REVIEW: Passenger 14 June 2018 Wales Millennium Centre
I’ve been a fan of Mike Rosenburg (Passenger) since 2012 and Let her go, plus having seen him perform at Cardiff Uni in 2014, was curious to see how he’d progressed. I’m a little embarrassed to say that I’ve not really kept up with his music, but he’s got that kind of distinctive voice that you know for sure when he’s being played on the radio.
Fast forward 2018 and the Festival of Voice at Wales Millennium Centre. A place I know so very well having seen many musical and theatre productions there in the past few years. It’s not really the kind of place I’ve seen live music at, albeit James and Only Men Aloud is the exception to this fact. A sold-out gig in one of the most incredible auditoriums I’ve bore witness to, could this be the most perfect night?
Well, let’s start with the support, Stu Larsen. Hailing from Australia, and with just his guitar to boot, the Donald Gordon Theatre was filled with an amazing sound of quiet, and music, with even the sound of a door in the upper circle closing, could be heard. It felt the right kind of support for Passenger, with the voice and storytelling within his music, you could see how good at his craft he was. You often wonder with support acts, are they going to be good – or are you going be heading back to the bar. Needless to say, I didn’t see anyone leaving during Stu’s 45 minutes, and quite right too.
Then onto the main event. The Festival of Voice 2018 was an international arts festival in Wales’ capital city that celebrated the voice in all its forms. It featured Gruff Rhys, Billy Bragg, Charlotte Church and Passenger. If you’ve not seen Passenger or heard his music, I think the only way to describe it would acoustic guitar driven folk story telling.
As I mentioned previous, the Donald Gordon Theatre is acoustically perfect, as was the audience. I’ve never been to a gig with such respect for the musician. Maybe that’s due to the location, or maybe due to the person. Whatever it was, the sound reverberated around the auditorium with little effort. With a setlist that featured acoustic tracks from Whispers, All the little lights, plus of course the better-known hits of Hearts of Fire (featuring Stu Larsen on harmonies), Holes and his number one single, Let her go.
Each song had a back story, and within each song then performed, you gained a better and proper understanding of it. From Riding to New York to David, I felt I left the gig with some food for thought. Anyone can write a hit record, but it takes a special kind of person to write a song that will make you think.
I just hope the next time I see Passenger, it’ll be a venue like the WMC (top 5 gigs he’s ever done apparently), and I’ll keep my musical education a little more in tune. In fact, I’ve had the last 3 albums on the iPod on repeat in my car since the gig. I just close my eyes, and I’m back there (obviously I’m not driving at the time).
In a few days, another guitar wielding male singer songwriter will be descending on Cardiff, now Passenger may not have the loop pedal, but for what he lacks in technology, he more than makes up for in heart.
The Festival of Voice is a biennial international arts festival, described as an opportunity to “hear and be heard”. Featuring events scattered all over the capital city, the main hub of the festival takes place at the Wales Millennium Centre, featuring a hugely diverse program of events. These range from rock and pop music, to cabaret and musicals to live art. The aim, according to artistic director Greame Farrow, is for the “Festival to become internationally renowned and on a similar scale to Edinburgh. I would love to close the streets of Cardiff for the weekend and fill them with voices for free,”. It was with great pleasure that I was invited to attend the opening night of the festival which featured Billy Bragg and Nadine Shah in an event called Voices of Protest.
At this point I have a slight confession – I had never heard of Nadine Shah before this point, and was only vaguely familiar with Bragg’s work through his Left Field Stage at Glastonbury. That being said, I felt this was an excellent opportunity to go into an event with a completely open mind and no presuppositions. Between collecting my tickets from the box office and the main event, I had a chance to explore the rest of the Festival of Voice hub. The main foyer of the WMC has been given a bit of a makeover, with a live DJ playing, and interactive art works strewn around. Outside the building, sandwiched between the WMC and the Piermaster building was a collection of delicious looking street food stalls. These included a Wood Fired Pizza stall, Fresh Pasta, a coffee kiosk and a bar, as well as a pop up Kitchen ran by Oasis, the refugee and asylum seeker organisation. Eventually I settled on a Turkish inspired stall called Murray May’s Rolling Kitchen which was selling proper charcoal grilled kebabs served in pittas. This was absolutely delicious – if you get a chance to get down to the hub I can’t recommend their food enough.
Enough about the food – on to the music. Settling down in the beautiful surroundings of the Donald Gordon Theatre, I honestly had no idea what to expect. Slightly later than billed (since when to musicians take to the stage on time anyway), Nadine and her band arrived and launched right into things. Brooding and dark, Shah’s voice is undeniably excellent. Rich and soulful, she has a unique tone which is likely in part to her strong North-Eastern accent which she doesn’t attempt to disguise or Americanize when singing. Featuring the traditional rock lineup of guitar, bass and drums, Shah’s band also included a keyboardist and saxophonist which contributed to the full tone of the outfit.
In an event called Voices of Protest, it is clear why Shah’s blend of music hits the mark – the content of her songs range tackling fascism and Islamophobia to refugee and immigrant rights. As a self confessed second generation immigrant (born in South Tyneside to a Pakistani Father and part Norwegian Mother), Shah stops her set at one point to remind the audience of the valuable contribution that immigrants can and have made to this country. And yet while the content of her songs is intelligent, powerful and provocative, Shah is clearly happier to let her songs do the talking – at one point she confesses that shes “rubbish at this talking stuff”, and will leave that to Bragg.
After a brief interval in which sets are changed, Billy Bragg takes to the stage to rapturous applause. Aged 60, Bragg is clearly still full of energy and passion for politics. Despite claiming in his most famous song that “I don’t wanna change the world”, his songs have a clear message to people – get involved, educate yourselves and campaign for what you believe in. In comparison to Shah’s rich full sound, Bragg stands alone on an almost bare stage with just his guitar and the occasional backing by colleague CJ on electric or slide guitar. Yet Bragg’s enthusiasm and warmth manage to fill the auditorium, and as he discusses the meaning behind each song it is clear that the majority of the audience are becoming more and more alert to the messages behind what he’s saying. Highlights include Handyman Blues, an ode to men accepting that they don’t have to adhere to stereotypical notions of masculinity, a cover of Bob Dylans The Times They Are A Changin (Back) but with the words re-written after Trump’s inauguration, and of course his final encore song New England.
Despite his earnest and heart-felt political opinions, Bragg never comes across as preachy or condescending. At one point he stops the show to discuss an event that happened at his last gig in Cardiff at the Tramshed, where a heckler asked Bragg why he was drinking from a disposable plastic bottle. Bragg showed us (and indeed that very heckler, in attendance tonight) that he had learnt from this and now uses a Gig Swig reusable bottle while encouraging other musicians to do the same. It is this type of genuine activism and openness to being challenged that makes Bragg an excellent champion of left wing causes. While not the greatest singer or guitar player, Bragg’s strengths lie in his excellent song writing. Poignant lyrics, which open your eyes to the possibility of and need for change, are an excellent way of reminding people what can be done together. Bragg confesses in the gig that music cannot change the world – but what it can do is give you an outlet to inspire others to change things in other ways. The motto of the Bragg curated Left Field at Glastonbury is “recharge your activism”; after this evenings powerful opening to the Festival of Voice it would be difficult not to feel rejuvenated. Inspiring and thought provoking, Voices of Protest is an excellent evening’s entertainment featuring two different but equally galvanizing artists.
Voices of Protest
Donald Gordon Theatre, Wales Millennium Centre
7th June 2018
Billy Bragg & Nadine Shah
Part of the Festival of Voice – more info and tickets here
At first sight, and if you didn’t know any better, the idea of Titanic The Musical might sound a little off-key. The most tragic maritime event in history being told through the medium of song? Well, that’s what I thought but then I did a little digging (thank you Mr Google) to find this musical is not what you first think. It’s nothing to do with any Celine Dion song (thankfully, my heart can go on), nor Jack and Rose, but at its heart it tells the story of a ship and the three classes of people that boarded, each with their own hopes, dreams and reasons for wanting to go to America.
There are four couples the story highlights, one from each class – first, second, third, plus another couple who were first and are now second, together with the hierarchy that was the captain and crew. Sometimes in review it’s easy to avoid the ending, for obvious reasons on this occasion you should know already. If not, google it.
This musical though is something special, having won five Tony awards in 1997 including best musical, it’s the kind of musical that’s seemingly rare these days in terms of how it’s written and performed. It feels like a classical musical opera, and I think for some people, this might be a little bit of a stumbling block. But if you stick with it, it has the power to move you in ways you don’t really expect.
The sound that filled the auditorium is immense, not just the voices, but everything. The orchestration, and the general feel of the piece. Act one is all about introducing each character and their place on Titanic, this takes us to the end of act one and the iceberg. The first half of act two is then a frantic nonstop piece as the ship slowly succumbs to the Atlantic.
There aren’t any star names in this musical, not that I realised anyway, but that just means the entire cast are the star of this musical. They tell the story with heart, compassion and an amazing all-round performance.
Whatever version you know of Titanic, be it the James Cameron film, or the ITV miniseries, it all comes down to a story of humanity, and how people can be flawed, and how some love stories don’t have happy endings.
Imagine for a moment you’re back in 2001 and the only kind of computer animated films were Disney’s. They’re good but once you get past the age of 12, there seemed to be a gap in the market. That gap was filled by Dreamworks and Shrek which gave enough simple plot and humour plus additional jokes that adults would get, you have the starting of what I witnessed tonight in Wales Millennium Centre – Shrek The Musical.
Returning to Wales Millennium Centre on the latest UK tour bringing Donkey, Lord Farquaad, Princess Fiona, Pinocchio and a cavalcade of fairytale characters together with the main man himself Shrek – played by Michael Carolan. If you’re not sure of the story of Shrek – well, spoiler alert – they live happily ever after, but getting there is a rollercoaster buddy movie type comedic spectacular.
If the original Shrek had references to other cartoons, well, Shrek the musical has references to other musicals – you might just spot a Wicked reference, a Lion King bit, and Cabaret all receive some mention in passing.
The music and staging is amazing, and before those reading that previous line mock in saying “it’s no Les Misérables is it”, well, it’s not meant to be. It’s the perfect musical for children from eight to eighty. A great introduction into the world of the musical, and a fab night out for all the family.
Special mention to Samuel Holmes (Lord Farquaad) who as the baddie of the piece pretty much stole each scene he was in – wonder how the knees will cope for the rest of the run though. Laura Main as Fiona had the right balance of comedy timing and exceptional vocals, as did Michael Carolan who played Shrek at the performance I saw. Joseph Dockree as Pinocchio was another performer who seemed to steal each scene he was in – yes, he is a real boy!
For a few hours you’ll transferred to a land far far away, wonder if you know the muffin man, and in the morning, you’ll be making waffles.
Firstly, let’s get this straight. Yes, I love pop music, yes, I love Take That (seen them live 4 times), but no, this won’t be a biased piece.
So when the it came about that the BBC did the show “Let it Shine” to discover the next big boy band for a musical I was curious to see what or how it would all turn out. The band that was created, in probably not too dissimilar a way to Take That (without Saturday night telly) was Five to Five. At the start, people weren’t too sure how this musical would pan out – would it be the story of Take That – or something like Never Forget the other Take That musical – which by the way, premiered at Wales Millennium Centre in 2007!
Actually, it was neither – It’s Manchester in 1992 and its based around five 16-year-old girls for who ‘the band’ is everything. They then reunite 25 years later, and you see how life has taken each girl down a different road.
Written by Tim Firth – who also penned Calendar Girls The musical with a certain Gary Barlow, it’s story is nostalgic and funny. You can’t call it a Jukebox Musical like so many of its type before. It has the same feel as Mamma Mia – the songs you’ll know, but the arrangements can be quite different. The nostalgia you feel could easily equate to how your own life has panned out in the last twenty-eight years. There’s a warmth to each character, and something familiar that feels real.
Production wise it’s brilliant. From the Ceefax screen at the start (How many bands did you get in the word search?), to the aircraft taking off, there’s something new you may never have seen in a touring production before – so much so, there was a technical hitch during the performance that delayed things by about 10 minutes. In all the times, I’ve been theatre going I’ve only seen this happen once before, and it’s a bit of a pain, but sometimes technology is a bugger – and as they say, the show must go on – which it did!
As “The Band”, Five to Five’s performances were good especially the harmonies. They maybe a band created for this production, but afterwards, who knows what the future holds.
Going back to what I said about the warmth in each character, each performance was flawless for both the old versions and young counterparts of each character – just might be possible though for Andy Williams as Dave to have stolen the show with his little moments at several points, and Rachel Lumberg’s performance as Rachel – there was something quite special about that too.
Now, if you do go and see this, which I will heartily recommend, don’t expect what we had at the encore – an actual Take That performance. Mark, Jason and Gary all on stage performing Hold up a Light (one of my favourite TT tunes!) together with the entire company. It made the first night in Cardiff that extra bit special.
Now I could be a little bit cheesy and include some Take That song titles in recommending this musical, but you’d wait for life for that. Okay Babe, are you happy now I found heaven? I might just end up all night, and then never forget to do this review pray-sing The Band. You do what you like, I’d love to hold up a light and come back for good to see this again! Patience, then you’ll rule the world.
Cameron Mackintosh’s acclaimed new production of Boublil and Schönberg’s legendary musical Miss Saigon – a recent smash hit in London’s West End – is now embarking on a major UK tour, and has stopped off in Wales Millennium Centre for their annual Festive offering.
Previous Festive shows include The Lion King, Phantom of the Opera and Mary Poppins, and this year they bring the winner of a record-breaking nine Whatsonstage Awards 2015 including Best Show.
From the same partnership that brought Les Misérables, brings this epic love story that tells the tragic tale of young bar girl Kim, orphaned by war, who falls in love with an American GI called Chris – but their lives are torn apart by the fall of Saigon.
For the sheer spectacle, this production needs to be seen. For the lighting, the sound and the effects are some I’ve rarely seen outside of London, you soon realise this is something special.
The cast brings such depth to the story, which without realising, the first twenty minutes feel so much shorter – such is setting the story up. Red Concepcion’s Engineer is brilliant – a slightly comedic but evil twist on a character – The American Dream brought the house down. It’s such a stand out moment.
Sooha Kim as Kim brings the vulnerability to the role, and with an amazing voice. Her duet with Ashley Gilmour (Chris) on The Last Night of the world, is another stand out moment.
Be warned, it’s not for younger people – the themes are quite adult, and there’s some swearing in the first 20 minutes – and it’s also dotted through the rest, but it’s not without reason.
For me being a little bit of a theatre techy, I spent most of the evening in awe at the sets, lights and sound. It’s one of the best I’ve seen in Cardiff. The helicopter scene is probably the most impressive piece of set and engineering I have ever seen on a stage! You find yourself completely immersed into the sights, emotion and sounds of the end of the Vietnam conflict. If musicals were football leagues, Miss Saigon would be Chelsea.
The word triumph is often used to describe musicals, and in this case, it’s spot on.
A Hijinx production really is a fabulous way of kicking off your Christmas celebrations. Following the success of The Snow Queen in 2016, Second Star to the Right by Llinos Mai is a re-telling of a familiar old tale. There’s a new dynamic this time. This story features three very modern, overstressed, selfie and health and safety-obsessed adults in place of children.
This time the Neverland newcomers are descendants of Michael, Jane and Wendy. As they navigate their way around the island, they learn to stop being so uptight and to dance, fly and synchronised-swim their cares away. Arthur – played by Simon Richards brings plenty of chuckles as he obsesses about the injury risks and dangers in Neverland and Blue Balmforth playing the part of Joe shines as a preening peacock – and he’s desperate to get back to his phone signal, hair wax and moisturiser. Alice meanwhile (played by Nia Ramage) is irritable and completely focused on getting to her meetings back in the city.
Created by Odyssey, a community group of disabled and non-disabled actors established by Hijinx Theatre Company, Second Star is more than ‘just’ a pre-Christmas show.
This year’s production is a celebration of a much-loved cast member Martin Vick, a long-standing performer with Hijinx for 15 years who sadly passed away in 2016. Martin had previously performed in Peter Pan and Wendy, travelled the world a special Olympian and more recently had performed with the award-winning Meet Fred, Directed by this production’s Artistic Director Ben Pettitt-Wade.
Odyssey theatre company is a community group brought together by Hijinx theatre company and don’t just create and devise imaginative theatre, they also run training academies to enable disabled actors to perform at a professional level. They’re the only company in Wales to do this. I was delighted to see Sara Pickard as the Captain in this show, having come across Sara in a professional capacity many months before.
The designer Kitty Callister and her assistants have created visually effective props and costumes – mixtures of slick modern black lines, whimsical multi-coloured bohemian and stripy sea dog gather under a star-kissed sky on window panels. Lost boy paint fights are depicted with handfuls of confetti and fairies are created via twinkling fairy lights. Its simple but creative, fitting the stripped back and intimate surroundings of the Weston Studio.
Attending a Hijinx show feels like you are part of the family, in on the joke and its informal nature is a great draw for families. This is theatre as it should be. Unselfconscious, approachable and completely inclusive.
The cast of actors have a wonderful synergy. Director Jon Dafydd-Kidd clearly has created an environment where actors of all abilities feed off one another’s energy, helping each other with the odd line and encouraging one another, just as Martin Vick had during his time with the company.
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.
The director of Get the Chance Guy O’Donnell recently met with actor Kyle Lima. They discussed his training, his new production Heat and Soul which will be performed at Wales Millennium Centre this November and his thoughts on the arts in Wales.
Hi Kyle great to meet you, can you give our readers some background information on yourself please?
Hi I was born and raised in Cardiff and grew up in Splott. I went to Baden Powell Primary school and Willows High School. I then went on to study drama on a foundation course for a year then a two year BTEC course at Coleg Glan Hafren in Performing Arts. I then went on to study at The Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, graduating in 2009. I’ve been fortunate enough to have worked with the Artistic Director of the Bristol Old Vic and the visionary mind behind the world renowned production of ‘War Horse’, Tom Morris, in his BOV world tour production of A Midsummer Nights Dream in which I played the young lover Demetrius.
A Midsummer Nights Dream, Bristol Old Vic Theatre
Most recently I have worked with the artistic director of the Shakespeare’s Globe, Emma Rice, in her production of The Little Match Girl in The Sam Wanamaker Theatre at the Globe,
The Little Match Girl, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre.
As well as Emma’s ‘Kneehigh’ production of ‘Tristan & Ysult’ in which I played the scheming right hand man of the king, Frocin.
Last year I was in Charlotte Churches ‘The Last Mermaid’ as part of the Wales Millennium Centre’s first Festival of Voice which was an incredible experience.
The Little Mermaid, Charlotte Church, Festival of Voice, WMC.
So what got you interested in acting and the arts?
I grew up loving films, TV and animation. I’d spent a lot of time drawing cartoons from the TV and eventually creating my own cartoon characters. I thought I was going to be an illustrator or work in animation but I as I got older I found drawing isolating and wanted to be more social. When I went to high school and discovered drama classes and found that I could make people laugh having absorbed so much performance ability from watching a lot of films and TV, I started to think that acting was something I potentially wanted to do. I had an extraordinary drama teacher at High School called Jo Bryant who was extremely encouraging and brought something out of me as well as every child she taught. At eleven or twelve years old In my first year of High School she told that I was going to be in the school play and that I basically didn’t have a choice. It was Little Shop of Horrors. It was a two week run. Jo told me she wanted me to play the crazy dentist one week and to be the voice of the alien planet, Audrey two, the next but even though I had performed in drama class to a small group of my classmates the idea of performing to the whole school terrified me so I asked if I could just play the alien plant because it meant I could play this brilliant character and sing amazing songs but all while standing behind a curtain speaking in to a microphone while some poor soul stood inside a giant foam plant puppet and moved it around to match the performance of my voice. That experience was wonderful! It was really was the start of my love of acting. I eventually did step on stage in further school productions as I got a older and grew in confidence. Jo Bryant was a ray of light and really opened the door to what I was capable of, not only as an actor but as a person. Jo passed away many years ago due to illness but I think of her often. She was wonderful.
Heart and Soul is a one man show about the great ‘heart’ and spirit of the Welsh, combined with the influential ‘Soul’ music, as well as other genres of the music of black culture. The Wales Millennium Centre will be housing the production. Heart and Soul is a show that celebrates the unique multicultural communities of Cardiff, performed by myself portraying characters based on different generation of my family and the people of Cardiff. It will be a combination of historic and comedic stories inspired by different periods of my family and other members of the Cardiff communities lives, interwoven with live music and songs of each characters heyday sung by me while accompanied on piano by accomplished musician Chris Hyson . The songs vary from Vocal-Jazz, classic soul, 90’s RnB & Garage and perhaps a few other surprises too!
You can watch a video of the production below
Get the Chance works to support a diverse range of members of the public to access cultural provision Are you aware of any barriers to equality and diversity for either Welsh or Wales based artists/creatives?
I feel the only real barrier is ourselves. We can be our own worst enemy in terms of not doing what we want and pursuing our dreams and goals. I know I’ve stood in my own way many times over the years but If you want something bad enough you have to step out of your own way. If you want to do something you have to do it. Take it. We don’t all start off in life from an equal playing field, that is apparent, in many ways more so than ever and there are those out there who will want to keep it that way, but you have to do want you want and go for it anyway. In terms of barriers within the arts, more doors must be open for people of diverse multicultural working class backgrounds to enable them to ascend to positions of power with in the arts and industries in general. When there is a variety of people at the top levels of decision making the opportunities will trickle down and we will see more equality. If we invest in young people from working class and multi culture communities who show a passion for the arts and if we continue to mentor them throughout their lives, they could potentially be the next future artistic director of a theatre company and having the perspective of their background and life experience they will then continue to create opportunities for those like them as well as others. Organisations such as The Wales Millennium Centre have worked with the diverse communities geographically close to their venue for a number of years. Do you feel local communities have a genuine connection to the venue and its artistic programme?
With the production of the Musical Tiger Bay as well as shows like my own which give examples of the multicultural history of Cardiff communities I hope the people of Cardiff will come and see these shows and feel a connection to the artistic creativity that is coming out of the Wales Millennium Centre. If you were able to fund an area of the arts in Wales what would this be and why?
I would invest funding in to programs for children and young adults to experience the arts more. If I wasn’t lucky enough to have had a great drama teacher at High School who was so enthusiastic about theatre and who showed me that I was capable of performing, I wouldn’t be the man I am today.
What excites you about the arts in Wales? What was the last really great thing that you experienced that you would like to share with our readers?
I know it’s not theatre but I watched the bilingual TV program Bang on S4C recently and was really impressed by the caliber of the writing, production value and performances as well as by the amounts of great young actors that were in it who had graduated from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. Wales is in a great place to nurture talent and I’m excited to see who will shine next. One actress in Bang was Alexandria Riley who I also saw along side Anita Reynolds and Seren Vickers in the Other Room’s production on Debbie Tucker Green’s play ‘Hang’, directed by Izzy Rabey.
That was a great show with brilliant acting from all three actors. Rachel O’Riordan also directed Alexandria in the production of Gary Owen’s adaptation of The Cherry Orchard which was the last thing I saw. That had great performances in it also.
If like me, you know a little about music, and the history of the pop song, then you can think again. People often deride modern music for being manufactured, but even way back in the late 50’s and early 60’s, the charts to an extent were the creation of just a few song writing powerhouses. The likes of Lieber Stoller, Dozier Holland, Lennon & McCartney and Goffin King were all part of the fabric that made the early days of pop what they are today. And it’s the latter partnership of Goffin King that forms the basis of Beautiful, currently at Wales Millennium Centre till 4th November.
As the website explains further; BEAUTIFUL tells the inspiring true story of King’s remarkable rise to stardom, from being part of a hit songwriting team with her husband Gerry Goffin, to her relationship with fellow writers and best friends Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann, to becoming one of the most successful solo acts in popular music history. Along the way, she wrote the soundtrack to a generation, with countless classics such as You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman, Take Good Care of my Baby, You’ve Got a Friend, So Far Away, It Might As Well Rain Until September, Up on the Roof, and Locomotion.
There were countless moments for me to go “oh, she wrote that”, plus there was the time during the interval watching people sing some of the songs to try and explain the song – always entertaining. For anyone wanting to become a song writer, to watch this is certainly an education that no college or book can give you. To see some of the back story behind some of pop’s greatest hits was always going to be a massive bonus for me being such a music geek.
The performance of Bronté Barbé as Carole is quite amazing. You can close your eyes and you’d think it was the real deal. To capture the essence of someone is not easy, but somehow you have the vulnerability and the depth of character – together with a voice that provides the full package that is Carole King.
Kane Oliver Parry as Gerry Goffin shows the weaknesses that Goffin had, but also his song writing and creative processes. Amy Ellen Richardson as Cynthia Weil, and Matthew Gonsalves as Barry Mann, show also how the competitive the 60s were in terms of song writing. But out of that creativity, came friendship – and two very genuine performances from both.
It’s a well-paced production. There aren’t any times you’d be sat wishing for the next part. Musicals can sometimes suffer from being a little bit long, but at just around 2 hours 30 with an interval, that can’t be said of Beautiful.
There’s won’t be many people this won’t appeal to. If you have a love of music from the 60’s, this is for you. If you love a well-crafted and performed musical, this is for you. And if you love a night out for ages from 8 to 80, this is certainly for you.
Three things we also learnt;
1 The Locomotion was sung by Carole King’s nanny
2 Neil Sedaka was her boyfriend in high school (thus his song Oh Carol is about her)
3 She wrote The Reason for Celine Dion in 1998