Tag Archives: Music

Review Chicago, Wales Millennium Centre by James Briggs

chicago
4 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.

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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.

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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.

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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-

https://www.wmc.org.uk/Productions/2016-2017/DonaldGordonTheatre/Chicago15/

Last Night of the Welsh Proms 2016, ST DAVIDS HALL BY JAMES BRIGGS

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Following a simply wonderful week packed full with all types of music, the Welsh Proms 2016 drew to a stunning close on Saturday evening. The Last Night of the Welsh Proms, at St David’s Hall, Cardiff, is a celebration of what it means to be Welsh and how important music is for Welsh people. The celebrations began before the audience entered the auditorium, with a band playing outside the hall enticing passer-by’s into the concert hall.
As the show began the audience welcomed The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra from London and the resident Last Night Of The Welsh Proms conductor Owain Arwel Hughes CBE. With a marvellous programme of songs set for the evening the audience knew there would be a great evening in store.
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As well as the upbeat recognisable pieces played by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra the Last Night is also about some serious music, and this year’ concert featured three world premiere performances of brand new orchestral pieces.
The first of these was ‘Cambrian Serenade’, by Arwel Hughes, the father of our conductor for the evening. The piece featured heavily on Classical FM where they held a competition for the listeners to name the song and the winner would get to see the music performed on The Last Night Of The Welsh Proms. The second of the world premiere pieces was ‘Aberfan’, by Christopher Wood, the emotional piece which was very moving was written to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Aberfan disaster. The Aberfan disaster was a catastrophic landslide of a colliery coal tip in the Welsh village of Aberfan, near Merthyr Tydfil, on 21 October 1966, which engulfed a Primary school and killed 116 children and 28 adults.
The third piece making its World Premiere was ‘Mr Dahl’, by Bernard kane Jnr, which was a beautiful piece written to commemorate 100 years from the birth of the great Welsh writer Roald Dahl.
Some of the first half highlights included Coates ‘Dambusters March’, Tchaikovsky’s ‘Swan Lake’ and Mendelssohn’s well known and loved ‘Wedding March’. The real showstopper that ended the first half was the soundtrack to Star Wars which took your breath away. Nothing can really prepare you for when you hear the opening few bars of the theme played by the brass section. It is almost like you are expecting Darth Vader or Yoda to appear on stage and greet the audience.

As with the tradition of the Last Night Of The Welsh Proms, it was really after the interval that the fun really began with an influx of flag and banners being brought into the auditorium in preparation for waving along with the music.
The second half opened with a personal favourite of mine Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance No.1 and it wasn’t long until conductor Owain Arwel Hughes soon had everyone on their feet and singing ‘Land Of Hope And Glory’ enthusiastically to the music. Strauss Radetsky March proved popular with the prom goers as we all clapped along when told by the conductor.

The final songs of the evening came in the form of ‘Fantasy On Welsh Songs’ arranged by Gareth Wood. This part of the concert involved a great deal of singing with the orchestra as some of Wales’ most famous songs were played. With songs such as Cwm Rhondda, Men Of Harlech, Ar Hyd Y Nos, We’ll Keep A Welcome, Myfanwy, and I Bob Un Sydd Ffyddlon there was plenty of choice. One song played Bugeilio’r Gwenith Gwyn had a great deal of meaning for my Mum who I attended the concert with as it was the song she performed for the Queen when she visited Wales in 1977 for her Silver Jubilee celebrations.
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The national anthem Mae Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau provided a fitting encore to end a wonderful evening of music. Conductor Owain Arwel Hughes promised the proms would return bigger and better next year, which is definitely something to look forward to. I urge everyone if you have the chance to attend the Last Night Of The Welsh Proms be sure to go because you are sure to have a magical evening of music and culture.

Review Piaf! The Show Festival of Voice WMC by James Briggs


 
4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)
 

Cardiff welcomed one of France’s most famous singers in the form of ‘Piaf! The Show’ as part of the Festival of Voice event in association with ‘Directo Productions’. ‘Piaf! The Show’ celebrates the centenary of Edith Piaf’s birth and is a wonderful production  that sees French singer Anne Carrere filling the impeccably large boots of Edith Piaf. Edith Piaf holds very special memories for me as my family and I would regularly go on holiday to Jersey. When I was four I asked the hotel pianist if she would play Edith Piaf’s ‘Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien’. The pianist as well as my family were astounded at my request, but as we would return year after year to the same hotel every time I walked into the hotel the pianist would always play the song for me and even gave me some of my first ‘piano lessons’.

With a packed line up of almost thirty songs we are taken on a musical journey of Edith Piaf’s life starting firstly in Act 1 with the beginnings of Edith Piaf singing in café’s for customers and serenading people alongside the River Seine. However, Act 2 is totally different with the show changing into a concert style performance and Anne Carrere’s performance as Piaf is totally mesmerising. There were countless famous numbers included allowing the audience to sing along with the music. The settings used on the stage were minimal yet extremely effective some of which being a streetlamp in Montmartre,  seedy clubs of Pigalle and even the world famous Carnegie Hall in New York.

While performing on stage Anne Carrere was backed by a live band simply made up of a piano, doublebass, drums and the most amazing accordionist Guy Giuliano who was simply outstanding. The songs performed were a great mix from the well known such as Jezebel and Autumn Leaves and those not so well known to me such as ‘Bravo Pour Le Clown’, ‘Milord’ and ‘La Foule’.

The audience were left feeling as though we were watching the show in France as it was all in French. I really enjoyed the use of French as it brought more meaning to the music and made the portrayal of Edith Piaf by Anne Carrere even more special.

For those who have listened to Edith Piaf’s music you will know that she had a very specific sound to her voice and this is extremely difficult to impersonate, however, Anne Carrere manages to exemplify not only the spirit of the singer but also her unique sound. The legendary vibrato is captured with precision and even when dancing with men she had picked from the audience she stayed in character and didn’t let the accent go for one second.

The setting was also very effective in that during the singing a large projector at the back of the stage showed photographs of Edith Piaf through her many stages of life. Simple sets of a streetlamp alongside a park bench, bar and cafe tables provide the audience with a visual aid when listening to the music and following the story. This created the most fantastic atmosphere for the audience but the music with Anne Carrere alone is enough to entertain any audience and the enjoyment on stage was infectious.

For me this show was a dream come true and is the closest I will ever get to watching Edith Piaf singing her music live. It was therefore a terrible shame that the audience was so small in number as the performance deserved a packed audience. However, this did not deter the audience giving Anne Carrere and her band a standing ovation which was very well deserved.

I would recommend this show to everyone whether you are a fan of Edith Piaf or not as it is simply a wonderful celebration of all things French and the fabulous Anne Carrere is outstanding and I am sure when she performs at Carnegie Hall in New York I am sure she will be loved there also. If you ever get the chance do not think twice about buying a ticket as it is a must see show and your guaranteed a wonderful night out. Merci Anne Carrere vous étiez un artiste incroyable et vraiment fait Edith Piaf fier!

Merci d’avoir lu mon commentaire sur le fantastique Piaf ! Le spectacle.