Tag Archives: Donald Gordon Theatre

Review Annie, Wales Millennium Centre by Barbara Michaels

 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Runs until Saturday July 8th at Wales Millennium Stadium

Review Chicago, Wales Millennium Centre by James Briggs

 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

“Murder, greed, corruption, violence, exploitation, adultery and treachery…all those things we hold near and dear to our hearts “and so Cardiff welcomes the touring production of Chicago. In a first for the Wales Millennium Centre the smash hit musical Chicago has arrived to entertain packed audiences. Chicago is based on the real life events in the roaring 1920s. A nightclub singing sensation Velma murders her husband, and Chicago’s smoothest lawyer, Billy Flynn, sets out to act has her defence. But when Roxie ends up in prison on similar charges, Billy takes on her case too, turning her too into a media sensation. Neither of the two women will be surpassed in their fight against each other for fame and celebrity status.

As the audience sat down before the performance an announcement was made informing us that John Partridge who plays  lawyer Billy Flynn would not be performing due to ‘unforeseen circumstances’ and therefore the role would be played instead by his understudy Kerry Spark. Despite the obvious disappointment by some audience members we needn’t have worried as Kerry Spark gave an excellent performance.

This revival tour of Chicago showed a whole different side to the show by stripping the production back to its bare bones, with a full band positioned on a podium on stage, minimal costumes on the performers and some chairs. As an audience member, you seem to have the feeling that the music is the main star of the show and the thing you should be concentrating on most of all.

In the performance, Sophie Carmen-Jones played Velma Kelly, the tough performer awaiting trial for the murder of her husband and sister. Sophie Carmen-Jones delivers a brilliant Velma who is very confident and self-assured but still beneath her many layers is highly vulnerable.

Hayley Tamaddon is utterly sublime as Roxie Hart. Hayley Tamaddon brings out a different version of Roxie with slightly more comedy and shyness in Roxie than audiences will not have seen before. There are many moments during the performance where Roxie really comes into her own and shines like a star.


In my opinion, the two leading ladies are perfectly matched and when they come together and perform the ‘Hot Honey Rag’ to the end of the show they are wonderfully in synch with each other bringing a smile to every audience member.

The Matron of the Cook County Jail, Mama Morton was played by Gina Murray. The role is usually played by former X Factor winner Sam Bailey however she took a break from the tour. Gina Murray was brilliant as Mama Morton and has a good mix of being stern and kind to the inmates. Her performance in the song ‘When You’re Good To Mama’ was amazing and received a loud applause from the audience.

One of the real stand out characters during the musical was A D Richardson as Mary Sunshine. Each line of the song ‘A little bit of good’ is presented with a strong sense of carefulness and delicacy. It’s an extremely gruelling role that can be extremely difficult to sing night after night, but you get one of the best vocal performances I have seen. Without giving a major plot spoiler away it is unbelievable how good the characters voice is considering the circumstances.


Roxie’s all loving and walked upon husband Amos Hart is played by Neil Ditt. Extremely well performed, the character is worked, used and mistreated by Roxie and Billy but it is a truly wonderful performance by Neil Ditt and this is especially shown in the song Mr Cellophane which demonstrates to the audience how this extremely bland man is constantly striving to be noticed by others.

‘The 6 marry murderesses of the cook county in jail in their rendition of the cell block tango’ are outstanding with the cast consisting of Sophie Carmen-Jones, Lindsey Tierney, Ellie Mitchell, Nicola Coates, Frances Dee and Chelsea Labadini. This performance is very powerful and each character portrayed is very different with a stand out personality that draws in the audience.


It would be very wrong to not mention the utterly divine band for the performance led by the fantastic Ben Atkinson. It truly is the icing on the cake for this touring production. All through the show the energy levels of the band were extremely high and the music blasted out around the Wales Millennium Centre. The two real highlight moments of the band was during the Entr’acte and Playout because it was then they came into their own. Ben Atkinson was conducting upside down leaning over a wall and climbing over the staging while leading his band. He finally ended up draped over the piano upside down with his band dancing around the stage. An utterly amazing performance.


You don’t want to be ‘Mister Cellophane’ so make yourself seen and go and watch Chicago: The Musical at the Wales Millennium Centre. The musical is showing between 25th  Jul – 30th  Jul 2016. Tickets are selling fast so please make sure you get them via this link-