Category Archives: Theatre

PREVIEW: INTERVIEW WITH THE STARS OF BEAUTIFUL, THE CAROLE KING MUSICAL

What follows is a syndicated interview with the stars of Beautiful: The Carole King Musical: Molly-Grace Cutler (Carole King), Tom Milner (Gerry Goffin), Seren Sandham-Davies (Cynthia Weil), and Jos Slovick (Barry Mann)

What can audiences expect when they come see the show?
Molly-Grace: It’s done by a full company of live musicians, which is very different to the original Broadway and West End productions and previous tours. It’s a really feel-good musical. It’s emotional and very heartwarming, to say the least.

Seren: There’s a lot of energy on stage and audiences are excited and happy to be back in the theatre. The music is infectious, we’re all so passionate about what we’re doing and everyone leaves with a smile on their faces and the tunes going round in their heads.

Jos: It’s like a gig within a play – lots of songs that people will recognise and lots of songs they maybe didn’t know were written by Carole King or Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. They’re in for some laughs and some drama, and there’s something for everyone from ballads and rock songs to old-style show tunes.

Tom: There’s not a thing that any of our cast members don’t do. It’s full-on because we’re acting, singing, dancing and playing the music so the audience certainly gets its money’s worth.

Beautiful – tour – 2022 Production photos taken on the 28th February 2022, at Curve Theatre Leicester, Directed by Nikolai Foster

Molly-Grace, how would you describe Carole King as a character? And do you feel any pressure about bringing her to life on stage?
Molly-Grace: She’s an incredible music icon. She’s very driven and very determined, and you get to see how resilient she is as her story goes on. As for feeling the pressure, yes there’s a lot of that – especially given that she’s still to this day a living legend. But I’m very happy that I’m getting to play her and her music. The big challenge is in playing someone who is still around, so people will inevitably compare you to her as well as other people who have played the role before. It’s about doing your own thing whilst also paying respect to the people before along with Carole herself.

Tom, Seren and Jos, who do you play and how do they feature in Carole’s story?
Tom: Gerry Goffin is her first husband and songwriting partner. In the show he’s quite chaotic, he’s always striving for more and he eventually suffers a massive breakdown.

Seren: Cynthia Weil is part of a songwriting team with Barry Mann whose paths cross with Carole and Gerry during the Brill Building era in the 60s. As a character she’s ahead of her time. She doesn’t conform and she’s very prescient, plus she’s very funny and having a female comic character to play is an absolute gift.

Jos: Barry, as Seren says, is Cynthia’s songwriter partner as well as her husband. He’s very sharp with a lot of that Jewish humour; think Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld because he has that kind of rhythm to him. He’s a humorous hypochondriac.

Beautiful – tour – 2022 Production photos taken on the 28th February 2022, at Curve Theatre Leicester, Directed by Nikolai Foster

Were there things you were intrigued to learn about your characters?
Molly-King: [Laughs] That she married many times after Gerry Goffin. I also learned she was incredibly resilient and let nothing stand in the way of her success. She wrote from the heart, and that’s evident in every song she’s ever written. They’re very emotional.

Tom: I’d heard of Goffin and King’s music but I didn’t realise how much they wrote and how much they did for the industry. I also didn’t know about him as a person. He was always chasing happiness and the next big thing, which set him on a downward spiral.

Seren: I knew all the Mann and Weil songs but I didn’t know about the people who wrote them. I was intrigued by how Cynthia grew up in a conservative Jewish family but went against the grain of having that traditional life.

Jos: I knew a load of their songs but I didn’t know who wrote them. When I was a kid I had this talking dog toy and when you pressed its paw it would play Who Put The Bomp. I remember asking my dad ‘Who wrote that song?’ and he told me Barry Mann. But that’s all I knew about him. I didn’t know he’d also co-written On Broadway and You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling among many others.

Beautiful – tour – 2022 Production photos taken on the 28th February 2022, at Curve Theatre Leicester, Directed by Nikolai Foster

There are so many great numbers in the show. Do you have any favourites to perform?
Molly-Grace: I’d have to say (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman because it’s such an honest, emotional song about her relationship with Gerry.

Seren: That song is very special because it has such an impact on the audience. I also love the rockier numbers and It’s Too Late, which has a jazzier feel. There are so many good songs, it’s hard to choose between them.

Jos: I play the guitar on It’s Too Late and it’s got a great groove to it. [Laughs] It’s my jam, as the kids say, and Molly-Grace sings and plays it wonderfully.

Tom: There’s a song I do with the cast called Pleasant Valley Sunday and it’s a great rocking, uptempo song.

Beautiful – tour – 2022 Production photos taken on the 28th February 2022, at Curve Theatre Leicester, Directed by Nikolai Foster

As an actor and musician, it must be great getting to bring all your skills to the table?
Molly-Grace: Absolutely. We’re very lucky that we have such a talented cast of actors and musicians who create this amazing sound. Being an actor-musician is what I trained to do but I think these kind of productions are still pretty new for the theatre industry.

Tom: I love music and acting so getting to scratch both itches with this show is brilliant. I’ve done regular acting roles, especially on TV, that I’ve loved but it’s so creatively fulfilling getting to do a bit of everything.

Seren: Having actor-musicians play the parts works so well for this show because it has music at its core. When you have a story like Beautiful that’s all about music and musicianship, it takes it to a whole new level.

Jos: It’s always fun because I get to combine my two great loves, namely acting and playing music. Are there enough shows that offer the chance to do both? [Laughs] I’ll say no because I want to get more work!

Beautiful – tour – 2022 Production photos taken on the 28th February 2022, at Curve Theatre Leicester, Directed by Nikolai Foster

Beautiful aside, what have been your other favourite theatre roles?
Seren: I was in Brassed Off in 2015 and that was such an amazing job. The majority of us had a connection with mining through our families and we still keep in touch. Then I did a tour of Crazy For You which was great fun, getting to perform all those wonderful Gershwin tunes.

Molly-Grace: My first-ever job I did after finishing my training was a punk rock show called Oxy & the Morons and doing that straight out of drama school was very cathartic. I did a panto of Beauty and the Beast, I did Priscilla Queen of the Desert and I did a show called Girls Don’t Play Guitars and it was incredible playing a lead guitarist in a 60s rock-and-roll band.

Tom: My first-ever stage role was in a George Styles and Anthony Drewe musical called Soho Cinders and they were the first people to give me a leg up the musical theatre ladder because I was more of a TV boy. That was a real learning curve. Then recently I was in American Idiot and being able to sing Green Day songs for a year was great.

Jos: I was in Once, where I was a Czech burger joint manager and which I got to play bass, ukulele, banjo and mandolin. Then I was in the Theatre Royal Bath production of Bad Jews, which I loved because it’s such a great play.

Beautiful – tour – 2022 Production photos taken on the 28th February 2022, at Curve Theatre Leicester, Directed by Nikolai Foster

What are you most enjoying about taking Beautiful around the country? And how do you hope people will feel when they leave the theatre?
Molly-Grace: It’s about getting to share some incredible music with people as well as getting to share Carole’s story. A lot of people don’t know enough about her so it’s nice to show what she went through and how much she’s achieved.

Tom: It’s the kind of show everyone needs right now. We’ve all been through the pandemic and hard times and this show has such a feel-good factor. When we do the finale everyone is dancing, singing, clapping and smiling. For us to take it round the country and bring people so much joy is just amazing.

Jos: When we play the finale you can’t help but feel uplifted. Carole had a bit of a rough life but the music she produced was so wonderful that people will be skipping out of the theatre.

Seren: I hope they’ll be happy to be back in the theatre and that they feel excited and exuberant, and that they’ve made a connection during a time that’s been so hard for everyone. I just hope they feel the joy of this truly joyous show.

Beautiful: The Carole King Musical is playing at the New Theatre Cardiff from 24 – 28 May 2022

5 Minutes with Katie Elin-Salt, writer of ‘Celebrated Virgins’, Theatr Clwyd

Celebrated Virgins is Theatr Clwyd’s brand new play written by Katie Elin-Salt and directed by Eleri B. Jones. The show is based on the true story of Lady Eleanor Butler and Miss Sarah Ponsonby who were forced to flee Ireland and took up residence in Llangollen. They were true LGBTQ+ icons of their time and this show sees them tell their story, on their own terms for the very first time.

We sat down with Katie, writer of the show, to find out more:

You will be a familiar face to many at Theatr Clwyd as an actor. What’s it like to be back?

When I first came to Clwyd, I was a nervous 21-year-old performing a cameo role in As You Like It, under the direction of Terry Hands. Since then, Theatr Clwyd has always been a home from home for me and I have been privileged to perform here as an actor many times – growing from bit parts to leads in shows such as Educating Rita and Under Milk Wood, I was even lucky enough to be the fairy in the panto two years ago – what an honour! To come back to Mold under this capacity, is just the most incredible feeling. I have always felt so supported by the team and the audience at Theatr Clwyd and I could not be in a safer place to be premiering my first full play. But I honestly feel if I could tell that nervous 21 year old a decade ago that her name would one day be on the front of those programmes – she would never have believed it!

Give us a brief of what Celebrated Virgins is about?

Celebrated Virgins is based on the true story of two remarkable women – Sarah Ponsonby and Eleanor Butler a.k.a ‘The Ladies of Llangollen’. We follow their story from separate childhoods in the upper echelons of 18th century Irish society to meeting each other at school and forming an unbreakable bond. This leads them to decide they would rather leave everything they have known behind than live without each other. We then follow their journey to Plas Newydd, their home for over 50 years in Llangollen and learn through them the bravery and the fear involved in living an authentic life in full view of a community who does not always understand who you truly are. 

What made you want to create this show?            

Well, firstly it is just an amazing epic love story and I remain amazed and bewildered that it has taken nearly 300 years for it to be put on a stage. It really has everything – love, risk, danger, even someone dressing in a suit and jumping out of a window armed with a pistol and a Jack Russell – I mean what more could you want? But also, I think it is incredibly important for today’s society that we see stories like Sarah and Eleanor’s represented on stage. It has taken such a long time for love between two women to be not only accepted but celebrated, and I want to show the next generation of LGBTQ+ that their stories and their history are just as important and worth celebrating as anybody else’s.

It’s such a fascinating story but this will be the first time they are telling it themselves. What can the audience expect?

The audience can expect to see two brilliant women at the front and centre of their own story. We have an amazing cast of professional actors and also added to that the addition of a cast from the local community – who will show us what life was really like for the Ladies as they tried to make their way in society. We have an incredible movement and sound team who will bring this story bang up to date and of course fantastic direction from Eleri B. Jones. I would tell the audience to buy an ice cream and get comfortable as the lights go down as they are in for a truly epic night of theatre – and after the last two years I think that is the least an audience deserves!

What advice would you give to people wanting to get into the industry?

My first bit of advice would be to try out as many facets of your creativity as you possibly can! Like many young people I got into this industry through my local youth theatre, there I found a love of theatre and a friendship and connection I couldn’t find anywhere else. I realised there that I could act but it took me until the age of 30 to realise I might be any good at writing – think of all that wasted time! I am also now training as a music therapist to spread my creativity even further. There are some elements of this job I definitely can’t do (trust me you don’t want to see me trying to move set around a stage), but that is when you find the people who can and let them support and help you. Basically, no matter where you come from or what your story is – find it, own it and let yourself be seen in as many glorious ways as you possibly can!


Celebrated Virgins will be performed at Theatr Clwyd from Friday 20 May – Saturday 4 June. Tickets start at £10 and can be booked here. Please check the website for Trigger Warnings.

REVIEW Rock of Ages, New Theatre by Barbara Hughes-Moore

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

Rock of Ages started life in a little club on Hollywood Boulevard before hitting the big time, racking up thousands of performances in a dozen countries – meaning that it’s actually living the dream to which its characters can only aspire. The jukebox musical is filled with so many classic rock anthems – Here I Go Again, Don’t Stop Believin’, The Final Countdown, and more – that it’s no wonder it’s become such a global sensation. Direct from the West End, this new UK tour is bigger, better and bawdier than ever – and if you wanna rock, then you’re in for nothin’ but a good time.

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

Rock of Ages is set in the heyday of the mid-to-late 80s, a time that was post-punk and pre-grunge: the era of soft rock and hair metal, where if you had three chords and a perm, you were a god amongst men. LA’s Sunset Strip is the place where such dreams are made – or dashed. Just like the Journey song which closes it, the show is brimming with “people living just to find emotion”: a small town girl and a city boy who fall in love; a washed-up rock star staging his comeback; and a motley crew (not that one) fighting to save the Strip from gentrification.

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

Directed and choreographed by Nick Winston, Rock of Ages is the kind of show that just gets better every time you go again (trust me, this isn’t my first rodeo). The cast brings a tremendous energy to the stage, bolstered by a cracking live band and an ensemble that’s second to none. There’s a new vivacity to the choreography that’s unlike any version I’ve seen before, and Morgan Large’s set, sprinkled with spotlights and stacked with amps, takes you right back to the summer of ’87. And there’s always something amusing happening in the background, which makes every bit of the stage come alive – right down to the two protestors who look ready to break into Brokeback Mountain at any moment.

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

Gabriella Williams and Sam Turrell are sublime as the star-crossed Sherrie and Drew while X-Factor winner Matt Terry owns the stage as the salacious Stacee Jaxx – who, as he sings on Wanted Dead or Alive, really has seen a million faces and rocked them all. There’s also some serious powerhouse support by Jenny Fitzpatrick as the illustrious Justice Charlier (who deserves her own show), Vicki Manser as the rabble-rousing Regina, Vas Constanti as Heinz, and Andrew Carthy as Franz (a German Pee-Wee Herman, don’tcha know?) A special shout-out to Phoebe Samuel-Gray as Waitress No. 1 who sings one chorus and nearly walks off with the whole show.

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

But the show lives and dies on its Lonny – and Joe Gash is one for the ages. Channeling Freddie Mercury and Justin Hawkins, Gash is so effervescent he makes fizz look flat. (Russell Brand wishes he were that whimsical). His partner in business and in life, Dennis Dupree, is played by Coronation Street’s Kevin Kennedy: imagine if Axl Rose mellowed and started really investing in fringed jackets, and you’re pretty much there. Their romance is a surprisingly sweet little subplot which culminates in a climactic duet to REO Speedwagon’s Can’t Fight This Feeling. It’s funny, but genuinely tender too – and you really feel like Kennedy and Gash (the new Gallagher and Lyle?) are singing to each other, not at each other.

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

The book by Chris D’Arienzo could probably do with updating, but the cast bring sincerity and depth to characters that started life as names scribbled on album sleeves, and they tie it all together into something that’s moving without being mawkish. Rock of Ages isn’t a show that behaves itself: it’s chaotic, it’s crude, and it makes lowbrow look high – but when it rocks, it rolls. Just like in the song, I hope this show goes on and on, because we always need something to believe  in.

Rock of Ages is playing at the New Theatre Cardiff through to Saturday 21 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.

Review, Life of Pi, Wyndham Theatre, by Hannah Goslin

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Spoiler – if I could give this production more than 5 stars, then I would. It has been a long time since I enjoyed and was so utterly transfixed by something as I was with Life of Pi.

Brought out in film form a few years ago, Life of Pi took Hollywood by storm with the interesting and unusual story of a boy who finds himself stranded on a boat, alone with a Tiger.

When I saw the film, I wasn’t as bowled over as everyone else seemed to be. My experience and reluctance was still in situ when I came to see Life of Pi but the promise of puppetry and somehow a boat on stage, made me want to see for myself.

Firstly – the performers were ah-mazing. The interaction and relationships between them was entirely believable, and if this wasn’t on a stage, you could easily believe the relationships that were performed. Each character was fully realised and even when they doubled up on characters, you forgot that you saw them as, say, the uncle beforehand. Costuming helped to some degree but the pure talent of the performers really sold it. The main character of Pi was hilarious and cheeky and such a likeable character. This made emotional parts of the story more intense with someone you like and want to look after. His cheekiness was everything a 17 year old boy would give and it pocketed itself in between the hard moments of turmoil.

The staging was magnificent – unlike anything I have seen before; the whole stage had points where the elements rose from nowhere, where Pi jumps through the stage shocking us, where it changes easily from a zoo, to a ship, to a boat, to a hospital room. Instead of painted set, the entire aesthetic was brought by light and projection – and this became innovative from typewriting style lettering to pin point the place and date, to a starry sky or fish swimming below the boat. This alone was immersive and transfixed me along with the narrative and performance.

And of course, the pièce de résistance, was the puppetry of the animals. From life size Zebras to small fish, the puppetry took on the same technique as debuted in War Horse – entirely believable, the little mannerisms and personalities of these animals came through with the flick of a tale or the twitch of an ear. The larger creatures featured the full bodies of puppeteers inside to help the movement and others helped with various maneuvering by others. But as amazing as these performers were, they were forgotten by the realness they brought across with movement of these puppets.

I will freely admit that I found myself in tears, not only at the narrative, but at the beauty of these puppets, as if they were real animals on stage. They were magnificent and entirely believable.

The less wholesome elements of the story, which features animals being eaten or blood and gore to some degree, is done extremely well and tastefully, using lighting, coloured fabric and ominous music to accompany. You cringe away as if it is real but part of you knows that it is only the well presented theatrics.

Life of Pi, whether you enjoyed the film or not, is one of the best things I have ever seen and is the ultimate must see in theatre. It is every part funny, emotional, awe-inspiring and beautiful. For a West End production, there is the gorgeous element of immersion with the beautiful stage design and the action is shocking and intense as the narrative is meant to be. This is a show I will never forget and have ever since, not stopped thinking about.

Review the_crash.test, Hijinx Theatre by Barbara Hughes-Moore

The award-winning Hijinx, one of Europe’s leading inclusive theatre companies, is always pushing the envelope on what ‘theatre’ is and what it can be. the_crash.test – in partnership with Wales Millennium Centre, Pontio and Theatr Ffwrnes – is Hijinx’s latest experiment in ‘hybrid theatre’, fusing performance and technology in an immersive experience like no other. Branded as a Frankenstein for the tech age, the show explores the responsibility we have as humans: to each other and to the things we create.

Directed by Hijinx’s AD Ben Pettitt-Wade, the_crash.test asks you to imagine a world in which your digital self could live for you (think the Bruce Willis movie Surrogates, only better). This is the promise of tech start-up Figital, led by preening CEO Michel LeCoq (Benjamin Victor), who zooms in from a wellness retreat in Bali to put the finishing touches on the ‘Fing-a-me-Bob’, or ‘Bob’ for short: a digital crash test dummy whose burgeoning sentience is about to throw a serious spanner in the works for world domination.

The show itself is a marvel of creativity and collaboration, devised and driven by a cast of performers on stage and via video link. The space is filled with two huge screens onto which is projected everything from a tropical paradise to a molecular wonderland, underscored by Tic Ashfield’s evocatively unnerving soundscape. The motion capture puppetry for ‘Bob’ is especially impressive, and Owen Pugh and Lucy Green, who alternate the role, really bring the character to life. Pugh carries much of the drama as both ‘himself’ and as ‘Bob’. Green is also hilarious as one of Figital’s increasingly concerned shareholders, zooming in alongside Richard Newnham (be-wigged, bothered and bewildered – to fantastic effect) and Lindsay Foster as the feather boa-ed investor riotously reaching the end of her tether.

Benjamin Victor conducts the show with a skittish charm, joyfully skewering the Elon Musks and Mark Zuckerbergs of the world. Bethany Freeman steals scenes as the beleaguered cleaner Betty, whose interactions with Bob are genuinely moving. Meanwhile, Matthew Mullins is responsible for some uproarious moments as the cameraman watching everything slowly devolve into chaos. In a time when zoom call ‘comedy’ has become rote, Hijinx have found a way of making it feel fresh, new and funny – and when they go dark, they don’t pull any punches.

While the ending is genuinely spectacular, the show can be a little uneven at times, and the meta-narrative doesn’t quite pay off – but it is always dynamic, clever, and darkly funny, and whenever the focus is on ‘Bob’ and their increasing sentience, it really soars. Bob’s creators aren’t sure what he’s ‘for’ – but what are any of us ‘for’, at the end of the day? That sort of capitalistic thinking gets very dehumanising very fast: if all of us have worth based on what we can offer, then what does it truly mean to be ‘human’?

The interactive parts of this show are a lot of fun and it’s exhilarating to be able to explore ethical dilemmas alongside the characters. The audience can join in-person or online, and whichever you choose, do bring your mobile phone with you if you can as you’ll be asked to vote on certain moments, starting with ‘what colour should Bob be?’ and escalating to high-stakes questions of mor(t)ality. It might even be worth exploring asking the audience to ‘justify’ their ethical decisions.

The level of talent and creativity on display is staggering. the_crash.test is playing at the Millennium again tonight, and there are plenty of chances to see it again: at the Millennium on 24 June, Pontio Bangor on 29 June and Ffwrnes Llanelli on 2 July (all as part of Hijinx’s Unity festival). Innovative, imaginative and totally immersive, the_crash.test is bonkers in the best way and something you simply have to experience for yourself.

the_crash.test is playing 13 and 14 May 2022 in the Weston Studio, Wales Millennium Centre and throughout June and July in Llanelli, Bangor and Cardiff. All performances are live-captioned and the 14 May performance will have BSL and audio description.

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 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 Little Shop of Horrors, Kent Academy of Musical Theatre by Donna Williams

Many may associate the cult-classic Little Shop of Horrors with its 1986 film adaptation starring Rick Moranis, Ellen Greene, and Steve Martin to name but a few (even Bill Murray makes a guest appearance!) The film was based on the 1982 off-Broadway musical of the same name and was well received by critics and audiences alike. Of course, most forget the original film which started it all. The Little Shop of Horrors (1960) written by Charles B. Griffith and directed by Roger Corman is a horror movie and farce about an inadequate florist’s assistant who cultivates a plant which feeds on human blood!

Fast forward fifty plus years and the musical is still going strong, attracting audiences across the globe. This time it was the turn of Kent Academy of Musical Theatre (KAMT). Founded by Jo Mason in 2020, KAMT is a part-time musical theatre academy for all ages, from toddlers right up to adults of any age! They currently run classes in Maidstone and Cranbrook with ambitions to branch out across the county. Considering the academy was founded during a worldwide pandemic, it has gone from strength to strength during its first two years, Little Shop of Horrors being the first production presented by the academy’s adults. Founder and director Jo Mason had been inspired by professional performances of the show in London, most recently Regent’s Park’s contemporary adaptation.

Often, it is more of a challenge to put on a production with a group of adults than with a group of children. Adults take part in amateur theatre as a hobby, something they’re passionate about and want to continue improving at, but something which comes alongside potential parenting, full time jobs and just ‘life’ in general, so it’s always a thrill to see a group of adults who are clearly dedicated to their craft and who have worked so hard to pull a piece of theatre together. It is almost unfair to label this production ‘amateur.’ Although the definition is actually ‘someone who engages in a pursuit on an unpaid basis,’ it has come to mean that an individual is incompetent at something. For example, you might say Little Shop of Horrors’ hero Seymour is an ‘amateur florist’! But this production certainly pushed amateur boundaries.

It is great to see an almost full auditorium at the Glassbox Theatre. It is more important now than ever that audiences support local theatre and it is clear that this audience got more than they bargained for, hearing some wonderful comments and fabulous feedback from the crowd in the interval and beyond. It is clear from the get-go, as the piece opens with the well known ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ title song, that the Urchins, the Greek chorus if you will, are extremely strong vocally. Not missing a note, the harmonies work beautifully, and each Urchin performs their ‘sassy’ role to a tee with plenty of attitude! It is clear not all Urchins are completely comfortable with some of the choreography, but this is made up for in style and voice! The Urchins are certainly at their strongest when ‘setting the scene’ vocally, whether it be as a group or scattered around the stage to portray a time or place.

The set is really striking and the scene changes slick with simple but effective changes as the production progresses…a light on here, a dentist’s chair there and of course, the most obvious change being the ever growing, man-eating plant! All puppets are visually outstanding and the shock and laughter from the audience as the plant chomps its first victim is worth the wait! The costumes have been modernised, with the Urchins in khaki green and black, the dentist in ripped jeans and tattoo sleeves and Audrey has a look of Sandra Dee circa 2022!

There are a few directorial choices which really hit the nail on the head in this production. The first happens during ‘Somewhere That’s Green,’ beautifully sung by Laura Shannon as Audrey. As she continues into the song, we see her don an apron, as if travelling into her own daydream, particularly poignant as she undoes her cast from an arm broken by her nasty dentist boyfriend, Orin. A piece of artificial grass is then rolled out in front of her, unintentionally I think, causing a few giggles, but we are transported with her, into her ideal future. Another ‘different’ take on a musical number is spotted during ‘Suddenly Seymour,’ usually put across as a simple, lovey-dovey song. Instead, although still romantic in parts, we see Audrey and Seymour clearly getting a little hot under the collar as he pulls her blouse from off her shoulder and pins her (gently!) against the wall! Although not expected, we see the sexual tension between the two and it somehow works despite being placed in the middle of a romantic duet! Most productions have their plant’s voice offstage, so it was a surprise to see the plant ‘brought to life’ as a female diva, entering through the door of the florists and interacting with Seymour! This worked effectively and made the plant seem somehow even more eerie and domineering, no longer just a plant but something even more ‘alive’ and capable!

This production was extremely well cast and, aside from a few sound issues, it could not be faulted. We were in great hands with Laura Shannon (Audrey), Ivan Collis (Seymour) and Paul McLaren (Mushnik) from the outset with Ivan Collis putting on an outstanding performance as Seymour, a very consistent performer with great comedy timing and a strong voice to boot. All other roles, ensemble and dancers were incredibly strong and certainly weren’t missed in the action.

This was a fantastic production which thoroughly deserved the standing ovation it received and I’m already looking forward to KAMT’s next production, Calendar Girls, which will be performed on Saturday February 11th, 2023, at the Glassbox Theatre.

Fore more information about KAMT and how to get involved please head to https://www.kamt.co.uk/ or find them on Facebook (just search for Kent Academy of Musical Theatre).

Glassbox Theatre, Gillingham
Saturday April 9th, 2022
Book & Lyrics: Howard Ashman
Music: Alan Menken
Director & Producer: Jo Mason
Vocal Coach: Fiona Lussier-Foy
Choreographer/Dancer: Millie Judd
Costumes: Jo Mason
Props: Jo Mason
Light & Sound Technician: Jack Gschaider
Set: Set for the Show
Stage Manager: Nick Bower
Stage Crew: Emma Sawyer, Darren Coleman
Cast Includes: Laura Shannon, Ivan Collis, Paul McLaren, Will Coote, Jenny Soto-Briley, Emma Sackett, Natalie Kitts, Maddie Lambley, Molly Dobson, Georgia Page, Suzanna Byles, Lindsey Simpson, Grace Couch, Eden Moody, Emma Bond

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

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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