Tag Archives: Review

REVIEW The Osmonds: A New Musical, New Theatre by Barbara Hughes-Moore

For The Osmonds, family isn’t just important: it’s everything.Hailing from a small town in Utah, they shot to the stratosphere during their tenure on The Andy Williams Show in the 1960s and have kept climbing the charts ever since. Having sold over 100 million records, The Osmonds became household names, known for their clean-cut image and teen idol status – and now, Jay Osmond himself is bringing their story to the stage in a brand new musical which is currently touring across the UK.

Directed by Shaun Kerrison and choreographed by Olivier Award-winning Bill Deamer, this “living memoir” charts the rise and fall (and rise again) of the legendary all-singing, all-dancing supergroup. Written and produced by Jay Osmond, who not only played drums in the band but co-wrote and choreographed many of their songs, the musical crams 50+ years and 30+ megahits in just over 2 hours. It’s a nostalgic, whirlwind tour through some of the most memorable tracks of the 60s and 70s, from Puppy Love to Crazy Horses.

Mentored by Walt Disney, Chuck Norris, and Elvis Presley, the Osmonds were finding their feet in the industry at the same time that they were finding their feet as young men. As the Osmonds’ brood grew so did the Osmonds brand, with youngsters Donny, Marie and Jimmy embarking on their own successful solo careers. While family was paramount to them,it wasn’t always easy, as we see from George Osmond’s (Charlie Allen) militaristic parenting style. In a clever twist, the Osmond brothers and their younger counterparts often share the stage here, with the older incarnations of the characters looking back on pivotal moments in their youth and – in one of the show’s most effective and affecting scenes – actually perform a song with their younger selves.

The cast is superb across the board. As Jay Osmond, theincredible Alex Lodge leads the ensemble with aplomb, breaking the fourth wall and bringing the audience in on the jokes and the dance routines. It’s clear that the cast share just as special a bond as the Osmonds themselves: Henry Firth as Wayne (stepping in for Danny Nattrass), Tristan Whincup as Donny (stepping in for Joseph Peacock), Ryan Anderson as Merrill, and Jamie Chatterton as Alan, all bring energy, verve and style to their performance of Let Me In, One Bad Apple, and Yo-Yo. While the set (though eye-catching) could maybe benefit from little more inventiveness, and the pacing could be stronger in parts, the stellar performances make this an absolute must-see.

Georgia Lennon lends a little bit of country to Marie Osmond’s ballad Paper Roses while Lyle Wren performs a hilarious version of Jimmy Osmond’s novelty hit Long Haired Lover From Liverpool. Huge kudos must go to the supremely talented actors playing the young Osmonds: Nicolas Teixeira, Oliver Forde, Jack Sherran, Louis Stow, and Lonan Johnson.Their pitch-perfect harmonies are absolutely sublime, and theduet getween young Donny (Teixiera) and Andy Williams (Dance Captain Matt Ives, stepping in for Alex Cardall) was an adorable highlight. (Ives also plays about twenty other characters, all equally distinct and all equally brilliant).

The sincerity of the Osmonds has always been a key part of their appeal – “we call them friends, not fans”, Jay says – and his decision to premiere the show in the UK was inspired in no small part due to the Osmond-mania that met them in Blighty, with admirers climbing up flagpoles and abseiling down hotels just to get a glimpse of the brothers. And on this particular leg of their UK tour, disaster struck when due to sickness/injury, they happened to be nine cast members down on the opening night of their Welsh premiere (even Jamie Chatterton, who plays Alan, had to be cleared by physio to perform due to an injury). So they had to make a hard decision: cancel the show, perform it as a concert, or put on the show with a reduced cast. The decided that the show must go on – and I’m thrilled that they did, because they gave the performance of a lifetime. If you want to Love Them For A Reason, you couldn’t have a better one.

The Osmonds: A New Musical is playing at the New Theatre Cardiff from Tue 4 October – Sat 8 October

REVIEW Bat Out of Hell! The Musical at New Theatre Cardiff by Barbara Hughes-Moore

Rock and Roll Dreams Come Through as Bat Out Of Hell!, the electrifying, award-winning hit musical featuring the greatest hits of Meat Loaf and Jim Steinman, hits the highway to Cardiff’s New Theatre this week. I grew up on the music of Meat Loaf, but I’ve been burned by jukebox musicals before. Bat Out of Hell!, though, is a different beast entirely: it actually began life as a futuristic rock opera in Jim Steinman’s college days, a punk spin on Peter Pan called Neverland. Steinman turned his unfinished opera into his magnum opus: Bat Out of Hell, one of the best-selling albums ever made – and now it’s back in its original form, bigger, better, and more bombastic than ever.

Martha Kirby and Glenn Adamson in Bat Out of Hell!

Set in Obsidian, a post-apocalyptic Manhattan that’s a long way from Neverland, Bat Out of Hell! follows Strat (Glenn Adamson), immortal eighteen-year-old leader of ‘The Lost’, a biker gang locked in a deadly war with the tyrannical Falco (Rob Fowler). When Strat falls in love with Raven (Martha Kirby), Falco’s rebellious daughter, the game is on and all bets are off.

Glenn Adamson as Strat

Operatic in scale and anarchic in spirit, Bat Out of Hell! is an adrenaline-fuelled rollercoaster ride through some of the most iconic songs ever written, from It’s All Coming Back to Me Now to I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That). They’re also some of the hardest songs to sing – but this peerless ensemble make it seem like second nature. Not only are these the best voices I’ve heard on ANY stage, they bring every drop of emotion to songs that demand nothing short of everything: high concept Wagnerian epics that are as a high risk as they are reward. A slew of talented people have trod the boards at the New Theatre, but this might just be the most exciting cast ever to do so.

Glenn Adamson and Martha Kirby in Bat Out of Hell!

Adamson and Kirby bring charisma and complexity to roles that could have become rote in less capable hands. Their chemistry is even more scorching than the real flames that shoot across the stage during the performance of the legendary title track – which is one of the most incredible things I’ve ever experienced in a theatre. They make the star-crossed love story into a symphony.

Rob Fowler and Sharon Sexton in Bat Out of Hell!

This is a show that is in on the joke and wants you to laugh right along with it. It’s hard to tell who’s having the most fun, but that honour might just go to Rob Fowler and Laura Johnson (standing in for Sharon Sexton) as Falco and Sloane, Obsidian’s answer to Burton and Taylor. Their version of Paradise By the Dashboard Light might be the most fun you can have with your clothes on (even if theirs weren’t!)

The 2022 UK touring cast of Bat Out of Hell!

Meanwhile, Joelle Moses and James Chisholm bring gravitas to their powerhouse rendition of Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad, while Killian Thomas Lefevre’s Tink steals the audience’s hearts with Not Allowed to Love, one of the ballads written specifically for the show. (The other, What Part of My Body Hurts the Most, is sung by Fowler and Johnson in an affectingly tender moment for their characters).

The 2022 touring cast of Bat Out of Hell!

The songs are mini epics in their own right, self-contained sagas that lend themselves perfectly to the stage – and their unique sound is captured by South Wales-born musical director Iestyn Griffiths and his superb live orchestra in. Coupled with  Jay Scheib’s kinetic direction and Xena Gusthart’s inventive choreo, the music underscores the immersive fever dream of the stage (designed by Jon Bausor, also responsible for the fabulous costumes), a world half dreaded and half desired.

The 2022 touring cast of Bat Out of Hell!

The spectacle of this show is second-to-none. If you’re not a fan of the songs, you will be by the time the curtain falls – and if you are one already, you’ll be in paradise (by the dashboard light). The men who brought them to us may be gone, but the beat is theirs forever – and with Bat Out of Hell!, it’s ours now too. With a little faith, trust and pixie dust, your rock and roll dreams can come true – so get yourself all revved up, because you’ve got somewhere to go – just watch out for the sudden curve!

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 Violet, Music Theatre Wales by Barbara Hughes-Moore

Time is one of humanity’s most enduring enigmas; it can be counted in eras and in seconds, it can seem endless or scarce, and however long you live, there’s never enough of it. These are some of the key tensions within Violet, a contemporary opera which is sung through in English and co-produced by Music Theatre Wales and Britten Pears. Composed by Tom Coult and written by Alice Birch, the story takes place in a town where nothing changes until, one day, everything does: one hour disappears on day one, two on day two, and on and on – but while the world seems to be ending around her, Violet’s is just beginning.

Richard Burkhard, Frances Gregory and Anna Dennis in Violet (image credit: Marc Brenner)

Directed by Jude Christian, Violet is an exhibition of artistry, from Rosie Elnile’s gorgeous set, which looks like a minimalist Renaissance painting, to Cécile Trémolières’ lush costumes, which play with both austerity and freedom through fabric. The temporal distortion at the story’s heart bleeds through to everything on the stage, which anachronistically mixes period clothing with modern props, framed by an animated backdrop of dandelion seeds swirling like grains of sand in an hourglass.

Anna Dennis in Violet (image credit: Marc Brenner)

The operatic quartet at its heart are equally impressive. Anna Dennis viscerally captures Violet’s growing sense of self and power (her name even seems to anticipate ‘violent ends’) while Richard Burkhard and Frances Gregory (as Violet’s husband and maid, respectively) convey their characters’ descent into despair. At the start of each scene, Andrew MacKenzie-Wicks’ keeper goes to the clock tower, changing it to show the days left and the hours lost. The tower is built to mimic a guillotine; along with a branch and a bell, it is one of three ‘swords’ of Damocles which hang ominously above the characters, as if to fall at any moment.

Richard Burkhard and Andrew MacKenzie-Wicks in Violet (image credit: Marc Brenner)

Thematically and visually, then, it’s close to perfection – but, for some reason, I didn’t quite connect with it. Perhaps it’s because I’ve never seen a ‘contemporary opera’ before, despite how exceptional the singers are, how authentic Coult’s score is or how vivid it sounds in the hands of the London Sinfonietta, conducted by Andrew Gourlay. If you’re immersed in the worlds of opera or experimental theatre, you couldn’t ask for better – but, like the twenty-first century laptop on the sixteenth-century table, I felt emotionally ‘displaced’ by the show, unable to ever fully tune into its frequency.

Frances Gregory in Violet (image credit: Marc Brenner)

My reservations are encapsulated in its ending: an unsettling animated sequence which is sure to divide audiences. It’s certainly divided me: on the one hand, I can appreciate how it underscores the themes of time doubling in on itself, of repetition and stagnancy. On the other, it shatters the strange magic of the first eighty minutes, and any sense of ‘hope’ along with it.

Richard Burkhard in Violet (image credit: Marc Brenner)

Violet premiered at the Aldeburgh Festival in Snape Maltings, Suffolk, earlier this month and it’s easy to see why it’s had such an impact on audiences. I was caught up in its artistry and intrigue, and it’s made me want to explore the world of opera, modern and otherwise, all the more. Dynamic and affecting, what Violet conveys most effectively is that the end of the world might not come in a planet-shattering catastrophe, but in a creeping sense of hopelessness and dread: not with a bang, or even a whimper, but with the ringing of a bell.

Violet is touring across the UK through July, with upcoming performances in London, Buxton and Mold

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 Northern Ballet: The Great Gatsby, New Theatre by Barbara Hughes-Moore

Hailed as ‘The Great American Novel’, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby is an iconic tale of decadence, death and desire. It epitomized the feel of the Roaring Twenties like nothing else: an era of flappers, libertines and bright young things, where ‘anything goes’ wasn’t just a phrase but a state of mind. The story continues to captivate nearly a hundred years since its publication and Northern Ballet’s thrilling take on the tale is bolder and more beautiful than ever – no wonder that it’s returns for its third smash-hit tour, which graces the New Theatre this week for five nights of dazzling decadence.

Abigail Prudames and Joseph Taylor (photo credit: Caroline Holden)

Long Island, 1922. New-in-town Nick Carraway (Sean Bates) strikes up a friendship with his affluent and enigmatic neighbour, Jay Gatsby (Joseph Taylor). Gatsby’s lavish parties are legend – but Gatsby seems interested only in the green light across the Bay, to which he stretches out his arm night after night: the light on the dock belonging to his true love, Daisy (Abigail Prudames). With Gatsby gunning to win her back, Daisy’s marriage to the brutish Tom Buchanan (Lorenzo Trossello) is about to be tested when his affair with the socially ambitious Myrtle (Minju Kang) takes a dangerous new turn.

Northern Ballet dancers in The Great Gatsby (photo credit: Emily Nuttall)

Directed, designed and choreographed by David Nixon OBE, the show is a visual splendour from start to finish. It’s no surprise that Nixon was nominated for a UK Theatre Award and a National Dance Award for his work here: the stunning choreography and gorgeous costumes immerse you in the Jazz Age, taking you on a whistlestop tour through Gatsby’s world. Coupled with Jérôme Kaplan’s striking Art Deco-inspired sets and the sumptuous score by Sir Richard Rodney Bennett CBE, played live by Northern Ballet Sinfonia, and you have a production that’s a feast for the senses.

Minju Kang (photo credit: Emma Kauldhar)

The ensemble is nothing short of perfection, bringing heart, soul and a jaw-dropping athleticism and grace. They convey a frenetic joy in the champagne-swilling speakeasies and sensual longing in every pas de deux. Heather Lehan oozes aloofness as socialite Jordan Baker, an effective foil to Bates’ nice-guy Nick. Minju Kang’s solos are a highlight, and the show soars whenever she shares the stage with Riku Ito (as her husband, George) and Trossello.

Abigail Prudames and Joseph Taylor (photo credit: Caroline Holden)

Taylor and Prudames are captivating as the doomed lovers at the story’s heart: they dance often in front of a wall of mirrors, but their reflections are distorted – just as their images of each other are – and they even mirror the movements of their younger selves, who dance behind them like echoes of the past.

Northern Ballet dancers in The Great Gatsby (photo credit: Emma Kauldhar)

Anyone who enjoys the themed weeks on Strictly Come Dancing will find a special joy in watching the show’s balletic spin on Charlestons and tangos, and flashbacks to Gatsby’s shady past are brilliantly conveyed through a phalanx of fedora-wearing crooks. Northern Ballet have captured every facet of the era’s excess, every lost love and lost chance: most of all, they have captured a sense of old-fashioned Hollywood glamour that you just don’t see these days. In their hands, Gatsby isn’t just great – it’s magnificent.

Northern Ballet: The Great Gatsby is at the New Theatre Cardiff from Tuesday 7 – Saturday 11 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.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review by
Barbara Hughes-Moore

Get the Chance supports volunteer critics like Barbara to access a world of cultural provision. We receive no ongoing, external funding. If you can support our work please donate here thanks.