Tag Archives: Venue Cymru

Review of Waitress, Venue Cymru, by Richard Evans

Book by Jessie Nelson, based on the motion picture written by Adrienne Shelly

Directed by Diane Paulus

Produced by Barry and Fran Weissler, David Ian for Crossroads Live UK

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Waitress – was this afternoon tea with champagne at the Ritz or a slow morning at Sloppy Joe’s café?

Diane Paulus’ feel-good optimistic musical kept me engaged for the whole evening being consummately acted with excellent choreography and set design.  The leads, Jenna (Chelsea Halfpenny), Becky (Wendy Mae Brown) and Dawn (Evelyn Hoskins) had great chemistry and while they all sang well, Wendy Mae Brown’s was the stand out, powerful voice.  The score added plenty of phase and change to proceedings and the seamless transition from one set to another with well-timed choreography was dizzyingly effective.

When the play was first produced on Broadway in 2016, it had, most unusually, an all-female creative team and the nature of the story has an agenda to suit.  It tells the story of Jenna, a waitress who is a talented pie maker.  She is trapped in small-town America in an abusive relationship with little prospect for betterment.  She becomes pregnant and is seemingly destined to experience the perpetuation of the line of chauvinistic, misogynistic relationships that have oppressed women down through the ages.  Like mother, like daughter.  Then she meets her gynaecologist (David Hunter) and is able to sample what life could have been but she is caught in a tryst that can only bring danger to her and the baby in the future. 

Her saving grace is the supportive network in her place of work, in particular her best friends, Becky and Dawn and the owner of the diner, Joe.  In viewing the friendship of the three women we are invited to view that sometimes hidden expression of femininity including their sexuality, compassion and ambition.  They may live in an oppressive society, but they can experience fullness of life despite their circumstance.  

The male figures do not come out of this play covered in glory.  Some are thoughtful and considerate but they are more often self-indulgent and unappreciative of their partner.  Is it wrong to feel sorry for Earl, the husband of Jenna?  No, not really.  Any abusive, coercive person deserves our condemnation, but he too is a victim of this oppressive society, losing a dead-end job with no hope of change and yet possessive in his love for his wife who then walks out on him on the birth of their first child.  From her perspective he deserves this but he also needs a much better way in life.  If society is to change for the better, it should educate and improve all people.      

Does this setting have much relevance to Britain today?  I believe it does.  We have had nearly 50 years of equal opportunities legislation and it is clear that there is more opportunity for women than there has been in the past.  However, it is also evident that gender bias is still deep rooted and profound and there is much work to be done to give equality of opportunity. 

While this is a fun night out with plenty to satisfy those that love this story, this is a layered play giving much food for thought.  There was evidence in the audience of the cult following this story attracts which is highly understandable as there is much to identify with in both the play and the characters within. Maybe this is not champagne tea at the Ritz and it is definitely not a slow morning at Sloppy Joe’s.  It is more like a good night out at your local.  

Review Sister Act – Venue Cymru by Karis Clarke

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)
Click on the link below to listen to an audio review of this production by Karis Clarke.

This was my first outing to Venue Cymru and I wasn’t disappointed. Set on the stunning North Wales coastline the venue was alive with activity.  The atmosphere was light and expectation high as several audience members dashed around in habits!
Sister Act is the musical comedy based on the movie starring Whoopi Goldberg, and, unless you were living in a convent yourself back in 1992,  it is highly unlikely you don’t have some knowledge of the film. (It’s popularity has ensured a regular repeats on TV at least once a year since circa 1995).
The stage version, unlike the film is set in the diva disco era of the 70’s and features original music from  ALAN MENKEN,  and the general feel of the show has  Mowtown vibe that is more than fitting to the outstanding vocal talents of  the lead.
Alexandra Burke in a scene from Sister Act
But it’s not all about the star in this show.  Deloris Van Cartier is a fantastic character full of witty one liners, side ways glances and comical physicality that Alexander Burke pulls off admirably. However the ensemble made the show for me. The combined talents of the supporting cast were superior. Acting, singing dancing and playing a variety of musical instruments on set allowed for a fluidity which you can sometimes loose with  larger productions. However this cast owned the stage, literally, they knew every inch.  Their management of the stage movement is a credit to Revel Horwood’s direction.  The scene changes were flawless and were choreographed to perfection.

Credit should also be given to the set design, the main stay an impressive church interior yet with the cleaver use of lighting and props  it easily faded into the background and made the transition between church,  nightclub, street, police station and back to church with very little effort.
The musicality was, as one of the songs repeats, ‘Fab -U- Lous  Baby,’ unfortunately this was also a slight disappointment for me as none of the songs from the movie were featured. So although the end of the play saw the majority of the full house clapping and on their feet I am sure if “I will follow him” had been played the roof would have lifted. However the original score was witty, befitting and more than enjoyable.  It’s easy to see how Alan Menken has Oscars under his belt.

Stand out moments of the show were any time the “gangsters” featured. (They stole the show a little bit from the nuns).  …..Joe Vetch (playing Eddie the sweaty police officer who saves the day) singing “I could be that guy ……Sister Mary Robert played by Alice Stokoe, who had a stunning voice singing a very Disney esq type song called “The Life I Never Had”…….. and the scene when the Sisters stand together for Deloris.
All in all there was nothing not to like, the show delivered everything thing it promised. One particular moment I found touching was on the final bow Alexandra Burke broke the fourth wall and you saw her thank the audience.  She genuinely seemed to appreciate the standing ovation they received and this shone through as she skipped off stage laughing with co cast not as Deloris but as herself and within those few seconds, in my eyes I saw  true star quality.
So unless you have lead in your feet and no soul in your heart I defy you not to enjoy this 4 stars production. Unfortunately for North Wales the runs ends on May 27th but you can still catch performances around the UK up until the 3rd September check www.sisteractuktour.co.uk for more details.
Starring ALEXANDRA BURKE and Directed and choreographed by Strictly CRAIG REVEL HORWOOD, Set and Costume MATTHEW WRIGHT (based on TheTouchtone Motion Picture “Sister Act”)