Category Archives: Musical

REVIEW Fisherman’s Friends: The Musical, New Theatre by Barbara Hughes-Moore

The buoy band that breams were made of! Fisherman’s Friends: The Musical, written by Amanda Whittington and directed by James Grieve, is based on the true ragfish-to-riches story of the best Cornish export since the pasty: an acapella group comprised of local fishermen whose chart-topping rise to fame saw them playing the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury in 2011. The musical, which draws on the screenplay for the 2019 film starring James Purefoy and Daniel Mays, includes a raft of sea shanties (including lockdown TikTok sensation Wellerman) alongside original songs written for the show by musical director James Findlay. Having premiered in Plymouth in September, the UK tour drops anchor in Cardiff this week.

The UK touring cast of Fisherman’s Friends 2022

The story centres around the band’s discovery by Jason Langley’s Danny, a disgraced record producer who wants to use the Fishermen for his comeback, and who ends up falling for them hook, line and sinker. With the team at Island Records sceptical of the band being able to find an audience, Danny lies his way to London with the Fishermen in tow. A classic fish out of water, Langley’s interactions with the Fishermen – and his budding romance with Alywyn (Parisa Shahmir), ‘The Taylor Swift of Port Isaac’ – are hugely entertaining to watch.

The UK touring cast of Fisherman’s Friends 2022

This is in no small part due to the energy and enthusiasm of this wonderful cast, who are onstage together for most of the show. Kudos to the actors who play the titular Fishermen: James Gaddas, Robert Duncan, Anton Stephans, John O’Mahony, Hadrian Delacey, Dan Buckley, Dominic Brewer, and the double act of Dakota Starr and Pete Gallagher who won the toughest-fought battle of ‘having the most fun onstage’ I’ve seen in a while. (You can check out our interview with Dakota here). Mind you, everyone onstage (and in the audience) lit up during the scene where the Fishermen hit the Soho club scene – and if you were wondering whether you can disco-ify a sea shanty, then wonder no more.

The UK touring cast of Fisherman’s Friends 2022

The team have done an excellent job at translating the story and sense of place to the stage. St Piran’s Day is duly celebrated and Bodmin duly sassed, and Lucy Osborne’s gorgeous set took my breath away when the curtain went up, and the spectacular opening scene – where the Fishermen sing ‘Norman’s Blood’ on a stormy ocean – is something you truly have to see (or ‘sea’?) for yourself. With such a huge cast, the show nails both the raucous group numbers (like the jolly ‘South Australia’ and any scene in the Golden Lion pub) and intimate two-handers (like the first tentative steps of courtship between Langley and Shahmir, where they circle slowly around each other singing ‘Sloop John B’). Meanwhile, Cornish actors like Susan Penhaligon and Robert Duncan bring a sense of mischief, gravitas and authenticity, and Shahmir lends grace and passion to the stage in ‘A Village by the Sea’.

The UK touring cast of Fisherman’s Friends 2022

The sense of warmth and affection among the cast is sure to reel you in, as will the top-notch singing – these shanties have never sounded better. While you might struggle to remember every Steinman lyric or Osmonds riff, these call-and-response songs are easy to pick up and sing along to – the pitcher sings a verse, and everyone joins in on the chorus. Shanties originated as working men’s songs, designed to help sailors keep to a strict rhythm during everyday tasks on the ship, and to keep up morale. So if you’re feeling even the teensiest bit down in the dumps, a couple of bars of ‘John Kanaka’, ‘Drunken Sailor’, or ‘Blow the Man Down’ is sure to lift you up.

There really is something for everyone in this show. The songs have a sense of history and humour that make them a rich live experience. As one character says: these songs are for anyone with a heart, a soul, and a taste for adventure. Set sail for Fisherman’s Friends and you’re sure to have a fin-tastic time!

Fisherman’s Friends: The Musical is playing at New Theatre in Cardiff through to 29th October (you can find out more about the production and book tickets here).

The UK touring cast of Fisherman’s Friends 2022

Review The Color Purple, Wales Millenium Centre by Anna Arrieta

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

I remember reading ‘The Color Purple’ by Alice Walker in A-level English, analysing the language, and digging into the characters. It was a fantastic story, beautifully written, exploring many important themes. This can often be a worry when you brace yourself to watch a musical adaptation- will it manage to capture the true essence of the story and characters? I needn’t have worried. The musical adaptation by Marsha Norman reflected the story well, and really did it justice. By focusing on just one half of the tale, we engaged and immersed ourselves fully into Celie’s journey. When watching ‘The Color Purple’ at the Wales Millennium Centre, after having last explored its pages over 6 years ago, it all came flooding back to me. I remember the depth of the characters, I remember the complex relationships, the longing for escape, and the way that hope and love ties it all together. And what a story it is.

Set in 1913, in the American South, a young black girl Celie (played by Me’sha Bryan), submits to the oppression of her father as he takes away her newborn children- to where, we don’t know. As her dear sister Nettie is taken away, we follow Celie as she narrates her life through painfully honest letters to God. She questions her faith and longs to be reunited with her first love, Nettie. During this time she finds strength in other women, Shug Avery- a free spirit who encourages Celie to appreciate the beauty of the world, and Sofia- the inspiring female influence that Celie needs to drive herself out of the toxic situation she is in and make decisions for herself.

Celie’s childlike manner in the first few scenes makes it no chore for the audience to fall in love with the character. We can feel her inner hope and innocence, her ambitions for life, and her love for her sister. She is just a young girl, unaware of the horrors that she will have to overcome in the near future. The opening number draws us in immediately, vibrating the theatre with colour and song. A juxtaposition almost, to the horrible treatment that Celie is facing by pretty much all of the men in her life. She faces sexual and physical abuse from her father and her husband – Mister- who is forced upon her after being denied her little sister Nettie because she’s ‘too pure’. Celie is shamed and told she’s ugly her whole life, so much so that she completely accepts it. She rises above adversity and takes the struggles in her stride, this is shown in the climax of the story and in her electric performance of “I’m Here”- which moved me completely.

This show had no lack of strong vocalists, the strength and consistency of these voices were a highlight for me. I loved the three main chorus ladies who took us through the paces of the show with their contemporary and rhythmic vocals. Of course, not forgetting Sofia, played by the incredible Anelisa Lamola. Her voice and presence exuded power, and she delivered a spell-binding performance.

The set design was simplistic but totally effective. It took us to where we needed to be and didn’t contain distraction from the performance in any way. The transitions between scenes were smooth and minimal.The projections worked, and like the costume, gave a contemporary feel to the drama. This is one thing I loved about The Color Purple, it was very different from any other musical I have seen. Whether this was due to the writing, or the delivery, or a bit of both, but there were no cringe-worthy moments or any ounce of ‘cheesy’ dialogue, which I appreciated. I particularly loved the way the final lines of the book were included in the very last lines of the song. In your typical musical you have the big showstopper of an ending, jazz hands, and volume. In The Color Purple, they explored something different, everything was pulled down to it’s raw essence in this last song to focus on our beloved protagonist, Celie. The harmonies, dynamics and texture of the chorus’ voices in these last moments were spine-tingling.

I applaud the direction of the show by Tinuke Craig, and the amazing chorus members who multi-rolled and brought energy and light to the whole performance.

Overall, I was mesmerised by ‘The Color Purple’. It helps that it’s such a well-established story with so much depth. I would recommend it to every audience, those who are fan of the book and the film, musical theatre lovers, and new audiences of theatre. A story of life, beauty, love, hope, and triumph, with a stellar cast.


BARBARA HUGHES-MOORE INTERVIEWS DAKOTA STARR ON FISHERMAN’S FRIENDS: THE MUSICAL

Get the Chance Community Critic Barbara Hughes-Moore speaks with actor and singer Dakota Starr, who is part of the touring cast for Fisherman’s Friends: The Musical. This feel-good new show charts the real-life story of the Cornish ‘Buoy Band’, who went from singing sea shanties in their beloved hometown of Port Isaac to performing on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury. The show is playing at the New Theatre Cardiff from 25 – 29 October (you can find out more about the production and book tickets here). Dakota, who plays Ben, one of the titular Fishermen, chats with us about the joy of singing sea shanties onstage, touring with such a tight-knit cast, and why audiences will come out of the theatre with a song in their hearts!

This interview has been edited for clarity.

Thank you so much for speaking with me today, Dakota!

Pleasure! Nice to be here.

Tell us a little bit about Fisherman’s Friends: The Musical.

Well, it’s a new musical based on the true story of the band The Fisherman’s Friends, who are a group of unlikely stars who were fishermen from the Cornish town of Port Isaac. They were discovered quite by accident by a record executive and shot to fame in the early 2010s. This show is a slightly fictionalised although based on reality musical about their rise to stardom and its effect on the community and their families.

What role do you play and how did you get involved?

I play Ben, who is one of the main fishermen. There are nine of us in total in the shanty band and I am one of the main singers, which isn’t something I could have said earlier in my career! Our voices blend together quite beautifully, which is an unexpected bonus. I got involved in the usual way: a couple of rounds of auditions, expecting not to get the job at every step!

So you’re already harmonising together as a team?

Absolutely! I’d say of the nine of us, there are probably 3 or 4 who are West End singers, and the rest of us are actors who can hold a tune. One of the clever things they did during the casting was to find nine individual voices that blend together in their natural ranges quite beautifully. The harmonies stitch together really nicely.

Do you have a favourite sea shanty?

There’s a song called John Kanaka which I’m a big fan of, and which we do a couple of times in the show: first, as part of the hometown concert singing for the local community, and later on the trip to London to meet the record producer for the first time. It’s the soundtrack to the band travelling on their minibus to London to seek fame and fortune. That’s my favourite shanty, but there are songs that have been written specifically for the show which are more like folk songs. One of these is sung by Parisa Shahmir as Alwyn, who’s the female lead of the show, and she has such a sensational voice. It’s a sight to behold.

How does the story translate to the stage?

We have a life-size boat that fills the stage in the introduction and then later on during the song Rattling Winches, where they take the wannabe manager out on the boat to see what he’s made of. It’s a real visceral way of showing the world these men come from and the dangers they face, and the graft they have to put in just to scrape a living as professional lobster fishermen. It’s a sight to behold, quite a spectacle.

How do you bond as a cast behind the scenes, especially on such a big UK tour?

It’s a unique cast as far as I’ve experienced in my career: right from the first day of rehearsals, it’s been an environment of kindness and togetherness. It’s fitting, as we’re in a show that’s based on such a close-knit community whose catchphrase is ‘one and all’, that the only way to survive is to come together as a team and as a community. They’ve managed to cast a group of people who’ve done that in the rehearsal room and then now on the road as well. Touring is always a strange and tiring and stressful journey, but today [for example] we had our day off, so I met up with one of the cast and we went for coffee and went shopping together. It’s a chance to bond with someone that I don’t spend any time with onstage. It’s a lovely cast to work with.

What’s your favourite scene to perform with the cast?

My favourite scenes are the ones that take place in the pub. Their entire community is based around a pub called The Golden Lion, which exists in the real Port Isaac. It’s where the men met and rehearsed and started singing together. It’s the hub and heart and soul of that village. The scenes that take place there are filled with camaraderie and a gentle teasing of each other, and a real feeling of a group of people who know each other so well, and who know each other’s histories so well, that they can laugh and cry and get under each other’s skin and have conflict and resolve that conflict all in one environment. Those things feel like the most community-based for the whole cast.

In the spirit of gentle teasing, who do you feel is most and least like their characters?

Parisa (Shahmir, who plays Alwyn) is the most like her character, because Alwyn is a very strong-minded young lady who knows her own mind and what she wants and what she doesn’t. Even having this romance with a record producer doesn’t tempt her into the world of professional music. She’s a singer-songwriter both in the show and in real life, and she’s given the opportunity in the show to chase a solo career if she wants one, and to see what the music business is like – and decides that she’s happy where she is. She sings and plays and lives in Port Isaac, and that’s where her heart lives, and she doesn’t want to be chewed up and spat out by an industry that has no interest in. parisa has that same strength of character and purpose – she’s very well cast!

I’m going to say Jason Langley, who plays Danny the record exec, is the least like his character. That character is kind-hearted, which Jason shares with him, but he’s a blagger, which Jason doesn’t. the character is very much out for himself at first, but he learns the power of community and the strength of respecting the people around you and the love a community can have for each other, which is alien to him. He’s happy to lie and cheat and get what he wants and fight his way in, which is very un-Jason: Jason is very team-oriented and looking out for everyone else all the time.

What do you want audiences to come out of the theatre feeling after this show?

I would like them to come out of the theatre feeling closer to the people around them, and feeling bonded to the places they come from and the people they know and the people they love. It’s such a story of people supporting each other and lifting each other up, and that we’re all greater than the sum of our parts; that we can all, as a community or as a team, be something quite special. I think, in this current climate, that a sense of community and of working together and helping each other is more essential than ever.

Have you ever performed in Cardiff before, or the New Theatre specifically?

It’ll be my first time performing in Cardiff! We have family friends who live in Cardiff so I can’t wait for them to see me on the big stage for the first time. I’ve visited many times but never performed here, so it’s exciting for me.

We’re very excited to see you perform in Cardiff! I have one last question for you: because the Fisherman’s Friends are known as a buoy band, I want to know: do you have a favourite boy band?

Tricky!

So many good ones to choose from, I know.

There are! I’m taking this question far too seriously.

You can’t be too serious about boy bands, Dakota!

I know! My favourite boy band is an acapella group called The Magnets: one of them is a beat boxers and the rest of the voices go from bass to very high tenor. They do incredible close harmony versions of pop songs that are done a cappella.

How perfect for the Fisherman’s Friends! Thank you so much for your time, Dakota – we can’t wait for the show.

Can’t wait to perform there! Thank you for having me.

Fisherman’s Friends: The Musical is playing at the New Theatre Cardiff from 25 – 29 October. You can find out more about the production and book tickets here, and check out our syndicated interview with Dakota’s cast members Robert Duncan, James Gaddas, and Susan Penhaligon, along with director James Grieve and writer Amanda Whittington here.

PREVIEW, FISHERMAN’S FRIENDS: THE MUSICAL, NEW THEATRE CARDIFF

This is a syndicated interview for Fisherman’s Friends: The Musical, which is performing at the New Theatre Cardiff from 25-29 Oct 2022. Stars Robert Duncan, James Gaddas, Susan Penhaligon, along with director James Grieve and writer Amanda Whittington, discuss why it’s the ultimate feel-good show.

As the world premiere production of Fisherman’s Friends: The Musical embarks on a UK and Ireland tour, director James Grieve promises audiences are in store for “a feel-good, foot stomping, sea shanty musical telling the astonishing story of the world’s least likely boyband”.

Based on the true story of the Cornish singing sensations and the smash hit 2019 film about them, the show has already played to packed houses at the Hall for Cornwall in Truro – where it broke box office records as the most successful production in the venue’s history.

Grieve is in no doubt as to why the musical, with its mix of comedy and drama, was so rapturously received in Truro and why it is sure to captivate audiences around the country. “It’s so heart-warming to see a group of very normal, humble people achieve something extraordinary,” he says of the tale of a bunch of fishermen who come together to sing traditional working songs to raise money for charity, never expecting to land a record deal and end up performing at the Pyramid
Stage at Glastonbury.

“The real Fisherman’s Friends are ordinary blokes who work hard as fishermen, farmers, builders and shopkeepers. We all see ourselves in them. They never sought fame and fortune but it found them and their remarkable talent, and it’s wonderful when good people get justly rewarded. That’s what makes this story so uplifting. But more than a story about finding fame and fortune it’s a story about friendship, loyalty, community and the unbreakable ties that bind us, and it is full of humour.”

The multi-level set designed by Lucy Osborne recreates the fishing village of Port Isaac, including the famous Golden Lion pub where the lads first begin singing over a few pints, as well as the Atlantic ocean and locations in London.

There’s also a life-size boat on stage, with the director adding: “We wanted to capture the hard graft and very real danger of life as a working fisherman at the mercy of stormy weather and
rough seas. I’m fortunate to be working with a world-class team of creatives who have summoned howling winds, towering waves and vicious storms through dazzling design, lighting, sound, choreography and music.”

As in the film, the audience discovers the Fisherman’s Friends through the eyes of Danny, a music manager who stumbles into Port Isaac and finds his life transformed by the village, the band and the songs.

Starring as Jim, the group’s lead singer, James Gaddas is no stranger to musicals. He’s known for Bad Girls and Hollyoaks on TV but he’s also been in the likes of Billy Elliot, Spamalot
and Mamma Mia! on stage. “But I’ve never done anything like this before. It’s earthy and visceral. The music is strong and grounded. It dates back as long as 200 years ago, with the fishermen adapting it for today but staying true to those roots.”

There are 37 musical numbers in the show, including most of the songs from the film and many more besides, with the singers accompanied by seven folk musicians who between them play around 40 instruments. “And the band are stunning,” James enthuses. “You get a cappella performances, then the counterpoints when the musicians join in.”

The actor describes Jim as a man for whom his boat, his crew and singing with his mates are his life. And Gaddas feels there’s a universality to the characters, noting: “These are people you can relate to and we all want that magic moment when things turn around for everyday people doing everyday jobs. It’s like a kid playing football in the park and a scout just happens to be there. It’s something unexpected suddenly happening to the underdog.”

Robert Duncan plays Jim’s father Jago, who is in his 70s and the elder statesman of the group. Born in the Cornish town of St Austell, Duncan didn’t hesitate to say yes to the show. “It’s set in a place I know very well,” he says, “and I was excited about doing something from my own neck of the woods. It’s like me paying homage, plus I’d never done a musical before.”

The star of Drop The Dead Donkey has toured in Twelve Angry Men and Rehearsal for Murder. How is he finding singing the sea shanties? Robert laughs. “It’s certainly not water off a duck’s back but David White, our music supervisor and arranger, told me ‘We don’t want the most wonderful voices in the world, these are fishermen, so do it as you believe working people would sing’. I did sing in choirs when I was younger but before this I’d never have had the confidence to sing a song on stage. Somehow this felt like the right time and when I was given the opportunity I grasped it with both hands.”

The story, he believes, is in many ways specific to Cornwall yet it has a universal appeal. “Some of the things in it are peculiarly Cornish but the idea of how the landscape shapes people is
true wherever you go. Plus it’s about community and getting through things together, which is now more relevant than ever.”

Duncan believes audiences around the country are going to love the songs in the show. “The a cappella group, which I feel privileged to be a part of, creates such a strong sound and it touches people. There’s a lot of emotion in this play and it’s not just a cappella, we also have the folk band who are so talented they can play anything. They become a part of the community on stage, wondering around with harps and double basses.”

Playing Jago’s wife Maggie is Susan Penhaligon, who was also raised in Cornwall and says: “There’s an old phrase ‘Cornish women be brave and stubborn’ and that’s what Maggie is. Her
roots are in Cornwall and she’s typical in that she’s independent, free-thinking and tough. I love her and I feel like I know her.”

Having lived in St Ives and Falmouth from age six until she went to boarding school in Bristol when she was 11, Penhaligon adds: “Fisherman’s Friends is a Cornish story and they don’t come along very often. As far as I’m concerned, we’re exporting the right kind of Cornish culture rather than bobbing boats, pasties and jam and cream on scones. It’s not the picture postcard image, it’s the real Cornwall.”

Asked if she can relate to Maggie as a character, she laughs. “Yes because I think I’m also brave and stubborn.” And she agrees the story will resonate around the country. “It’s has a truth to it and it’s about history. There’s something basic and organic about it that touches people and the music is fantastic.”

The actress came to fame in Bouquet of Barbed Wire and is known for A Fine Romance and Emmerdale on TV and a variety of stage roles including Three Sisters and Of Mice and Men. Fisherman’s Friends is only her second musical, after she played Fräulein Schneider in the 2017 tour of Cabaret. “And I’ve never been so terrified in my life,” she recalls of singing on stage for the first time, “but by the end of the run they couldn’t get me off the stage.” She laughs. “When it comes to the singing, I’m an actress who gets away with it.”

Adapting the story for the stage, Amanda Whittington points out: “It’s a fascinating world to explore and discover. Port Isaac and the fisherman’s way of life is rich territory for drama and the characters are funny, real and recognisable. “Then of course there’s the sea shanties, which are beautiful and timeless. The traditional shanties are the backbone of the story but there’s also contemporary songs of the sea and wonderful new songs written especially for the show.”

The writer, whose previous stage adaptations include Saturday Night and Sunday Morning and Tipping the Velvet, is seeking to strike a balance between fact and fiction, explaining: I love the fact it’s about a real place and time, yet it’s full of mythical and magical elements. It’s about making sure we stay true to the original fishermen’s story but embracing the possibilities theatre brings.”

As for what she hopes audiences will take away from seeing it, Amanda says: “Times are tough and we want Fisherman’s Friends to be a joyous and life-affirming experience for all. It’s a
story about the place you call home, whatever and wherever that is. I also think you’ll be literally taking the songs away in your head and heart. Once heard, they’re never forgotten.”

REVIEW The Osmonds: A New Musical, New Theatre by Barbara Hughes-Moore

For The Osmonds, family isn’t just important: it’s everything.Hailing from a small town in Utah, they shot to the stratosphere during their tenure on The Andy Williams Show in the 1960s and have kept climbing the charts ever since. Having sold over 100 million records, The Osmonds became household names, known for their clean-cut image and teen idol status – and now, Jay Osmond himself is bringing their story to the stage in a brand new musical which is currently touring across the UK.

Directed by Shaun Kerrison and choreographed by Olivier Award-winning Bill Deamer, this “living memoir” charts the rise and fall (and rise again) of the legendary all-singing, all-dancing supergroup. Written and produced by Jay Osmond, who not only played drums in the band but co-wrote and choreographed many of their songs, the musical crams 50+ years and 30+ megahits in just over 2 hours. It’s a nostalgic, whirlwind tour through some of the most memorable tracks of the 60s and 70s, from Puppy Love to Crazy Horses.

Mentored by Walt Disney, Chuck Norris, and Elvis Presley, the Osmonds were finding their feet in the industry at the same time that they were finding their feet as young men. As the Osmonds’ brood grew so did the Osmonds brand, with youngsters Donny, Marie and Jimmy embarking on their own successful solo careers. While family was paramount to them,it wasn’t always easy, as we see from George Osmond’s (Charlie Allen) militaristic parenting style. In a clever twist, the Osmond brothers and their younger counterparts often share the stage here, with the older incarnations of the characters looking back on pivotal moments in their youth and – in one of the show’s most effective and affecting scenes – actually perform a song with their younger selves.

The cast is superb across the board. As Jay Osmond, theincredible Alex Lodge leads the ensemble with aplomb, breaking the fourth wall and bringing the audience in on the jokes and the dance routines. It’s clear that the cast share just as special a bond as the Osmonds themselves: Henry Firth as Wayne (stepping in for Danny Nattrass), Tristan Whincup as Donny (stepping in for Joseph Peacock), Ryan Anderson as Merrill, and Jamie Chatterton as Alan, all bring energy, verve and style to their performance of Let Me In, One Bad Apple, and Yo-Yo. While the set (though eye-catching) could maybe benefit from little more inventiveness, and the pacing could be stronger in parts, the stellar performances make this an absolute must-see.

Georgia Lennon lends a little bit of country to Marie Osmond’s ballad Paper Roses while Lyle Wren performs a hilarious version of Jimmy Osmond’s novelty hit Long Haired Lover From Liverpool. Huge kudos must go to the supremely talented actors playing the young Osmonds: Nicolas Teixeira, Oliver Forde, Jack Sherran, Louis Stow, and Lonan Johnson.Their pitch-perfect harmonies are absolutely sublime, and theduet getween young Donny (Teixiera) and Andy Williams (Dance Captain Matt Ives, stepping in for Alex Cardall) was an adorable highlight. (Ives also plays about twenty other characters, all equally distinct and all equally brilliant).

The sincerity of the Osmonds has always been a key part of their appeal – “we call them friends, not fans”, Jay says – and his decision to premiere the show in the UK was inspired in no small part due to the Osmond-mania that met them in Blighty, with admirers climbing up flagpoles and abseiling down hotels just to get a glimpse of the brothers. And on this particular leg of their UK tour, disaster struck when due to sickness/injury, they happened to be nine cast members down on the opening night of their Welsh premiere (even Jamie Chatterton, who plays Alan, had to be cleared by physio to perform due to an injury). So they had to make a hard decision: cancel the show, perform it as a concert, or put on the show with a reduced cast. The decided that the show must go on – and I’m thrilled that they did, because they gave the performance of a lifetime. If you want to Love Them For A Reason, you couldn’t have a better one.

The Osmonds: A New Musical is playing at the New Theatre Cardiff from Tue 4 October – Sat 8 October

INTERVIEW WITH JAY OSMOND, THE OSMONDS: A NEW MUSICAL UK TOUR

What follows is Vicky Edwardssyndicated interview with Jay Osmond.

Jay Talking
They say you should never meet your heroes, but seriously? I mean, asking a 70s kid to interview an ACTUAL Osmond? The guy who sang Crazy Horses?  WILD horses wouldn’t have stopped me.

Any fears about heroes having feet of clay prove unfounded. Jay Osmond is lovely.  Meeting me to chat about the World premiere of The Osmonds: a New Musical, I’m curious about the show he calls a ‘living memoir.’

“I wrote this book called Stages about my life. It turned into more of a travelogue, so I always wanted to do a backstage version that included not only the good times, but the bad and sad times too,” he explains.

A friend and producer of Jay’s had an idea. “He said ‘why don’t you write a living memoir and put it on stage?’ And I thought ‘Exactly!’ I have always loved the stage – for me it was one last frontier to conquer.

“I wrote it from the heart. It was hard; I had to play my drums a lot to get my emotions out, but it all boiled down to this: why did we do what we did? It was because we wanted to help people; to use those talents to do some good in the world. I wanted to put that purpose into the show. I think you can do almost anything in life if you have a purpose.”

And you’d need a sense of purpose to get 30+ songs and Jay’s story into a two-hour production.

“It was a challenge,” he admits. “It’s about the four brothers who were at the start. I was one of them. The story starts at the 50th anniversary and then goes way back. Each of us has a different perspective, so this is very much my perspective; hard times, fun times, why we did what we did and how we did it as a family.”

The result is a show that, by all accounts, has broad appeal. Great music and a great story, in which Jay pulls back the curtain to reveal the real family behind all these hits – parents George and Olive Osmond and their nine children; it taps into something richer and is a show that will speak to everyone.

Shrugging modestly, Jay concedes only that “Our music really is multi-generational.”

He’s more effusive, however, about the show’s creative team, praising them and recalling the moment during the workshopping process when he realised that they had created something special.  

“To see people laugh, cry and sing along – I knew then that it would work. We have been so blessed with the talented people involved.”

Jay started his barbershop quartet with Brothers Alan, Wayne and Merrill. They had no idea they would go on to become one of the most famous groups in history. Singing initially to fund hearing aids for their two older brothers, Virl & Tom, they were discovered by Walt Disney in 1961. Mentored by Walt, they were invited to appear on The Andy Williams show, achieving global fame. Adding brother Donny to the group, international tours and high profile TV appearances followed. Selling millions of records worldwide, earning dozens of awards and more than fifty gold and platinum records, The Osmonds remain pop royalty.

And even though he was voted one of the top 10 drummers in the country during the 1970s, co-wrote many of The Osmonds’ hit records and choreographed their shows – as well as being an accomplished TV producer – Jay brushes off his achievements. And again, the modesty is authentic. Our Jay is not a man who puts on an ‘interview’ persona. The kindness and warmth is sincere – and never more so than when he talks about the fans.

“We call them friends, not fans,” he corrects me gently, “and we hear them when they tell us that our music helped them at difficult times in their lives.”

Their ‘friends’, it transpires, were a big part of the decision to premiere the show in the UK.

“This is where our family was so welcomed. Osmond-mania kind of happened everywhere, but there was something about the UK; our family was so accepted and so loved here. We have been to almost every place on the tour list at some point and they are places that hold so many memories. We’ll go to Canada and America too, sure, but it feels right to begin here.”

It also feels like the perfect show for a world emerging from the misery of the pandemic.

“I think it really is,” he says, smiling. “I want it to be a celebration of helping people out. I want people to walk out of the theatre feeling lifted and excited about life; to feel joy. That’s my goal. I am humbled by the fact that we have been blessed with people who have loved our music and that we might have played a small part in their lives when they have faced challenges. I want them to know how much they have helped me and my family. They are part of The Osmonds. It will feel like a high school reunion when they come to the show!”

Or as one ‘friend’ said to Jay recently: “This is not just your story; it’s ours too.”

And that’s something he’s very respectful of. But then respect has always been important to The Osmonds.

“It’s a really big part of our belief system and of our perception. We had talent, but we didn’t do what we did to be famous or to make money; we did it to serve people. When we collected our People’s Choice Award, immediately after, Mom and Dad reminded us to do our chores. Our parents always reminded us what was important: Do what is right and the consequences follow. We have had to make a lot of choices along the way, but it’s been a great journey.”

Ah, but it’s not over yet, Jay. Next stop the show. And it looks set to be a spectacular jaunt down Osmond memory lane.

Take 5: five quick-fire questions for Jay Osmond

What’s your favourite Osmonds song and why?

Love me for a Reason. Because ‘let the reason be love’ is a message that is so powerful. But Crazy Horses would be my next choice.

You did karate as a young man. Still doing the fancy kicks?

No, not nowadays. But I keep fit. I’m a walker – I love to walk. And I love football. I’m also doing the Pure Trim diet at the moment. It’s organic and very pure and I have lost 30lb in the last 6 months.  

Big families usually mean hand-me-downs. Did you have hand-me-downs?

We had so many clothes thrown at us in the 70s that we didn’t need to hand down. But when I look back at some of the things we wore – wow! But hey, it was the 70s and we all wore crazy stuff. I can’t wait for people to see the costumes in this show!

What’s your most memorable moment of being in The Osmonds?

So many, but one that stands out is the night we went to watch Led Zeppelin in concert. We were introduced to the guys and they were just the nicest people! Robert Plant asked us to join them on stage for Stairway to Heaven. We weren’t sure that their audience would appreciate us, but eventually we said OK. Robert introduced us as his brand new friends. I played percussion and conga. It was incredible!

What is your philosophy for life?

Go about life and do good. Because when you do good, you feel good. And have a purpose. Be a light to others. To me, that’s the goal in life. It’s the key.

How do you want people to be feeling when they have seen your show?

I want people to walk out of the theatre feeling lifted and excited about life; to feel joy. That’s my goal.

The Osmonds: A New Musical is playing at the New Theatre Cardiff from Tue 4 October – Sat 8 October

REVIEW Bat Out of Hell! The Musical at New Theatre Cardiff by Barbara Hughes-Moore

Rock and Roll Dreams Come Through as Bat Out Of Hell!, the electrifying, award-winning hit musical featuring the greatest hits of Meat Loaf and Jim Steinman, hits the highway to Cardiff’s New Theatre this week. I grew up on the music of Meat Loaf, but I’ve been burned by jukebox musicals before. Bat Out of Hell!, though, is a different beast entirely: it actually began life as a futuristic rock opera in Jim Steinman’s college days, a punk spin on Peter Pan called Neverland. Steinman turned his unfinished opera into his magnum opus: Bat Out of Hell, one of the best-selling albums ever made – and now it’s back in its original form, bigger, better, and more bombastic than ever.

Martha Kirby and Glenn Adamson in Bat Out of Hell!

Set in Obsidian, a post-apocalyptic Manhattan that’s a long way from Neverland, Bat Out of Hell! follows Strat (Glenn Adamson), immortal eighteen-year-old leader of ‘The Lost’, a biker gang locked in a deadly war with the tyrannical Falco (Rob Fowler). When Strat falls in love with Raven (Martha Kirby), Falco’s rebellious daughter, the game is on and all bets are off.

Glenn Adamson as Strat

Operatic in scale and anarchic in spirit, Bat Out of Hell! is an adrenaline-fuelled rollercoaster ride through some of the most iconic songs ever written, from It’s All Coming Back to Me Now to I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That). They’re also some of the hardest songs to sing – but this peerless ensemble make it seem like second nature. Not only are these the best voices I’ve heard on ANY stage, they bring every drop of emotion to songs that demand nothing short of everything: high concept Wagnerian epics that are as a high risk as they are reward. A slew of talented people have trod the boards at the New Theatre, but this might just be the most exciting cast ever to do so.

Glenn Adamson and Martha Kirby in Bat Out of Hell!

Adamson and Kirby bring charisma and complexity to roles that could have become rote in less capable hands. Their chemistry is even more scorching than the real flames that shoot across the stage during the performance of the legendary title track – which is one of the most incredible things I’ve ever experienced in a theatre. They make the star-crossed love story into a symphony.

Rob Fowler and Sharon Sexton in Bat Out of Hell!

This is a show that is in on the joke and wants you to laugh right along with it. It’s hard to tell who’s having the most fun, but that honour might just go to Rob Fowler and Laura Johnson (standing in for Sharon Sexton) as Falco and Sloane, Obsidian’s answer to Burton and Taylor. Their version of Paradise By the Dashboard Light might be the most fun you can have with your clothes on (even if theirs weren’t!)

The 2022 UK touring cast of Bat Out of Hell!

Meanwhile, Joelle Moses and James Chisholm bring gravitas to their powerhouse rendition of Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad, while Killian Thomas Lefevre’s Tink steals the audience’s hearts with Not Allowed to Love, one of the ballads written specifically for the show. (The other, What Part of My Body Hurts the Most, is sung by Fowler and Johnson in an affectingly tender moment for their characters).

The 2022 touring cast of Bat Out of Hell!

The songs are mini epics in their own right, self-contained sagas that lend themselves perfectly to the stage – and their unique sound is captured by South Wales-born musical director Iestyn Griffiths and his superb live orchestra in. Coupled with  Jay Scheib’s kinetic direction and Xena Gusthart’s inventive choreo, the music underscores the immersive fever dream of the stage (designed by Jon Bausor, also responsible for the fabulous costumes), a world half dreaded and half desired.

The 2022 touring cast of Bat Out of Hell!

The spectacle of this show is second-to-none. If you’re not a fan of the songs, you will be by the time the curtain falls – and if you are one already, you’ll be in paradise (by the dashboard light). The men who brought them to us may be gone, but the beat is theirs forever – and with Bat Out of Hell!, it’s ours now too. With a little faith, trust and pixie dust, your rock and roll dreams can come true – so get yourself all revved up, because you’ve got somewhere to go – just watch out for the sudden curve!

Bat Out Of Hell! is playing at the New Theatre Cardiff from 27 September – 1 October, and across the UK through to April 2023.

PREVIEW Bat Out Of Hell! at the New Theatre Cardiff 27 Sep – 1 Oct

You took the words right out of my mouth: Bat Out Of Hell!, the electrifying hit musical featuring the greatest hits of Meatloaf and Jim Steinman, rocks and rolls its way to the New Theatre this week!

Bat Out Of Hell! is a post-apocalyptic Peter Pan set in a dystopian version of Manhattan (aka ‘Obsidian’). It’s the stomping ground of Strat, immortal eighteen-year-old leader of ‘The Lost’, a biker gang locked in a deadly war with Falco, Obsidian’s crooked commander-in-chief. When Strat falls in love with Raven, Falco’s rebellious daughter, the game is on and all bets are off.

Winner of the audience-voted best musical at the London Evening Standard Theatre Awards, Bat Out Of Hell! features iconic songs like ‘I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That)’, ‘Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad’, ‘Dead Ringer For Love’ and the legendary title track that will have you rocking and rolling in the aisles.

Glenn Adamson as Strat in Bat Out of Hell!

Bat Out Of Hell! is playing at the New Theatre Cardiff from 27 September – 1 October, and across the UK through to April 2023.

Review Friendsical UK Tour, New Theatre Cardiff by Barbara Hughes-Moore

Once upon a time, in the far away land of 1994, six best friends told us they’d always be there for us. Ten seasons and 236 episodes later, and they’ve more than kept their promise: Friends remains one of the most iconic television shows ever, even almost two decades after its finale aired. It spawned countless imitators, an iconic haircut, and even its own spinoff, and now it’s reached that coveted next level of fame: its own parody musical.

Cast of Friendsical at Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2022

Produced by Brooke Mauchline Productions Ltd in association with Assembly Festival, Friendsical is a new comedy show which takes you on a whistlestop tour down memory lane via Central Perk, featuring original songs by Barrie Bignold and Miranda Larson (who also directs). Our master of ceremonies is Dr Ross Geller, who has gathered the titular BFFs together for a retelling of their infamous escapades, though its mostly an excuse to ‘pivot’ to his and Rachel’s will-they-won’t-they romance.

Cast of Friendsical at Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2022

This is a show which doesn’t so much break the fourth wall as crash a wrecking ball through it. It’s a metatextual take on a beloved medium in the same vein as Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and Galavant, with the chaotic charm of a Starkid production (the team behind the successful A Very Potter Musical). While Friends was already quite savvy and self-aware, Friendsical turns it up to eleven. There’s lots of singing, dancing, and oodles of iconic references that shows just how much love the cast and crew have for the original, from every ‘We were on a break!’ to every ‘Oh. My. God!’

Cast of Friendsical at Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2022

The multitalented cast includes Nelson Bettencourt as Ross, Sario Solomon as Joey, Sarah Michelle-Kelly as Monica, Tim Edwards as Chandler (giving a pitch-perfect Perry), Ally Retberg as Phoebe (and, memorably, Janice too), and Amelia Kinu Muus as Rachel. There are strong supporting performances by Olivia Williamson and Ashley Cavender and a fabulous guest turn by The Pussycat Dolls’ Kimberly Wyatt (Strictly Come Dancing champion Joanne Clifton will guest star on the 10th September shows). The cast are as charming and lovable as their original counterparts, whose mannerisms and voices they have down to a tee, and bring genuine heart and hilarity to every moment they’re onstage – nothing short of Herculean given the deeply sad and momentous news of Queen Elizabeth II’s passing that came in just before curtain up. The two minutes’ silence observed in the theatre was respectful and profound.

Cast of Friendsical at Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2022

The cast’s dedication and skill was both masterly and moving. If you have a passion for 90s fashion or know the words to ‘Smelly Cat’ by heart, this is the show for you. Ross, Rachel, Joey, Phoebe, Monica and Chandler have been with us for nearly 30 years, and Friendiscal is here to show us why they always will be.

Twitter / Instagram: @Friendsical

Friendsical is playing at the New Theatre Cardiff from 8 – 10 September 2022.

PREVIEW Friendsical at the New Theatre Cardiff 8 – 10 September

The one where Friends gets its own parody musical

Cast of Friendsical at Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2022

Produced by Brooke Mauchline Productions Ltd in association with Assembly Festival, Friendsical is a comedy musical that lovingly parodies the beloved TV show Friends. Featuring original songs by Barrie Bignold and Miranda Larson (who also directs), Friendsical will take you on a whistlestop tour down memory lane via Central Perk, cramming 10 seasons and 236 episodes into just 60 minutes!

Cast of Friendsical at Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2022

The multitalented cast includes Sario Solomon as Joey, Sarah Michelle-Kelly as Monica, Nelson Bettencourt as Ross, Tim Edwards as Chandler, Ally Retberg as Phoebe, Amelia Kinu Muus as Rachel, Olivia Williamson as Hot Girl/Ensemble and Tanveer Singh Devgun as Gunther/Male Ensemble.

And the show continues Friends’ tradition of incredible cameos! The Pussycat Dolls’ Kimberly Wyatt will make a a celebrity guest appearance on 8 & 9 Sept while Strictly Come Dancing champion Joanne Clifton will make a celebrity guest appearance on 10 Sept.

Cast of Friendsical at Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2022

The UK tour begins at Cardiff’s New Theatre on 8 September 2022. Join Ross, Rachel, Joey, Monica, Chandler and Phoebe have been with us for nearly 30 years, and Friendiscal is here to show us why they always will be.

Twitter / Instagram: @Friendsical

Friendsical is playing at the New Theatre Cardiff from 8 – 10 September 2022.