It’s quite fitting that just over 30 years since the redevelopment of the south of Cardiff began that Wales Millennium Centre presents Tiger Bay The Musical. Since 1987, what was the docks of Cardiff, and in particular, what was Tiger Bay, has changed dramatically, and this musical is a celebration of the diversity that is Cardiff now.
What’s it about? Set in 1900’s Cardiff, it follows a young woman’s determination to challenge society’s injustices, follow her heart and realise her dreams. Extreme poverty meets supreme wealth. Gangs of street children roam the docks. Coal is king. A revolution is brewing in the dark and restless world beneath the genteel surface of Cardiff’s Butetown. You could say there’s a level of current social commentary running through this.
The staging and sound are possibly the best I’ve ever seen at WMC, everything moved seamlessly on stage from one scene to another. The cast sound amazing, helped no doubt by the scoring of Daf James and the lyrics of Michael Williams, this production in association with Cape Town Opera has romance, drama, revenge, and some amazing ensemble pieces.
Back in 2011, I saw Noel Sullivan in We Will Rock You at the WMC. It was my first proper musical (that wasn’t on telly or in the cinema), and now six years later via some Dirty Rotten Scoundrels I see him again, and his voice has improved and matured. Hard to believe the same person sung an album track from Girl Thing that in turn went on to become the biggest song of 2001 (Trivia fans… that was of course Pure and Simple by Hearsay)
There is a tendency with some reviews to rave about everything – this might just end up being one of those. With talent such as John Owen Jones and Suzanne Packer, plus the aforementioned Mr Sullivan, it’s quite difficult to select a few stand out moments. Dom Hartley-Harris as Themba was just sublime. The emotion of his character was stunning to watch. But there’s no doubting tonight I saw two stars born.
Star number one is Vicki Bebb. The programme says she hails from a small village in South Wales. Well, let’s sort that out for starters. She’s from Cilfynydd, which is 3 miles outside of Pontypridd town centre. The same place that gave the world Sir Geraint Evans and Stuart Burrows – two amazing Welsh singers. Change that entry Wikipedia, there’s a third. Her name is Vicki Bebb, and going by tonight’s performance, the world is her oyster. I can say I was there the night I saw Vicki Bebb shine for the first time.
Star number two is Ruby Llewelyn who plays Ianto Louise Harvey also plays the role, but not tonight). She’s quite a little powerhouse of a vocalist and pretty much stole the show – even against John Owen Jones. In fairness the child cast were all brilliant, but for me, Louise is another one to watch for the future (once she’s gotten all her exams sorted first).
I am quite sad writing this review because it means my involvement in TBTM is now over. After blogging and talking about it for the best part of the last nine months, it’s time to say tara now – not goodbye, because I’m sure this little piece of Cardiff will travel and fly.
My advice is, if you like the likes of Oliver, Les Misérables, or even Wicked, you will love this. It’s a little piece of Cardiff past, with lot of the passion the city always had, and always will. Just imagine Les Miserables with a Kardiffian accent, and you’ll realise this is more than just a half tidy musical mind.
Tiger Bay-The Musical is on at Wales Millennium Centre till 25th November 2017.
So off I went out out (no slippers) for my first Spice Time Credit spend in several months. It was so good to get out, I’ve been bit unwell again, just coming through the other side, treats like this make recovery fun and what better way than to go and see a fab new show like Tiger Bay The Musical with friends and family thanks to Spice Cardiff and the Wales Millennium Centre.
Tiger Bay is a beautifully crafted musical based in Cardiff around the boom time of the coal industry. Its about the people who lived and worked there, tales of love, hardship, hope and tragedy (be prepared to experience a gamut of emotions). John Owen Jones voice is commanding and lyrical, it was so lovely, Dom Hartley Harris voice is like velvet, ‘Ianto’ is played by a little star to be and Noel Sullivan got the best boo as a baddy I’ve heard since I saw the Baron in La Traviata.
Suzanne Packer back to a Kairdiff accent as not seen on Casualty was excellent, her part induced some lovely giggles and we forget at times the lady is an accomplished and talented singer, an excellent performance by all.
The staging itself is incredibly clever, with a few set pieces that move and it immediately changes the scenery and ambiance, one minute you are on a ship by the dock, the next inside a local hostelry and the next inside a castle.
I think my favourite part was the stage lighting, I certainly applaud the director/designer of that, the intense lighting/spotlighting and placement of the actors and other players induced dramatic silhouettes (the smoking lady in Morgans) or made it seem like there were three times as many people on the stage, (triple shadows), the sinister giant stretched shadows in the darker scenes, it was an excellent bit of staging.
The choreography and choral arrangements and orchestra were amazing, some parts where you have a three different singers I think its called polyphonic chorus, didn’t always work for me and I lost the story but I soon caught up, however you cannot deny its very clever and brilliantly technical and all credit to the professionalism of the cast and indeed the very young cast that these choral sections were so superb.
So any negatives?, I have to say yes, it’s slightly too long, I’m disabled and sitting for three hours can be uncomfortable, I was getting quite fidgety towards the end, not because I’d lost interest, but because I had a numb bottom and a complaining hip. I think some of the linking to scenes was tenuous and some overlong, but really its a tiny complaint and did not deter my enjoyment of the show. I truly recommend you get a ticket to go if you can, it was a really lovely evening, whats not to enjoy about being entertained by a well written show performed by talented people?
Bravo, I say Bravo!
Ceri Ann Goddard
Ensemble — Jamal Andréas
Rowena Pryddy — Vikki Bebb
Leonora Piper — Liz May Brice
Donkeyman / Ensemble — Lee Dillon-Stuart
Cadi / Ensemble — Lucy Elson
Ensemble — Kit Esuruoso
Ensemble — Soophia Foroughi
Mali / Ensemble — Zoe George
Donkeyman / Ensemble — Daniel Graham
Themba — Dom Hartley-Harris
Ianto — Louise Harvey
Ianto — Ruby Llewelyn
Lowri / Ensemble — Elin Llwyd
Ensemble — Carl Man
First Mate / Locke — Rhidian Marc
Ensemble — Kayed Mohamed-Mason
Klondike Ellie / Ensemble — Busisiwe Ngejane
John Stuart — John Owen-Jones
Marisha / Ensemble — Suzanne Packer
Fezile / Ensemble — Luvo Rasemeni
Yusef Mohamed / Ensemble — Zolani Shangase
Ensemble — Cilla Silvia
Ensemble — Ernestine Stuurman
Seamus O’Rourke — Noel Sullivan
Donkeyman / Ensemble — Joshua Tonks
Bosun / Ensemble — Adam Vaughan
Arwyn — Ian Virgo
Ensemble — Emma Warren
Ensemble — Stephanie Webber
CREATIVE & PRODUCING TEAM
Music by — Daf James
Book and Lyrics — Michael Williams
Director — Melly Still
Co-Director — Max Barton
Designer — Anna Fleischle
Lighting Designer — Joshua Carr
Sound Designer — Christopher Shutt
Music Supervisor and Musical Director — David Mahoney
Choreographer — Melody Squire
Casting Director — Jim Arnold CDG for Pippa Ailion Casting
Additional Casting — Charlotte Sutton CDG
Producer — Maris Lyons
Executive Producer — Pádraig Cusack
Additional Welsh Lyrics — Daf James
Associate Director — Shelley Adriaanzen, Richard Tunley
Associate Designer — Loukia Minetou
Associate Lighting Designer — Peter Small
Associate Sound Designer — Greg Pink
Associate Choreographer — Lungelo Ngamlana
Fight Director — Kev McCurdy
Voice Coach — Nia Lynn
Orchestrations — Jeff Howard
Additional Orchestrations — Nathan Jones
Costume Supervisor — Natasha Prynne
Production Manager — David Evans