of the Great Depression when President Roosevelt and his cabinet were struggling to find a way through, set designer Colin Richmond uses random jigsaw pieces to emphasize the disjointed existence led by many – not least the orphans, of whom eleven-year-old Annie is the ringleader, under the tyrannical rule of the scary Miss Hannigan.

While the problems of the situation then can be seen to have relevance to our lives in the UK today, with the aftermath of the Pandemic, the lengthy prequel in the form of radio bulletins coming over speakers is overlong, given that the action speaks for itself. Nevertheless, this rejigged version scores, albeit much of it being carried on the shoulders of the highly watchable Craig Revel Horwood, segueing in high heels onto the stage of the Donald Gordon theatre for the second time – the last time was 2019 – in the role that he has made his own.

As the scheming harridan intent on looking after number one, Revel Horwood takes command of the stage, giving it welly with gusto in Easy Street in Act I, and proving yet again – as if we needed reminding -that judging Strictly is not by any means his only talent. Revel Horwood acts and dances with expertise; his timing is spot on. A true pro – although given n that this is the fifth production in which he has played the role, it is hardly surprising.

On opening night in Cardiff, the leading role of Annie was played by Zoe Akinyosade. A challenging role for any young aspiring actress, this young actress and singer ‘gets’ Annie, although there are times when she needs to guard against her voice becoming over shrill, this being exampled in her solo Tomorrow in Act II. There was a tendency for this to be the case with several of the young performers, compensated for by the verve with which they performed the energetic moves required by Nick Winston’s clever and innovative choreography.

The popular Alex Bourne, who played the role in the West End production, is a lovable Daddy Warbucks –the business tycoon who becomes an avuncular figure as he faces the challenges involved in becoming Annie’s adoptive Dad. The wistful Something Was Missing, sung by Warbucks and Annie in Act I and later reprised in Act II, scored Brownie points with this reviewer, while Paul French’s Rooster cuts the mustard on all fronts. Full marks to all the young performers for some superb dance moves.

As if performing with a posse of young actors wasn’t enough in itself, to challenge the adult performers, there is also a cuddly dog who trots back and forth obediently across the stage discreetly rewarded by the necessary treats.

Runs until Saturday July 8th at Wales Millennium Stadium


Back in 2018, four prime ministers ago, a new musical based on the music of Take That was born. It was called “The Band” and the BBC did the show “Let it Shine” to discover the next big boy band for it. They were called Five to Five.

Fast forward to 2023, Take That celebrate the 30th anniversary of their first number one Pray, and “The Band” becomes Greatest Days – The Official Take That Musical!

There has been another musical based on Take That – Never Forget – which by the way, premiered at Wales Millennium Centre in 2007!

So, to Greatest Days.

It’s Manchester 1992 and its based around five 16-year-old girls for who ‘the band’ is everything.  They then reunite 25 years later, and you see how life has taken each girl down a different road.

Written by Tim Firth – who also penned Calendar Girls The musical with a certain Gary Barlow, its story is nostalgic and funny. The strength of a “Jukebox Musical” can sometimes be measured in how well it would stand without the music – Greatest Days does this so well. The nostalgia you feel could easily equate to how your own life has panned out in the last thirty-one years. There’s a warmth to each character, and something familiar that feels real.

Production wise it’s brilliant.

The “band” – well put together, but as I’ve previously said, their performances don’t drive the story forward. They provide the backing track, but the main story is carried by the performances of the main ensemble – the young and current versions of each. Going back to what I said about the warmth in each character, each performance was flawless. Sometimes with touring musicals, it’s about the one person being in it, granted Kym Marsh’s Rachel is fab, but each person took you on their own journey of nostalgia. There wasn’t one stand out moment – the story and performers are the stand outs of Greatest Days.

Back in 2018 when I reviewed “The Band” I did something a little bit cheesy and included some Take That song titles in recommending this musical.

But you’d wait for life for that. Okay Babe, are you happy now I found heaven? I might just end up all night, and then never forget to do this review pray-sing The Band. You do what you like, I’d love to hold up a light and come back for good to see this again! Patience, then you’ll rule the world.

Did I love “Greatest Days”? Sure!

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ 

REVIEW: @ImPatrickDownes

REVIEW Tony! [The Tony Blair Rock Opera] at the New Theatre Cardiff

When you hear the term ‘rock opera’, your first thought might be of icons and iconoclasts: Ziggy Stardust, Meat Loaf, Pink Floyd. You don’t tend to think of the Member of Parliament for Sedgefield – but TONY! [The Tony Blair Rock Opera] is here to give former Prime Minister Tony Blair his very own American Idiot (but more on George W. Bush later).

The cast of TONY! [The Tony Blair Rock Opera] ©Mark Senior

Billed as Yes, Minister meets The Rocky Horror Show, TONY! is the unruly brainchild of comedian Harry Hill and songwriter Steve Brown. Directed by Peter Rowe, it follows the titular politico from cradle to grave, from his stint as a wannabe rockstar in his student days to becoming leader of the Labour party and winning a landslide victory at the 1997 election, plus the precipitous legacy of his special relationship with POTUS and ‘personality’ politics. Jack Whittle, who previously stole the show in Mischief Theatre’s Comedy About a Bank Robbery, is a pitch-perfect PM, nailing all of Blair’s mannerisms from the rictus grin to the ‘right on’ charisma that lent New Labour its groovy young poster boy.

We follow Tony through a cavalcade of larger-than-life characters, including loved-up Liverpudlian Cherie (a top-form Tori Burgess – her running joke about fox hunting is a real winner) and bumbling frenemy Gordon Brown (Phil Sealey). Through it all, Tony is dogged by the angel and devil on his shoulder: the former, a near-saintly Neil Kinnock (original cast member Martin Johnston), portrayed as a tragic Llywelyn-style hero cut down in his political prime, with a rousing ‘Do You Hear the People Sing?’-esque swan song. (We were promised a Les Mis moment, after all). As for the latter, Howard Samuels is delectably devilish as Peter Mandelson, our sinister master of ceremonies and the architect of Blair’s ascent to the big leagues.

TONY! [The Tony Blair Rock Opera] centre: Jack Whittle as Tony Blair & Emma Jay Thomas as Princess Diana, ©Mark Senior

They’re joined by an excellent three-piece band (Oli Jackson, David Guy and Harry Brent) and supported by a lively and versatile cast including Rosie Strobel as a rabble-rousing John Prescott, Sally Cheng as the adulterous Robin Cook, Emma Jay Thomas as a dance-mad Princess Di, and William Hazell, who covers all the roles in the show and gets to shine as a briefly-spied Bill Clinton and as Blair’s boyhood hero ‘Mick Jaggers’. The cast double up in roles, which brings us Sealey’s memorable turn as a Groucho Marx-inspired Saddam Hussein and Johnston as a flight jacketed Dubya puppetered by Samuels’ bewigged Dick Cheney.

The cast of TONY! [The Tony Blair Rock Opera] ©Mark Senior

The accents are broad, the comedy even broader (bordering on bad taste), and the gags fly faster than insults at the PMQs – but the show doesn’t scrimp on the harsh reality. Blair’s accountability in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and the three other wars he oversaw during his tenure in Number 10, are on full display, even if his culpability is downplayed into naïve self-advancement. What it does nail, however, is that Blair isn’t a pop star, but a political luvvie: picking pizzazz over principles, soaking up the spotlight while the Gordon Browns of the world are made to wait in the wings.

The cast of TONY! [The Tony Blair Rock Opera] Jack Whittle as Tony Blair & Tori Burgess as Cherie Blair, ©Mark Senior

Entertaining with flashes of brilliance, TONY! isn’t here to set the record straight: it’s here to put that record on a turntable, smash it with a comedy mallet, and dance on the debris. While the set, wigs and costumes could do with some polishing, TONY! gets away with it in the name of slapstick silliness – and its final song has moments of genuine power and poignancy, with nods to ‘Springtime for Hitler’ and Dr Strangelove. If you’re au fait with Harry Hill’s oeuvre, you’ll find the rhythm quickly, and if not, you’ll likely still be swept away in the irreverence of it all. It might not be endorsed by the real Tony Blair, but it certainly was by the audience on opening night, who couldn’t have given it a more rapturous response. The question remains, though: TONY! may have had its Mamma Mia! moment – but will you go again?

TONY! [The Tony Blair Rock Opera] is playing a limited run at the New Theatre Cardiff from Wednesday 14 – Saturday 17 June. More information and how to book tickets here.

PREVIEW Tony! [The Tony Blair Rock Opera] New Theatre Cardiff

What do you get when you cross Yes, Minister with The Rocky Horror Show? You get Tony! [The Tony Blair Rock Opera], of course! This, at least, is the bonkers pitch from comedian Harry Hill and Steve Brown, the comic creatives behind the West End’s weirdest smash hit show.

Billed as “a reckless reappraisal of the life of former Ugly Rumours front man and Britain’s first pop Prime Minister Tony Blair“, it follows the titular Tony from Easy Street to Downing Street in a madcap musical experience like no other, featuring a cast of larger-than-life characters from George W. Bush to Princess Diana.

But don’t expect a history lesson, says co-creator Harry Hill: “In our world Tony’s born singing and dancing, Saddam Hussein is played as Groucho Marx, and Gordon Brown occasionally turns into the Incredible Hulk – let’s just say all the facts are there… but not necessarily as they occurred!”

Having opened on London’s West End in May, it now embarks on a UK tour, including a planned four-week stint at the Edinburgh Festival Fring,e and of course this week at Cardiff’s prestigious New Theatre. While the show is sure to divide audiences (it comes with a note that neither Tony Blair, the Tony Blair Institute, nor any other person featured in this production have endorsed or are affiliated with the production), Hill maintains that it has something for everyone: “It’s a show for Tony Lovers and Haters everywhere – and everyone in between.”

TONY! [The Tony Blair Rock Opera] is playing a limited run at the New Theatre Cardiff from Wednesday 14 – Saturday 17 June. More information and how to book tickets here.