Tag Archives: Cardiff

REVIEW Jac and the Beanstalk, New Theatre by Barbara Hughes-Moore

It isn’t a proper Cardiff Christmas without a trip to the New Theatre, now the official home of Wales’ biggest panto. Over the last few years we’ve seen classics like Cinderella, Snow White and Aladdin – and their latest festive offering Jac and the Beanstalk, truly is a giant of a panto!

Jac and the Beanstalk. Image credit: Tim Dickeson

Starring the iconic Lesley Joseph (Birds of a Feather) and Cardiff’s favourite Dame, Mike Doyle, the story follows Jac (Adam Bailey), a poor country boy who dreams of saving his hometown of Cardiff from the evil giants who live above them in a city in the clouds. Accompanied by girlfriend Jill (Denquar Chupak), brother Silly Simon (Aaron James), and mum Dame Trot (Doyle), Jac goes on an epic quest to defeat the giants’ villainous henchman Fleshcreep (Steve Arnott) with a little help from the Spirit of the Beans (Joseph).

Aaron James and Lesley Joseph in Jac and the Beanstalk. Image credit: Tim Dickeson

With an un-beet-able cast, hilarious jokes and eye-boggling visual effects, its no surprise that Jac and the Beanstalk is a wonderful night of festive family entertainment. When I spoke to star Adam Bailey a few months ago, he also promised some great musical numbers – and boy do they deliver!

Lesley Joseph and the ensemble cast of Jac and The Beanstalk. Image credit: Tim Dickeson

There’s an adorable song featuring the village’s furry friends, a villainous Disco ditty complete with dancing demons, and a standout sequence to Dua Lipa’s ‘Dance the Night’ from Barbie courtesy of Jac and Jill (though it’s a shame they never went up a hill at any point). And the a-maize-ing ensemble is responsible for the best dancing I’ve seen in a panto: kudos to the super talented James Davies Williams, Phoebe Roberts, Amber Pierson, Marcel Li Ping, Janine Somcio, and Lauren Wadsworth.

Mike Doyle in Jac and The Beanstalk. Image credit: Tim Dickeson

Director and choreographer Nick Winston keeps the story light, bright and breezy while writer Alan McHugh and the fabulous cast yield up a fresh crop of Christmas crackers. And the visual effects team outdoes themselves with a heart-pounding, pulse-racing trip to the giant’s lair – in 3-D! (Glasses are provided but you might want to bring your own brollies…) Suffice to say it’s bean on my mind ever since.

A perfect Christmas gift for all the family, Jac and the Beanstalk truly is entertainment beyond be-leaf!

Jac and the Beanstalk is performing at the New Theatre through to 7 January 2024. You can find more information on the show and book tickets here.

REVIEW: I SHOULD BE SO LUCKY,WMC #Cardiff 28.11.23

The wedding is OFF, but the honeymoon is ON!

In a world of AI, EDM and BPM*, one acronym from over thirty years ago still lasts the time. SAW (Stock Aitken Waterman) were a highly successful British songwriting and production trio in the late ’80s and early ’90s, creating numerous pop hits for artists like Kylie, Rick Astley, Bananarama, and Jason Donovan. Mike Stock, Matt Aitken, and Pete Waterman crafted a signature sound that dominated the charts, known for its catchy hooks and energetic beats, contributing significantly to the era’s pop music landscape. And in fairness back in the 80s/90s – their chart presence was sometimes mocked – but fast forward thirty years, how many jukebox musical have been made about The Smiths, New Order or Nirvana?

I Should Be So Lucky is about family, friends, love and great times. Ella and Nathan, a young couple, hopelessly in love, and about to take the biggest step of their lives – marriage. Until it all goes wrong. Will they be together forever, or will he make her cry and say goodbye?

To start, I need to declare I do love jukebox musicals. They’re not everyone’s cup of tea, but there’s space in musical theatre for something with a feel-good factor – not all musicals want to make you cry (Wicked/Les Mis). One of the most successful is of course Mamma Mia, so there’ll always be some kind of comparison. A common complaint can be that the songs are crowbarred in and don’t really follow the narrative of the story – I can’t say this wasn’t the case of I should be so lucky, but when the story is crafted by Debbie Issit (Nativity-The Musical, Christmas at Mistletoe Farm), there’s enough character for everyone to relate to. It does feel though that there’s just too much going on, and at times I felt instead of jumping back and forth each characters’ story arc, just concentrate of two sets of story, and make the others into a sequel? Just an idea?

Set wise, simple but effective and worked so well – touring productions must find it difficult to adapt to different venues in short spaces of time – but sound and lighting was also spot on.

Cast was on point – and actually looked like they were enjoying themselves – you do often see productions where for performers, it’s just a job. Kayla Carter’s reimagined version of Sonia’s you’ll Never Stop Me Loving You was the stand out moment of the night. As well as Dead or Alive’s you spin me around in a Turkish folk style. I need this soundtrack album in my life!

A proper feel good jukebox musical with so many classic (and yes I mean that sincerely) SAW songs. Even Donna Summer’s Breakaway from 1991.

Loved also seeing Pete Waterman doing selfies with people. A true British music legend, who at the time wasn’t regarded as cool. The man is the epitome of Britishness cool – and the back catalogue of him, Mike and Matt, provides the soundtrack to many a night out of the 80s and now.

If you want a real good, feel good night out in the theatre, I should be so lucky is definitely that. It’s all there especially for you.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Reviewer: Patrick Downes

PS.

  • AI – Artificial Intelligence
  • EDM – Electronic Dance Music
  • BPM – Beats Per Minute

Review The King and I, New Theatre Cardiff by Jane Bissett.

 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

This is the first time I have been to the theatre since lockdown and this was a most wonderful reintroduction. There is nothing that compares to live theatre and this opportunity did not disappoint and I would certainly recommend this musical to everyone.

When composer Richard Rodgers and lyricist-dramatist Oscar Hammerstein teamed up they became the greatest musical partnership of all time. Their influence and innovation to theatre musicals has been celebrated the globe over.

This production of The King and I comes to Cardiff following a critically-acclaimed season at The London Palladium where it was no surprise that it was a sell out!
 

From curtain up the audience was transported and transfixed to another world far from the mundane. For many the bench mark for this elaborate musical is the 1956 film with screen performances of Deborah Kerr (Anna) and Yul Brynner (King Mongkut).

The West End’s Annalene Beechey and Broadway’s Darren Lee did not disappoint with their interpretation and performances that transported us to the Siam of Margaret Landon’s novel Anna and the King of Siam on which the musical is based.

The story follows Anna, a widow, and her son as they travel to Bangkok, where Anna has been assigned as a tutor to the King’s children. Anna soon finds herself having cultural clashes and differences with the King whilst endearing herself to both the children and the king’s many wives.

The Royal children were a delight, completing the illusion of being in a far country at a different time.

There are also the side stories of star crossed lovers and references to slavery. These must be viewed in context but the female narrative cannot be ignored and gives additional depth to the story as a whole.

The stand out actor for me was Caleb Lagayan, who excelled as a truly believable Prince Chulalongkorn. His voice was powerful, captivating and commanded the stage.

From the golden age of musicals, The King and I is one of the greatest, with what many would consider one of the finest scores ever written.

Many in the audience seemed to genuinely find it difficult not to sing along to the familiar songs including Whistle a Happy Tune and Shall We Dance.
 
Tony Award-winning director Bartlett Sher and his internationally renowned creative team created the atmosphere of old Siam. The wonderful full-scale orchestra led by Christoper Munday, must be given credit for keeping us spell bound all evening, even before the curtain rose.

A truly memorable evening I would recommend to everyone.

Review, Die Walküre Act 1, City of Cardiff Symphony Orchestra, St Martin in Roath by James Ellis

Photo credit: James Ellis

 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

There is a hunger to perform Wagner from amateur orchestras. Perhaps the demands asked from this problematic composer seem less daunting today, though command in vocals and a robust orchestra must simply give all.

Part of Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen, the remarkable four part, 15 hours behemoth, The Valkyrie is the second outing. This first act is the most intimate of the enquire Ring, with just three characters in an hour timeframe. The twins Siegmund and Sieglinde who were separated at birth, rediscover themself…with knowing romantic intentions. With the latter married to Hunding, this act sees the twins father Wotan loom over it’s entirety.

This is the only opera where the ring of power forged in the last part Das Rhinegold, is never seem and the actions of Wotan to secure his reclaiming of the ring again sets the story in motion. The lover twins leave Hunding in the night (who was already mortal enemies with Siegmund anyhow) pulling Wotan’s sword Nothung out of the massive tree in the centre of their lodgings as fate foretells.

I was impressed with the orchestra, filled with proclaiming Wagner Tubas, patient harps and pounding timpani. Sat in the front row, I also realised just how much orchestral weight there was to the celli, who get some ravishing moments in this opening act. The romantic feel towards the twins spreads over the musicians and they all get swept away in this strange love story. The swarm-like opening has the strings able and willing to muster up this piercing prelude, as Siegmund escapes the hunt from Hunding and his men in the forest. You can expect Wagner to be loud and the attractive church acoustic caught this thick sound to the roof.

Even with the sweeping amore, comes Wagner’s heavy later compositional style. Our three soloists did a grand job of keep the pace and the drama up for the duration. As Hunding, James Platt oozed into it the horrid nature of this villain. His bass was like a very fine honey, the snarling, vicious line tackled well and you could very easily see him on stage in the role.

Fiona Harrison-Wolfe made for a resplendent Sieglinde, though on a few occasions the orchestra drowned her out. Never an easy role, this being the only character in all three huge acts of Valkyrie, Sieglinde boats high register climaxes and more sincere, homely moments too. Fiona ventured well into this, also thanks to the support from tenor Gareth Dafydd Morris as the love interest. Gareth is a familiar face in Cardiff, this feels like a treat for him.

The declaratory and soaring vocals of Siegmund gave Gareth time to shine, the duet at the end with Fiona a highlight. Affirmed conductor Martin McHale had lots of rehearsal time with the players and it showed. Some brass and light woodwind fluffs may have been expected, due to the demands put upon them but it went along without a hitch. 

REVIEW Quiz: the Coughing Major Millionaire Scandal, New Theatre Cardiff

It was the cough heard around the world.

In 2001, when British Army Major Charles Ingram won the top prize on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, he became the third person ever do so – and the first to be denied the winnings. After a lengthy trial he was found to have procured the money by deception, in conspiracy with his wife Diana and fellow contestant Tecwen Whittock. The prosecution’s case rested on the production company’s claim that Charles, who’d played erratically throughout his time in the hot seat, was guided to the correct answers through a series of coughs from Diana, Tecwen, and an underground ring of Britain’s top quizzers, who’d get a cut of the prize money.

Rory Bremner in Quiz. Image credit: Johan Persson

Directed by Daniel Evans and Seán Linnen, and written by James Graham, Quiz takes its audience through the story through the lens of the trial that followed. In Act One, we hear the case for the Prosecution; in Act Two, the case for the Defence – all while using Millionaire’s infamously stress-inducing psychological tactics: the pulsing heartbeat, the gradually dimming lights, and the twisted spectacle of watching someone unravel before your very eyes. No wonder it quickly became the world’s most popular TV quiz show: you quite literally couldn’t look away.

Lewis Reeves and Rory Bremner in Quiz. Image credit: Johan Persson

Comedian and Britain’s top impressionist Rory Bremner stars as Chris Tarrant – and he’s utterly uncanny in the role, capturing every Tarrant-esque tic. His scenes with Lewis Reeves (I May Destroy You, The Midwich Cuckoos) as the unassuming Major Ingram in particular seem lifted exactly from the episode itself. This is in no small part thanks to the spot-on set, designed by Robert Jones and lit by Ryan Day, which brilliantly evokes the original game show and transitions spookily well into an imposing courtroom.

The cast of Quiz. Image credit: Johan Persson

This is far from your typical courtroom drama. It is brimming with energy, poignancy and lots of laughs – not least from Mark Benton (Northern Lights, Shakespeare and Hathaway) as a series of hilarious characters, from the bum bag-toting top dog of ITV to the leather-coated leader of the quizzers’ secret circle. A brilliant ensemble features strong supporting performances from Charley Webb (Emmerdale) as Charles’ quiz-obsessive wife Diana, as well as Danielle Henry, Leo Wringer, Jay Taylor and Stefan Adegbola. And do look out for scene-stealing turns from Sukh Ojla and Marc Antolin.

Sukh Ojla and Mark Benton in Quiz. Image credit: Johan Persson

Nominated for two Olivier Awards including Best New Comedy, the West End smash hit was adapted for TV in 2020, starring Michael Sheen, Matthew Macfadyen and Sian Clifford. But there’s something special about the theatrical production and how it poses the ultimate 50/50 question: Were the Ingrams guilty, or not guilty? You might want to phone a friend, or ask the audience – which Quiz does, by giving them the opportunity to vote, and not just as a contestant’s lifeline. Fresh from a smash-hit run on the West End, Quiz perfectly captures the heart-pumping tension of the world’s most popular TV quiz show. Catch it while you can – and that’s my final answer!

Quiz is performing at the New Theatre Cardiff from 18 – 21 October. More information on the show and how to book tickets can be found here.

Quiz is a fictional imagining based on real events which took place in 2001 following an episode of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? It is not in any way connected with the makers of the programme or any of the individuals portrayed. The television programme Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? is produced by 2waytraffic.

REVIEW Housemates, Sherman Theatre/Hijinx by Barbara Hughes-Moore

Move over Monica, Chandler, Rachel, Ross, Joey and Phoebe: there’s a new set of Housemates in town, and they’re here to change the world!

And that’s exactly what they did, when in 1974 a group of residents at the Ely Hospital went to live with Cardiff University students in a small house in Ruthin Gardens. Alan (Gareth John), a young man born with Down’s Syndrome, meets Jim (Peter Mooney), a rebellious student volunteer. The two become friends, and so begins an odyssey that – after two years, countless letters and submissions and hospital board rejections – culminated in the end of institutionalised ‘care’ and the dawn of supported living.

Written by Tim Green and co-directed by Joe Murphy and Ben Pettitt-Wade, Housemates is a fun and affectionate tale that is raucously brought to life by a hugely talented cast of neurodivergent and neurotypical actor-musicians. The show moves through its story like a song, underscored by an excellent sense of rhythm, movement, and momentum. There are brilliant performances by John and Mooney as the central duo, who lead a superb ensemble cast that includes Natasha Cottriall, Lindsay Foster, Matthew Mullins, Caitlin Lavagna, Richard Newnham, James Ifan and Eveangeleis Tudball. They make a (shockingly) little-known piece of Welsh history feel like an instant classic.

The show begins even before you take your seat, with the cast performing iconic 70s hits that transport you to this era of rockin’ rebellions – and keeps the party going well after the curtain falls. It is simply the most joyous show I can remember seeing in a long time. This vibrant co-production between the Sherman Theatre (the ‘engine room of Welsh theatre’) and Hijinx (one of Europe’s leading inclusive theatre companies) is further proof of the magic of contemporary Welsh theatre: a concert, a comedy, and a clarion call in one.

Housemates is performing at the Sherman Theatre until Saturday 14 October. More information and how to book tickets here. Performances are captioned (in English), audio described and BSL interpreted. Please note that the show contains use of outdated terms for disabled people, ableism, strong language and descriptions of abuse.

La Traviata – a review by Eva Marloes

Stacey Alleaume as Violetta in La Traviata, photo by Julian Guidera

 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

In the past week, the documentary In Plain Sight, an investigation by Channel 4’s Dispatches and the Sunday Times, has alleged that comedian turned wellness guru Russell Brand is responsible for exploitative treatment of women, including rape and sexual assault. Just like when the #MeToo  movement emerged, many have questioned the women speaking out. Women are still exploited by powerful men and their sexuality is still policed.

La Traviata couldn’t be more topical. Verdi’s opera was shocking in depicting and taking the side of a ‘fallen woman’, what today might be an escort. Alas, the unimaginative direction, originally by Sir David McVicar, here by Sarah Crisp, makes it look preposterous and bizarre.

Violetta, a courtesan, meets Alfredo at a lavish party. She decides to leave that life and live with Alfredo supporting their life together financially. Unbeknown to Alfredo, his father asks Violetta to leave his son to protect his and his family’s reputation. 

Stacey Alleaume as Violetta and Mark S Ross as Giorgio Germont in La Traviata, photo by Julian Guidera

Violetta leaves Alfredo who feels spurned and acts his revenge by throwing money at her in public to repay her. Verdi thinks she has a dignity and should be respected.

It is none other than Alfredo’s father who defends her and condemns his own son for disrespecting her. Yet, only at the very end Alfredo learns that Violetta sacrificed their love and life together for his reputation. He comes back to see her dying. 

La Traviata could still be a powerful story if set in today’s times, just as James Macdonald’s clever production of Rigoletto did by setting it in Washington DC in the #MeToo era. 

The WNO’s traditional setting fails to convey Verdi’s intention. The choice of a very dark set design, presumably to symbolise impending doom, has a jarring effect on the opening scene whose frivolity and joviality are dampened. It weakens the unfolding of the tragedy and frustrates the solid performances of the artists. 

David Junghoon Kim shines as Alfredo, just as he did as the Duke in Rigoletto. He is at home with Verdi and gives a performance full of pathos. His beautiful tonality and powerful voice deliver longing and sorrow effectively. Stacey Alleaume as Violetta has a splendid coloratura. She’s at ease on high notes and bel canto. In the ‘croce e delizia’ duet with Alfredo in Act I, she seemed often overpowered by David Junghoon Kim when singing at a lower range. She is stronger in the second act with Mark S Ross, playing Alfredo’s father Giorgio Germont, and the final dying scene. Mark S Ross has a beautiful baritone voice. He gives an excellent performance.

The WNO’s chorus is strong as ever. The orchestra, under the baton of Alexander Joel, gives a solid, albeit uninspiring, performance.

David Junghoon Kim and Stacey Alleaume in La Traviata, photo by Julian Guidera.

INTERVIEW Tracy-Ann Oberman for The Merchant of Venice 1936

Below is a syndicated interview with Tracy-Ann Oberman for The Merchant of Venice 1936, which is performing at the New Theatre Cardiff from 31 October – 4 November. More information on the show and how to book tickets here.

“The women in my family were as tough as nails.”

Tracy-Ann Oberman is herself no stranger to tough cookies – she’s a formidable actor on stage and screen. But here she is speaking about her great-grandmother and aunts, women with nicknames like Machine-Gun Molly and Sarah Portugal. They came to London from antisemitic eastern Europe at the turn of the last century, and despite all odds managed to build a life and make a living.

Oberman’s family history helped unlock Shakespeare’s enduringly controversial play, The Merchant of Venice. Her relatives survived the Battle of Cable Street in 1936 – a little-known event in London’s East End, when the Jewish community was targeted by the British Union of Fascists, led by Oswald Mosely. Mosley’s blackshirts marched through the area, only to be confounded when the non-Jewish community stood by their Jewish neighbours.

In The Merchant of Venice 1936, Shakespeare’s harsh plot snaps brilliantly into place against this backdrop. Shylock, its anti-hero, is a Jewish moneylender who becomes entangled in the affairs of wealthy non-Jews and suffers terribly for it. In this new version, Oswald Mosely inspires Antonio, the merchant who takes a loan from Shylock and offers a seemingly fanciful penalty for defaulting: a pound of flesh. The heiress Portia becomes “a beautiful glacial Mitford type, awful” – her famous courtroom speech about “the quality of mercy” emerges as an act of hypocrisy rather than humanity. And Shylock changes sex, played by Oberman as a single mother, fiercely committed to her independence and her daughter. “I have one daughter,” she says – “it’s an intense relationship!”

Oberman is an impressively versatile actor – diamond sharp on stage at the RSC and National Theatre, in comedies like Friday Night Dinner and Toast of London, and as Dirty Den’s
nemesis Chrissie Watts in EastEnders. Yet playing Shylock in The Merchant of Venice was never on her radar – growing up, she says, “the play always fascinated and repulsed me.”

Reclaiming the play from a Jewish perspective has proved a transformative experience. It is directed by Brigid Larmour, who recently stepped down as artistic director of Watford Palace Theatre: the pair of them have become, says Oberman, “walking encyclopaedias of this world.” They assembled a strong company of actors – “We call ourselves the Cable Street Collective!” says Oberman. Ray Coulthard’s sneering Antonio and Hannah Morrish’s icy Portia are chilly foils to this ardent Shylock. The result is painfully funny, genuinely upsetting – and unexpectedly moving as the events of the play meld with the heightened drama of the Battle of Cable Street.

Having sold out in Watford and Manchester, the production now embarks on an extended tour. “We’ve had lots of people crying and we get standing ovations,” says Oberman, reflecting on why the show has struck such a chord with spectators. “Whilst they might not have liked my Shylock, they certainly understood why she wants that pound of flesh. She stands in the courtroom with her handbag, with everything stacked against her. A lot of people know that feeling – believing the law is on their side, but discovering it’s only on the side of people that have power.”

This production sat in Oberman’s head for years, as she researched and planned and waited for lockdowns to pass. But now that it has met an audience, what has surprised her? “The thing that surprised me most was the court case,” she considers. “Just how powerful it was to see this woman backed into a corner by all these men, with the palpable hatred and misogyny. It was electric – you could cut the atmosphere in the auditorium with a knife. That was a revelation.”

Playing Shylock as a woman, she insists, isn’t about softening the character – “I didn’t want to make her a victim or change her role in the story” – but, she adds, “maybe I underestimated the impact of a female Shylock. There are a couple of very shocking moments that really upset audiences. In an early scene Antonio comes to borrow money, and Shylock describes him spitting on her and kicking her like a dog – when that behaviour is directed at a woman, it heightens the antisemitism. I think people also see a woman with her rage and anger. She loses her daughter, her money – she loses everything. And when you tell somebody that they’re a monster for long enough, they become that monster.”

The production vividly summons a febrile moment in British history. “My dream is that the battle of Cable Street will be taught as part of the British civil rights movement,” Oberman says. “Mosley had been sending his blackshirts down into Cable Street smashing doors, breaking windows, attacking synagogues and people on the streets, putting up the most horrific leaflets straight out of Hitler’s playbook. But my great grandmother always reminded me that their neighbours – their Irish neighbours, the Afro-Caribbean community, the dockers, the working classes – all stood together. That was a beautiful moment.”

It is clearly immersed in history – but does this also feel like a show about the present? Absolutely, Oberman says. “At a time when we are looking at Britain’s involvement in colonialism and the slave trade, I think we also have to look at Britain’s flirtation with fascism. Oswald Mosley and King Edward VIII, both great friends of Hitler, came close to power – we dodged a bullet. The great message of the play is about the pulling together of all communities – we’re better together, we’re stronger together, especially at times of huge financial and political insecurity. The past shows us what happens when we look inwards: we become very nationalistic and try to pit minorities against each other. We have to be vigilant.”

Oberman doesn’t hide how much this project is personal to her – but it seems she’s not alone. “What has been very moving is how many people want to stay and talk at the end,” she says. That kind of conversations does the play provoke? “A lot of people talk about their own family’s immigrant experience. Young political people want to talk about the Battle of Cable Street, and people who’d never seen a Shakespeare about why they’d found it so accessible. One man came in with about 20 fascist newspapers from the 1930s that he’d found in his father’s loft, which we’ve used as part of our graphics.

There were big conversations: is the play antisemitic? Was Shakespeare? Lots of really interesting conversations.” Part of the impetus behind The Merchant of Venice 1936 was teachers telling Oberman they felt anxious about discussing this contentious play in their classrooms. So the production is accompanied by a prolific strand of education work, alongside the activist group Stand Up to Racism. The team have been into schools and created a pack to support teachers. “We’ve also created an online world which people can look at before or after seeing the play. It’s an incredible resource talking about the play, the 1930s, the history of antisemitism and racism, Oswald Mosley, everything you could want.”

It’s still rare to see a woman standing dead centre in a Shakespeare production – though Oberman tells me, “I can honestly say that when I went into this, it was never with an ego about playing Shylock, it was about wanting to tell the story. I just put my soul into it.” And has it been the experience she hoped? “Every single bit of it has been a complete joy. It’s been more than a piece of theatre – for me, it’s been a mission. And it lived up to all my expectations.”

Interview Credit: David Jays

INTERVIEW Adam Bailey for Jac and the Beanstalk (New Theatre)

The days are getting shorter and the nights are drawing in and that means one thing: the New Theatre’s annual Christmas pantomime is coming, and this year’s is gonna be alriiiiiiiii. Jac and the Beanstalk is the New’s latest festive shindig to sprinkle a little Welsh magic over the Very British artform that is the panto, and Get the Chance’s Barbara Hughes-Moore sat down with the actor bringing the titular adventurer to life: Adam Bailey, fresh from London’s West End who’s starred in the likes of Jersey Boys and The Book of Mormon.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JH7D76cB8LQ

Thank you for speaking with me today, Adam. Tell us a little bit about Jac and the Beanstalk

What a brilliant panto – I can’t wait to get started. I grew up in Cardiff and it’s going to be a really special thing to be able to come back to the New Theatre.

Could you share some of your memories of the New Theatre?

I’ve been doing shows here since I was a teenager! I did 4 or 5 amateur productions here, so it’s lovely to come back as a professional: it’s a real full circle moment!

And to be playing the titular character, too! Tell me about Jac: what makes him tick?

Well, I’m not sure because we don’t have a script yet! We start rehearsals end of November and that’s when we’ll start to explore all of that. It’s going to be such a fun light show. Panto is a total romp, so I can’t wait!

How did you get involved?

Just like any actor you audition, you sing and you act, and then you get the call.

There are some quite big names on the poster behind you, like Lesley Joseph and Mike Doyle. Have you met either of them yet?

I don’t think I have… although I’m terrible with names and faces!

Well, Mike is a master of disguise, so you could have met him and not known it!

Absolutely!

What are your first memories of panto?

Although it wasn’t a family tradition, I’ve been to panto at the New Theatre as a child. My first proper memories were the first times I did panto when I was in training, during my econd and third year. it’s so much fun, and so important to the fibre of theatre in this country. It’s so many people’s first foray into theatre, so it’s a really wonderful thing.

You’ve performed both in pantomimes like Aladdin, and musical theatre like Jersey Boys in the West End. What are the differences between the two – or is it the same process?

It’s all theatre at the end of the day. It’s essentially your office job! But all the shows you do are slightly different and it’s the people who make it. There is something special about panto and how stylised it is, because there’s nothing else like it. It’s such a British staple and such a unique tradition.

What’s the secret to a good pantomime?

Good people. As long as you’ve got good people, then it’s gonna be brilliant and I’m excited to meet the cast.

Will it get Cardiff audiences on their feet?

Yes! Panto is a party at the end of the day and we want to get everyone up on their feet and feel good. We want to send everyone on their way singing.

How does the show incorporate Welsh references into Jac and the Beanstalk?

The clue is right here in the title: we’ve taken the ‘k’ out of ‘Jack’ for a start!

Will there be room to improv?

With certain characters, yes. Mike Doyle for example has done this over and over and there will be improv… but within reason! This isn’t a seven-hour-long panto: we’ve got to do two a day!

What about the costumes?

They’re nice and bright and colourful! What other shows let you get away with wearing things like this?

Do we have any special effects to look forward to?

I hear there’s a special effect with the giant, but it isn’t common knowledge so I can’t give anything away. You’ll just have to wait and see…

Anything else you can tease about the show?

The pantos here are always brilliant. So come along, enjoy yourself, sing along, have a dance: it’s gonna be great.

Jac and the Beanstalk is performing at the New Theatre Cardiff from 9 December 2023 – 7 January 2024. More information and how to book tickets here.

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

“September 1st, 1989. Dear Diary…”

Veronica Sawyer, Heathers the Musical

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

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