Tag Archives: New Theatre

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

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

The 2018 Cast of Bat Out Of Hell!

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

The 2018 Cast of Bat Out Of Hell!

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

The 2018 Cast of Bat Out Of Hell!

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

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

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

Cast of Friendsical at Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2022

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

Cast of Friendsical at Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2022

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

Cast of Friendsical at Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2022

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

Cast of Friendsical at Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2022

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

Twitter / Instagram: @Friendsical

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

REVIEW The Cher Show, New Theatre by Barbara Hughes-Moore

We all know the story, right? A young hopeful with big dreams becomes a star. Most everyone who makes it in showbiz has a rags to riches story, but no-one has a story quite like Cherilyn Sarkisian aka Cher: the barrier-breaking, age-defying Goddess of Pop who was ahead of her time well before she turned it back. From a shy truck driver’s daughter to a multi-million selling recording artist and Oscar-winning actress, Cher broke the rules and set the trends. Her incredible rise to fame is told with wit, wonder, and no small amount of wigs in The Cher Show, a brand new musical touring the UK and Ireland through to April 2023.

Brought to life by a spectacular cast and crew, The Cher Show spans six decades, three Chers, and one incredible story. A trio of magnificent actresses each embody a facet of her life: Millie O’Connell as ‘Babe’, the naïve hopeful; Danielle Steers as ‘Lady’, one half of America’s favourite couple; and Debbie Kurup as ‘Star’, at last a legend in her own right. O’Connell, Steers and Kurup have the unenviable task of portraying a woman who defies imitation – and yet each step up to the plate with aplomb, nailing Cher’s distinct vocals and stage presence. They also share a uniquely engaging chemistry with each other that is often hilarious and at times touching: when the wiser, more experienced ‘Star’ comforts ‘Lady’ through her marital woes, it is genuinely moving – perhaps, like Cher, we are always in conversation with our past selves.

Left to right: Millie O’Connell as ‘Babe’, Debbie Kurup as ‘Star’, and Danielle Steers as ‘Lady’

The jukebox musical and the biopic are two of the most difficult artforms to get right – mostly because we’ve seen it all before. True as the tales may be, these are genres which quickly become rote, worn out. But The Cher Show, much like its titular star, shatters all those expectations and blazes its own trail. And who better to bring that to life than two Strictly Come Dancing superstars: former Strictly Judge and West End icon Arlene Phillips, who directs, and two-time Glitterball champ Oti Mabuse, who choreographs. Written by Tony and Olivier Award-winning Rick Elice (Jersey Boys, The Addams Family), the show and its stars capture the wit and also the glamour of its leading lady, thanks to Gabriella Slade’s (Six, Spiceworld 2019) eye-popping costume design.

Lucas Rush as Sonny and Danielle Steers as ‘Lady’ Cher

Lucas Rush is a standout as Sonny Bono – not only are they a dead ringer for the character (from the voice to the flares to the facial hair!), they have incredible chemistry with ‘Babe’, ‘Lady’, and ‘Star’. While the road wasn’t always easy, the love between Sonny and Cher was as legendary as their music – and here, when the pair sang ‘I Got You Babe’ one last time, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. Alongside a fabulous sailor-fied ensemble (no doubt evoking Cher’s iconic music video for ‘If I Could Turn Back Time’), there are excellent supporting turns from Jake Mitchell as costume designer Bob Mackie, Sam Ferriday as Cher’s paramours Greg Allman and Rob Camilletti, and Tori Scott as her strong-willed mom Georgia.

The cast of ‘The Cher Show’, featuring Debbie Kurup as ‘Star’

And with a musical catalogue like Cher’s, the beat truly does go on. Played by a scintillating live band, the show is packed with 35 of her biggest hits, including ‘If I Could Turn Back Time’, ‘I Got You Babe’, ‘The Shoop Shoop Song (It’s in His Kiss)’ and ‘Believe’. By the time the Megamix rolled round, the whole audience was on its feet: I’ve never seen a reception like it. You will be awed. You will be entertained. And you will believe in life after love.

The Cher Show is playing at the New Theatre through 27 August.

REVIEW Chicago, New Theatre Cardiff by Barbara Hughes-Moore

Chicago, 1920s. In a city ruled by mob bosses and moonshine, misbehaviour ain’t just on the menu: it’s a way of life. If it’s fame you’re after, you might get fifteen minutes or fifteen to life – and Roxie Hart’s dream of seeing her name in the papers is one she’ll kill for. With blood on her hands and a song in her heart, Roxie (Faye Brookes) teams up with sleazy lawyer Billy Flynn (Lee Mead) to fool the masses, stealing the thunder of her rival cellmate, Velma Kelly (Djalenga Scott), in the process.

‘All That Jazz’: the Chicago ensemble, led by Djalenga Scott as Velma Kelly

Featuring classic songs by Kander and Ebb and original choreography by Bob Fosse (the trio behind the iconic Cabaret), Chicago is fresher, funnier and fiercer than ever. 25 years after its revival swept the Tonys, and nearly 50 since it first premiered on Broadway, the show’s satire of law, politics and the press could hardly be more relevant: after all, what’s the difference between a theatre and a courtroom when showmanship, not integrity, is the order of the day? Even when the actors are playing judges and reporters, they’re wearing mesh, fishnets, and leather: justice is showbiz, darling, and you’d better pray for an encore. Chicago is self-consciously theatrical, drawing attention to its own artifice: a gilt frame encloses the stage, but the set itself has no frills and few props: its simplicity spotlights the performances instead of the staging.

‘We Both Reached for the Gun’: Billy Flynn (Lee Mead) puppeteers Roxie Hart (Faye Brookes) through a press conference

And what performances! Faye Brookes brings lashings of wit and charm to Roxie Hart: one part hapless crim, one part ruthless dame. Brookes is a hilarious and vibrant stage presence, particularly when pitted against Djalenga Scott as Velma Kelly, whose stylish swagger makes for an effective foil to Brookes’ wide-eyed ebullience; their ‘Hot Honey Rag’ duet is a veritable dance masterclass.

‘The name on everybody’s lips is gonna be “Roxie”‘: Roxie Hart (Faye Brookes) and her ‘boys’

There are excellent supporting performances by X Factor finalist Brenda Edwards as the sultry Matron ‘Mama’ Morton, Jamie Baughan as Roxie’s hangdog husband Amos and B.E. Wong as big-hearted but gullible journo Mary Sunshine. Meanwhile, Lee Mead as Billy Flynn really does give the audience the ol’ ‘Razzle Dazzle’, and Scott’s sensational rendition of ‘All That Jazz’ brings the house down by the time the show’s barely started. But the Cell Block Tango might just be the standout: by the final chorus, you’ll really believe ‘he had it coming!’

A chain-smoking tap-dance

The incredibly intricate dancing is executed with effortless precision, with every Fosse finger snap and hip roll present and accounted for. The ensemble is on top form as is the superb live band, directed by Andrew Hilton, who are seated onstage in striking, asymmetric tiers. You won’t find better singing, dancing or live music this side of the ‘20s: the cast prove once again why Chicago is still one of the best musicals around. If you love the Oscar-winning movie, you’ll be in your element; if you’re new to the medium, then you’re starting out with the best. Stylish, sexy and spectacular, Chicago is all that jazz and then some – it’s the most fun you can have without breaking the law!

‘I Can’t Do it Alone’: Velma Kelly (Djalenga Scott) and Roxie Hart (Faye Brookes) take their criminally-good show on the road

Chicago is playing at the New Theatre Cardiff until Saturday 25 June

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 Footloose the Musical, New Theatre by Barbara Hughes-Moore

In the Year of our Lord 1984, a hero rose from obscurity to show a nation – nay, a world – how to lose its blues. The hero was Kevin Bacon, the movie was Footloose, and the story of a teenage boy who convinces a small town to dance again became legend. Now, the creatives behind the ultimate 80s feelgood film have brought it to the stage in a brilliant new musical: a blood-pumping, barnstorming thrill ride that’ll get you out of your seat and onto your feet!

The whole rootin’ tootin’ ensemble

Daniel Miles (filling in for Joshua Hawkins) is fantastic as the rebellious Ren, stepping into Kevin Bacon’s dancing shoes with ease. Star of stage and screen Darren Day does a superb job as the Reverend Moore (his interactions with the crowd are a highlight) and Lucy Munden makes a very impressive stage debut as his daughter Ariel.

Quite the quartet! Left to right: Oonagh Cox (Rusty), Jess Barker (Wendy-Jo), Samantha Richards (Urleen) and Lucy Munden (Ariel)

Every single person on the stage gives a 5-star performance and no-one misses a step, a note or a beat – no small feat, given that the actors are constantly having to swap between costumes, props, and instruments. The multitalented ensemble is on top form, bringing fun and flair to 80s classics like Holding Out for a Hero, Almost Paradise, and Let’s Hear it for the Boy – not to mention the riotous title track, brought to bubbly new life here – but X Factor star Jake Quickenden might just run off with the whole show.

Left to right: the brilliant Oonagh Cox as Rusty and Jake Quickenden as Willard

Playing Ren’s redneck wingman Willard, and simultaneously making the case for Magic Mike: The Musical, Quickenden has the charm and the chops to land every comedic curveball that’s thrown at him. I won’t spoil the best musical number but let’s just say if you’re holding out the a hero, you won’t be disappointed (Kylie Minogue, eat your heart out…)

Left to right: Ben Barrow, Alex Fobbester, and Ben Mabberley – a tremendous musical trio

Fun, frothy and fabulous, Footloose The Musical will truly get you to kick off your Sunday shoes and lose your blues!

Footloose The Musical is playing at the New Theatre Cardiff through Saturday 4 June

You can follow on social media @FootlooseTour  #EverybodyCutLoose

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: Interview with Footloose designer Sara Perks

What follows is a syndicated interview with Footloose designer Sara Perks

Following two critically acclaimed tours and huge popular demand, Footloose The Musical is back and better than ever! Touring the UK until August.

This brand-new production of Footloose is created by Sara Perks who has designed in the region of 250 productions. Sara has been nominated for Broadway World Awards, a Whats On Stage Award and an Offies Award. She holds an Edinburgh Fringe First; The John Elvery Theatre Design Award and a Vision Design (Costume) Award from the BBC.

We spoke with her to find out more about the life of a Theatre Designer and to find out more about her inspiration for the Footloose Uk Tour.

Can you tell us a little bit about life as a theatre designer – what made you go into this field and who or what were your inspirations

At the moment it’s very busy but it tends to be a bit ‘feast or famine’.  Currently I’m working on four shows which are all at different stages in the process.  For me Covid has meant that all my work suddenly got bunched up together which makes for a lot of plate spinning and juggling of schedules.

My inspirations were and still are the ability to create a live experience that an audience is able to experience together and enjoy together in the same room.  To be connected to something visceral that is happening in front of them – nothing will ever replace that.

You have designed both the costumes and the set for this brand-new production. What is the process of making this happen?

A designer’s process follows a set of deadlines really.  I discuss the needs and wants of the production with producers and the director initially, then filtering in what the choreographer, musical director and lighting designer would like to achieve. 

All of this along with my own creative reaction to the piece results in a preliminary design – a ‘white-card’ model box which is a scale model of the proposed design at 1:25, with technical drawings.  This is then commented upon by the creative team and producers and roughly costed, because of course there is a budget attached to every production that needs to be considered as well.

I would then take the design and model to the next stage – a final.  This would be in full colour with all the chosen finishes and renders. This is then costed and signed off precisely. 

An independent scenic workshop is selected on tender to build.  From that point I work between them, the production manager, the rest of the creative team and rehearsals to try to ensure everything is on track, and make sure information and alterations proceeds as required

And that is just the set.  What about costumes?

Amongst this whole process (which can span over years or just weeks depending on the size of project) I’m busy designing costume. There are similar deadlines, but these tend to be a bit more fluid especially if it is a show that is more based on sourcing vintage items to buy, rather than having a lot of costumes made.

Footloose being set in the 80s was almost all vintage sourcing so I worked very closely with a costume supervisor, my right hand really when it comes to costume, to make that happen.  We shop, buy online, fit and alter, adapt and repurpose all through the rehearsal process and well into the technical rehearsals in order to create the right looks.

It’s a big cast – how many costumes were sourced and created?

After we got past 80+ we stopped counting!

Can you tell us about what audience expect to see in terms of design and what helped to influence this.  Can we expect a real 80’s vibe?

When we started the process (over 2 years ago – a small thing called a pandemic got in the way!) the restyling 80s retro look was very in vogue. 

We looked at shows like Stranger Things and 2 years later – Sex Education, in the way that they are clearly 80s but restyled with a modern eye, and not completely slavish to period.  It was all about looking cool and right for character.

However I’m old enough to the remember the film when it came out and was the same age as the characters in the 80s so my own experience went to some of the costume and hair inspiration!

In regard to the set the inspiration for it really is the classic iron rivetted bridges that you find all over America spanning rivers and gorges.  Like the Potanwey bridge that is mentioned by Ariel in relation to her brother.  The Williamsburg bridge in New York is another example.

The bridge and town limits are central to the plot of the show and why the town of Bomont is under restrictions on socialising, so it seemed a good metaphor to use as a frame for the whole concept.

Do you have a favourite costume in the show?

I love Wendy-Jo’s yellow jumpsuit; and there are several great classic 80s prom dresses in purple; green and cerise, but I think the Rev’s white sequin jacket for the mega mix would have to be the favourite.  And Darren Day wears it so well!

Many might say ‘the gold pants’ (and those who see the show will know why!)  Tell us a bit about the gold pants! Although most of the design is new they’ve been revived from previous productions is that right?

These are a bit of a ‘surprise’ in the show – I  won’t give it away completely – but they always go down a storm with audiences so we decided to keep it in for this new production.  For me it’s the highlight of the show!

Finally, what would be your top tip for audience members who might come along dressed up for the show – how do you create the perfect ‘Footloose’ outfit?

It’s not just a pair of legwarmers or neon socks.  You could choose to go full ‘cowboy’ and join in with some line dancing at the ‘bbq’ at the start of the 2nd half; or grab a taffeta block colour party dress or ra-ra skirt for the prom.  If you want a more tailored look a velvet or sequin tux with jeans would fit right in as well.

Based on the 1980s screen sensation which took the world by storm, Footloose The Musical sizzles with spirit, fun and the best in UK musical talent. With cutting edge modern choreography, you’ll enjoy classic 80s hits including Holding Out for a Hero, Almost Paradise, Let’s Hear It For The Boy and of course the unforgettable title track Footloose.

Everybody cut loose for a night of dazzling excitement music and dancing!  

For full listings visit www.footloose-musical.com  follow on social media @FootlooseTour  #EverybodyCutLoose

PREVIEW: Interview with Footloose star Darren Day

What follows is a syndicated interview with Footloose star Darren Day

Following two critically acclaimed tours and huge popular demand, Footloose The Musical is back and better than ever! Touring the UK until August. TV star and musical theatre favourite Darren Day joins the cast of the tour as Rev. Moore and we caught up with him to find out a little more about the tour and his role in the show. 

You’re back on the road In Footloose The Musical how does it feel to be back on tour?

We were about to go into rehearsals for Footloose when the Pandemic hit and the tour was rescheduled a few times before dates were set for our 2022 opening, almost a full two years later than originally planned and it is amazing to be back out there with the show.

2020 was devastating for us all.  But coming out of the other end things have really started moving quickly for me. Having not been able to perform during the pandemic, going back on stage and being part of a big musical feels so magical, in the way it felt when I landed the role of Joseph at the Palladium at the beginning of my career.  

I recently finished the UK tour of Chicago which was brilliant and during that tour I saw a genuine thirst for live theatre so couldn’t be more delighted than to move straight into another tour with Footloose.

In all of my years as a performer in Musical Theatre I don’t think I have jumped straight from one tour into another… I feel very lucky.

Can you tell us a little bit about this tour of Footloose?

This production of Footloose is particularly a special, even if you have seen it before you will want to see it again… and this new version will blow you away.  It’s been reworked with a new set, new costumes. The lot. 

Racky Plews, who’s directing, has brought an edgy and exciting new take on the show. She’s been working closely with the writer of the original movie and songs, Dean Pitchford and his input into this new production has been invaluable.

The cast and the whole team on this are truly ‘the cream of the crop’ a really gifted bunch of performers. Acting, singing, dancing and playing instruments throughout the show.

And what about your role as the Reverend?

I’m so happy to be playing the Reverend. Over a decade ago I met with the producers for Footloose and Chicago within about three months of each other. I was told I didn’t look old enough! So … the only downside of me playing these two roles back-to-back is that I must now look ‘old enough!!’

Since those meetings all those years ago Billy Flynn and the Reverend have been on my bucket list of roles I desperately wanted to play, so to get the opportunity to play them both in one year is incredibly exciting for me and I feel deeply grateful.

Having a teenage daughter myself (in real life!) I have a lot of ‘method’ experience to draw upon! It’s tough letting your ‘little princess’ out into the big bad world!

What do you think keeps Footloose so fresh and keeps audiences coming back for more?  

The great thing about Footloose which I think separates it from other ‘jukebox’ shows is that Dean Pitchford wrote the songs specifically for the movie. So, not only are these songs instantly recognisable the second the intro to them begins. they also carry the plot forward in a very truthful way. Apologies for that sounding incredibly ‘arty’ and ‘theatrical’ But they do!

In the show there are these massive hit tunes that everyone recognises along with a strong and beautiful storyline.  It’s a really feel-good show – no doubt about it.  

Do you have a favourite moment in the show?

I guess one of my favourite moments in the show is my solo song ‘Heaven Help Me’ It’s a brilliant tune with beautifully written lyrics. Also the poignant moments with the Reverend’s daughter are lovely to play – and the revelations that happen to him.  

My favourite moment in the rehearsal room was when I sat and watched the cast perform the opening number of the title song. I got goosebumps and thought to myself if this is how it feels in a rehearsal room the way it’s going to feel with a set, costumes and on a stage with an audience will be breath-taking.

Finally – why do you think people should come and see Footloose this year across the UK?

You are going to have the most incredible night. You’re going to hear songs that are instantly recognisable, and I challenge you not to sing along to them. There are big numbers, there’s a beautiful story going on, the cast are ridiculously talented.  You’ll leave the theatre buzzing after having a very special night out.  We will have a ball and I can’t wait to see everyone up on their feet at the end to cut loose!

Based on the 1980s screen sensation which took the world by storm, Footloose The Musical sizzles with spirit, fun and the best in UK musical talent. With cutting edge modern choreography, you’ll enjoy classic 80s hits including Holding Out for a Hero, Almost Paradise, Let’s Hear It For The Boy and of course the unforgettable title track Footloose..

Everybody cut loose for a night of dazzling excitement music and dancing!  

For full listings visit www.footloose-musical.com  follow on social media @FootlooseTour  #EverybodyCutLoose and follow Darren @DarrenDayOfficial for a peek behind the scenes of the tour!

REVIEW Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, New Theatre by Barbara Hughes-Moore

Living legend Carole King has left an indelible mark on musical history. From her days penning teeny-bopper hits with her first husband Gerry Goffin to becoming a hugely influential singer-songwriter in her own right, King’s impact is undeniable. By the time King and Goffin were inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 1990, they’d penned over 400 songs which resulted in more than 100 hit singles by such artists as Aretha Franklin, James Taylor, and the Monkees. When their marriage broke down, King struck out on her own – and her journey to the stars is told to great effect in Leicester Curve’s touring production of Beautiful: The Carole King Musical (with Theatre Royal Bath and Mayflower Theatre). But unlike the Broadway and West End versions which preceded it, the songs are performed entirely by an ensemble of actor-musicians who truly do create ‘Some Kind of Wonderful’.

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

Written by Douglas McGrath and directed by Nikolai Foster, Beautiful charts Carole’s journey from a gawky teen in the Bronx to a star who can sell out Carnegie Hall, and that’s where the show begins and ends: with Carole waiting in the wings, about to play her first concert performance in front of an audience. The concert followed hot on the heels of the multi-award winning Tapestry, which remained the bestselling album by a solo female artist for 25 years. If you’ve seen any music biopic, you’ll know the drill: a future icon rises from obscurity into the big leagues. It’s a credit, then, to the stellar cast that this tale as old as time feels fresh, new, and utterly joyous.

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

As Carole King herself, Molly-Grace Cutler is nothing short of transcendent. Cutler brings a tremendous amount of passion, warmth and emotion to the role, and a genuine intensity to the musical performances that makes you understand why King’s songs still resonate. If Cutler’s rendition of (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman doesn’t give you chills, then you might well have died and gone to heaven. She’s so likable and well-drawn that you really feel You’ve Got a Friend in her. Cutler is a natural in every way and she captures both King’s voice and her soul.

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

Meanwhile, Tom Milner does his job a bit too well as the troubled, two-timing Gerry: by the time he reappears at King’s closing concert, the audience were so close to booing him it was as if we’d stepped into a pantomime! It’s a credit to Milner, Cutler and the cast that the audience were so invested in their characters. Meanwhile, Seren Sandham-Davies and Jos Slovick are hilariously charming as Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann, a songwriting duo who blazed their own trail in music history (You’ve Lost that Lovin’ Feeling, Who Put the Bomp) and whose rivalry with King/Goffin is tempered by a genuine sense of friendship.

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

The cast are in a constant flow across the stage, seamlessly changing between costumes, characters and musical instruments. The Drifters are on particularly lively form (special mention to Kevin Yates on tambourine), and they bring a genuine sense of playfulness and fun just as The Shirelles bring more than a little glamour. Weil and Mann’s On Broadway – performed by the Drifters in sparkly jackets and Ben Cracknell’s equally glitzy light show – is one of the standouts, but there’s little that can compare with the aching grace of Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? or the saucy roar of I Feel the Earth Move. Edd Lindley’s costumes place you in the era while Leah Hill’s choreography looks to the future, and Frankie Bradshaw’s music studio-set makes you feel as if you’re part of the action.

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

The perfect ensemble ensures that the show really lives up to its name and they weave a sumptuous tapestry through some of the finest music you’ll ever hear – it’s no surprise that the audience was on its feet by the end. The show has a lot to say about forging your own path, and it concludes that while your story might find more success in another’s voice, your own is always the most beautiful.

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

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

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: 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

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

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