Tag Archives: Wales Millennium Centre

Review Tom The Musical by James Briggs

Tom1A thrilling new musical has hit Cardiff Bay this week in the form of Tom Jones: The Musical. Presented by Theatr na nÓg/TNN and performed at the Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff. It is long overdue that the pop sensation from Treforest, South Wales gets the ultimate honour of a show telling his story. As I was born in the 90’s it was only as I got older that I began to find out about Tom Jones and his wonderful music. As a young boy I would always hear his music playing on my mothers CD player (she is quite the fan!). When attending the musical I was well aware of his best hits but not so sure about his story and how he rose to fame. I must say the opening to the musical came as a surprise when the Narrator said “There’s not a bar he didn’t walk into or a chip shop window he wasn’t pushed through,” which I must say came as quite a shock. As Tom Jones’ story began to unwind in front of the audience we saw him at a young age already in good voice but working in a paper mill. He strived to be just as good as his father and provide for his family. The progression from this young boy to the superstar he is now was really something to be admired.

Tom the Musical Gordon Mills

The musical focuses on the early years of Tom Jones’ life. The star of the show is Kit Orton who plays the teenage Tommy Woodward later to become Jones. We see the relationship blossoming between Tommy and his girlfriend Linda, whom he married and had a child with at the age of just 16. We see the early gigs with his band The Senators in Welsh valley’s working men’s clubs and the regular occurrence of local raffles offering a 12lb turkey as the main prize.

Tom 2

Kit Orton has too been given a fantastic voice of his own. However many attending the show including myself were going with Tom Jones’ voice in mind for the most famous songs and so it took some adjusting but by the end of the show the audience are up dancing and singing with him, as though Orton was actually Tom Jones. Those early years didn’t feature Tom Jones’ most memorable hits, but Orton was able to deliver plenty of toe tapping covers from the swinging sixties. There was even a very brief blast from The Kinks with ‘You Really Got Me’ showcasing the excellent talent of the on stage band.

As good as the show was there was a part of me left feeling the first act of the musical seemed a little slow. I think that an inclusion of some of Jones’ famous hits could have been used to help tell the story a little better. Many of the first act featured music composed by other musicians opposed to the hits of Tom Jones and so left the audience wanting to hear more of Tom Jones’ songs opposed to covers. There was also the inclusion of the struggles with Tom Jones’ then manager Gordon Mills and him almost going bankrupt to make Tom Jones a star.

Tom3

It was the end of the show that really got the audience going. Suddenly the staging changed from a set representing Tom Jones as he was much younger to how a concert would look today. A large rig lowered on stage full of lights and the party really began! The finale was a medley of Tom’s hits which instantly got loud cheers and applause from the packed audience. The auditorium changed from theatre to pop concert with everyone up dancing and singing. Favourite’s for many in the audience definitely seemed to be ‘Delilah’ and ‘What’s New Pussycat’. With the show ending on a standing ovation you could tell the musical was a hit, and it most definitely was. However I can’t help but feel if there had been more inclusion of Jones’ hits during the production the audience would have been even more impressed. There are no boots bigger to fill than that of Tom Jones’ his booming voice is most definitely a one off but Kit Orton does a wonderful job. This is most definitely the musical for any Tom Jones fan but more so if you would like to find out the story of how he rose to fame.

Tom: A Story of Tom Jones The Musical is currently showing in the Wales Millennium Centre until the 12th March 2016 and then tours the UK.

http://www.tomthemusical.co.uk

Review Priscilla Queen of the Desert by Tanisha Fair

PQOTD_JUN15_CDF_medium_378x184px

I recently attended a performance of Priscilla the Queen of the Desert at the Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff and I thought it was incredible!

The lead role was played by the brilliantly talented Jason Donovan as the character of Mitzi and I was slightly apprehensive at first as I was not sure how he was going to portray a convincing drag queen, but gosh was I wrong! He gave a wonderfully touching and convincing performance. I also absolutely fell in love with Bernadette played by the lovely Simon Green. His performance helped melt everyone’s hearts when he sang his rendition of  ‘True Colours’. I also wanted to mention the amazing amount of sass from the extremely talented Adam Bailey as the character of Felicia. His character was nothing but flawless and I think most probably gave a lot of the audience dance envy from his triple threat talents.

The backing trio of singers had the voices of angels providing the backing for every song in the musical. It truly made the performance spectacular, especially from the moment the orchestra starts playing with a beaming disco ball and lively music which sets you back into the 90’s with upbeat tunes that will get you moving in your seats. The costumes are incredible and outrageous and if you love drag queens I think you might be slightly jealous of some of these very unique, to say the least, costumes.

gumbys in line_5838827

This production is by far the best I have seen in a while as you cannot stop smiling throughout the show. There were moments that I found it very difficult to stay still in my seat, it really made me want to put on a pair of ridiculously high sparkly heels and get up on stage with the cast. All in all I completely and utterly fell in love with them and wished they were my friends. It’s energetic and fantastic fun. This production is definitely one to go and watch. It’s an absolute party from start to finish. It truly does take you on an emotional journey. The productions storyline not only makes you laugh but allows you to understand some of the pains that these characters went through to continue to do want they were born to do. I think this gives us all the message of how no matter how difficult the dream is or how long it takes you to reach it, you should never give up.

A truly inspiring performance from the whole cast and crew the amount of work that has been put into to this production means I thought it was utterly brilliant!

Interview Jukebox Collective

12074797_10153648771113498_1796796203248047580_n

With the exciting news that Jukebox Collective have recently become a new Regularly Funded Organisation funded by Arts Council Wales. As well as supporting their young dancers to perform in Groove on Down the Road at the Wales Millennium Centre. Young Critics Wales project coordinator Guy O’Donnell caught up with Liara Barussi, Company Director and Zoe Munn, Development Manager to discuss the companies past present and future plans.

 Hi both, thanks for taking the time to chat,  firstly can you tell me about the background of Jukebox Collective?

Jukebox Collective is a creative company based in Cardiff, focused on the delivery of the highest quality street dance education, performance and consultancy. The creation of Jukebox in 2004 was a reflection of the increase in demand, as well as the need to provide an outlet for some of the most talented young dancers in the UK.  Over 10 years since its creation, we still keep the core emphasis on nurturing fresh young talent up to professional level, as well as producing high-class work for stage and screen.

The Jukebox mission statement is – “Founded on the principle of excellence in street dance being a right for all, our mission is to inspire, create and educate through street dance and hip hop culture”.

unnamed

Thanks I wonder if you can tell us how you apply this in practice?

We apply this through the development of a multi-strand approach: Participate, Theatre, Creative Services and The Academy. The approach developed is based on a deep knowledge of the dance forms taught with a growing understanding of the different avenues for dance. By bridging the gap between community and professional work, we provide the platform to support talent from grassroots through to professional. We continue to work with respected industry artists to inspire dancers and support our vision of excellence and education being accessed by all.

12036593_10153599545438498_8393527871589874865_n

The company has its own premises and has held events like the Social Saturday’s can you tell us more about the intention behind these events?

Jukebox is all about sharing and exchanging dance, and these events are needed to create a sense of community within what we do. It’s important to keep an open door and have free public events so that anyone can access what we do.  We want to get people together, to enjoy and exchange, to have fun and to explore something different. We want people to leave with memorable experiences and a taste of what dance can bring to them. These events allow us to reach out to new people, introduce dance styles that may be unfamiliar, and to showcase that street dance forms are a vibrant and vital part of the cultural narrative and to local communities. The get together’s are also a chance to encourage collaboration between dancers as well as with other art forms.

10410816_10153462172943498_1110946871592761322_n

Liara you and Jukebox Collective have been very involved in the annual Breakin’ the Bay Weekend at the Wales Millennium Centre. It appears the WMC have been very supportive of Hip Hop culture. I wonder could you tell us more about your relationship with the WMC and involvement in this event?

Yes, I have been involved in curating the festival since its creation, over 10 years ago. We support Breakin’ the Bay to enable the Welsh dance community to become internationally recognised, as well as educating, inspiring and connecting them with other dancers across the world. This year we focused on sourcing some of the freshest national & international talent in Europe including dancers from France, Switzerland, Germany, Holland & Sweden. Jukebox’s reach on the International Hip Hop scene has attracted dancers from around the world to spectate and participate in the annual event. It’s the perfect opportunity to celebrate Hip Hop culture and all its diversity and bring it to the center of Wales. This year we also introduced a new “Experimental’ category, not only specific to this event but to the local dance community. This was very exciting and showcased a dynamic approach to street dance fusion.

CULOiRmXIAAnsv9

Arts Council England have invested funding in Breakin Convention which takes place at Sadler’s Wells and companies such as Zoo Nation to support their touring. We note that Jukebox company members have just been involved in Zoo Nations ‘Groove on Down the Road’ (which also forms part of Cardiff Dance Festival) at the WMC 13-22 Nov. Could you tell us more about your involvement in this performance?

It’s great to see not only Arts Council England but also the theatre venues across the UK welcoming street dance and making it available to mainstream audiences.  The involvement gives further opportunities to local youth to develop professionally and consider a career in street dance theatre. The Groove on Down the Road production features Jukebox Collective dancers – Jo-el Bertram, Shakira Ifill playing ‘Little Wiz’, and Renee Brito playing ‘Wicked Witch of the West’. We are delighted to participate and work in collaboration with Zoo Nation.

Arts Council Wales have recently named Jukebox as a Regularly Funded Organisation, congratulations! Can you tell us what led the company to apply?

Thank you! We applied as we felt with the support of ACW we could collaboratively grow the organisation to its full potential. Becoming a Regularly Funded Organisation provides us with more opportunity to produce creative work and to realise initiatives that support and celebrate talented creatives. We will also be able to plan further ahead and work more strategically. We are looking forward to developing this partnership and creating some fresh new work.

Your work supports a wide demographic of participants, I wonder if you think your organisation works with young creatives who wouldn’t otherwise be engaged in mainstream arts in Wales?

Yes, absolutely, we attract a diverse group of participants with our programs, and continue to have a point of view that talks to all people, regardless of location, gender, race and income. We are able to relate to a diverse group of people and cultures through their shared common interests. This commitment to equality and diversity is at the heart of all the work we do.

Welsh Assembly Government culture minister Ken Skates has been supportive of your company, Liara could you tell us more about your relationship?

The progressive discussion that the Minister is encouraging is very exciting, and the support really highlights the progression of our arts community in Wales. We are seeing the Senedd opening up to hear younger voices in the arts, and I’m very excited to be a newly appointed member of the Welsh Government’s Arts and Creativity Forum.

  What are the long term plans for Jukebox?

We will focus on creating and expanding our dance Academy as well as continuing to produce compelling high quality dance productions. We want to keep creating opportunities and working closely with the local community, as well as touring professional work, and creating bespoke work for special events and campaigns. We are keen to support the development of young creatives in all aspects of performing arts. We want to work with local businesses and form partnerships to support all the strands of our work, aiming to build a healthy, sustainable company.

My aim with the creative work is to build a collective of dancers who develop a language that can be pushed to the very edges of expressive, aesthetic and visual possibility. I want to make collaborative work that pushes the language of dance to new, deeper levels – exploring the edges of possibility through movement and expression.

unnamed-1

And finally how do I find out more if I want to get involved?

To get involved in any strand of the company, from professional development and performance or just for fun, if you have collaboration in mind or would just like to hear more about our work, you can contact zoe@jukeboxcollective.com.

Keep a look out for our new website, which will be launching in January 2016.

www.jukeboxcollective.com

Review Annie WMC by James Briggs

VJR_WOL_250914_annie01

Annie the Musical is set in a rough girl’s orphanage in New York in 1933 and follows the rags-to-riches journey of 11-year-old orphan Annie, one which takes her to the top of American society where she and her optimism influences many orphans, adults and even the President Franklin D Roosevelt.

The main star of the musical tour is Strictly Come Dancing Judge Craig Revel Horwood. His performance couldn’t be any further from his judging persona on Strictly as he donned a frock for the part of the bully Miss Hannigan, the orphanage ‘mother’. Well we can safely say he has earned the right to be as harsh as he is on Strictly Come Dancing because he can act, dance and most definitely sing! When he made his first appearance in the show with his high heels and swinging hips you could see from the audience’s reaction we were in for a good night.

Annie 1

Craig Revel Horwood is supported by a very strong cast who have been moulded to perfection. Alex Bourne as billionaire Daddy Warbucks was perfect casting and he was suitably strict when he needed to be but yet soft-centred as the plot unfolded, with a passion it seemed for dancing.

Holly Dale Spencer was superb as Warbuck’s ever helpful and faithful secretary, who helps Annie to get out from the orphanage to live in his luxurious mansion.

It is also very important to mention the brother of Miss Hannigan, Rooster and his villainous cohort Lily. Rooster is played with convincing style and comic cunning by Jonny Fines and Lily by Djalenga Scott brings their relationship to life. The two come up with a dastardly plan in which they pose as Annie’s real parents in an attempt to bag a $50,000 reward.

The true and rightful star of the show was Annie herself. Played by the extremely talented Madeleine Haynes. Her voice was powerful and had a great vocal range. Annie the musical is littered with difficult ballads and she pulled them off with ease.

Annie 2

Due to the amount of shows that take place Madeleine is one of three Annie’s in one of the three teams of orphans in the show. I think it would also be right to mention all of Team Roxy because they did a fantastic job Rosanna Beacock (Molly), Scarlett Flannery (Pepper), Ashley Gold (Kate), Connie Burgess (July), Amelia Love Coleman (Duffy) and last but not least Lissy Mant (Tessie).

The dance routines throughout by the entire cast were second to none, although what else would you expect with Craig Revel Horwood choreographing.

It would be wrong to finish this review without of course mentioning the character in the show that impressed the audience with her skills, Amber, the highly talented dog who plays Sandy.

Annie 3

In the words of Craig Revel Horwood this show was “Fab-u-LOUS Darling!” and deserved the standing ovation from the Millennium audience. Make sure you get yourself over to see Annie on tour because if you do you can “Bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow” you’ll have fun

Review Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, WMC by Barbara Michaels

10724148-large

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels at Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff

Book by Jeffrey Lane

Music and lyrics: David Yazbek

Director and Choreographer: Jerry Mitchell

Reviewer: Barbara Michaels, Third Act Critic

Rating: ***

Based on the iconic film starring Michael Caine and Steve Martin, classified as “the funniest film of all time,” Dirty Rotten Scoundrels first hit the London stage as a musical a year ago. Telling the tale of a mega scam pulled by a couple of conmen on the French Riviera who pull out all the stops in a no holds barred contest in order to win the affections (and thus access to the money!) of a millionaire soap heiress, it’s harmless fun in today’s world beset by drug offences and more. Nothing is as it appears – reflected in an atmospheric and skilfully lit set where even the palm trees are manifestly fake!

There is no doubt whatsoever that as a comedy film starring Michael Caine and the wonderful comic actor Steve Martin Dirty Rotten Scoundrels worked wonderfully well; the question is, does it work as a musical?

The answer is yes – but only up to a point. A stage production has advantages and disadvantages over a film – two very different art forms cannot, and do not profess to be, identical. The snap, crackle and pop that characterised the 1988 film does not really get going in the stage version until the second half, when it suddenly finds it feet.

This is due in part to one of the major additions which writer Jeffrey Lane has made to the original film script i.e. the romance between Andre, the hapless and reluctant aide to camp of conman Lawrence Jameson, the conman responsible for laying the trap – or rather traps – to catch an heiress. As Lawrence, Michael Praed is suitably debonair and suave, but could at times be sharper off the mark, but as Andre old-timer Mark Benton has a masterly control of the comedic, delivering his lines with an inherent chuckle. As the object of his attentions, the ‘lady of a certain age’ Muriel – British as opposed to American as in the film –   Geraldine Fitzgerald is a delight. The musical number ‘Like Zis/Like Zat’ which she sings with Benton is a gem, and fully justifies adding an additional element which, although it would have been superfluous in the film, greatly enhances the stage version.

Noel Sullivan, as the ‘innocent’ conman the susceptible and lovelorn Freddy whose misadventures are at the centre of the mayhem, performs with gusto. As Christine Colgate, the blonde- with- the- dosh , who is targeted by the conmen, Phoebe Coupe responded magnificently to the challenge , due to Carley Stenson being unwell in the first night at this venue, coming into her own in the hilariously funny ‘Love is My Legs’ in Act II.

A great ensemble performs the dance numbers with verve and expertise and showcases some wonderful costumes, reflecting the era in which the story is set. Overall a show to be enjoyed for what it is – entertainment, and not to be taken too seriously.

Runs until Saturday August 22nd at the Wales Millennium Centre.

 

Review Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, WMC By James Briggs

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels 1

It’s well and truly the season in Beaumont-Sur-Mer on the French Riviera, and the game is on for suave con man Lawrence Jameson who makes his living by conning rich women out of their money. This season however things are not as usual, with the arrival of one Freddy Benson, a young American upstart who threatens Jameson’s lifestyle. After an attempt at working together a bet is made to win a ‘prize’ that would see the other leave town for good.

It is never easy adapting a classic film into a musical. The score created by David Yazbek and Jeffrey Lane is very dynamic and has some hilariously comical lyrics that have the audience in stitches for the majority of the show. David Yazbek’s songs give the show a very classy feel and then combined with Jeffrey Lane’s brilliant comedic script leaves the audience laughing and wanting more.

Key to the success of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels Musical is the onstage relationship between Lawrence Jameson played by Michael Praed and Freddy Benson played by Noel Sullivan. There is an instant chemistry between these two actors, leaving the audience having just as much enjoyment and fun as them on stage. This too is shown when watching Michael Praed and Noel Sullivan carry out their elaborate cons in varying comical numbers such as All About Ruprecht and Ruffhousin’ Mit Shuffhausen. Both Praed and Sullivan have faultless comic timing and are also blessed with incredible voices that really work well with David Yazbek’s score.

Phoebe Coupe is every bit the equal of the two confident con men Jameson and Benson. As Christine Colgate she seems the perfect target but this charming young lady hides a great secret. Phoebe Coupe has a great voice and sparkles as she gets taken in by Jameson and Benson and their elaborate scheme.

Geraldine Fitzgerald plays Muriel Eubanks, a classy dame who travels around the world looking for love and living life to the full. From her first appearance, you can’t help but love Muriel, she has a feeling that she knows she’s being conned but yet she’s still here.

The casting of Mark Benton as Andre Thibault, Lawrence Jameson’s right hand man is brilliant and has created far more of a comic interpretation. His scenes in act two with Geraldine Fitzgerald’s Muriel had the audience crying out for more and had a certain element of Strictly Come Dancing about it. Mark Benton has a real talent for comic timing and he deploys it with superb effect at key moments throughout the show.

One cannot write a review of this magical show without of course mentioning the very hardworking ensemble that provides the cherry on top of the cake for this musical. With the many characters portrayed from hotel staff to sailors the ensemble gives a feeling of overwhelming talent with their ranges simply impeccable.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels 2

Jerry Mitchell, as Director and Choreographer creates a truly wonderful atmosphere with the slick staging and equal parts of hilarity. Matthew Brind has provided the show with boundless orchestrations and arrangements and under the baton of Musical Director Ben Van Tienen, the show is jammed packed with life and incredible energy that spreads to the audience leaving their toes well and truly tapping. The score is a joy to listen to something I could do every evening.

I believe a special mention should go out to Peter McKintosh who has provided a stunning set for Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. Scene changes are effortlessly transformed with style and always complimenting what is happening on stage and never detracting from it. His costumes are to die for with an abundance of panache and a suitable dose of classiness. Even though Freddy doesn’t have the best dress sense it adds and compliments his character.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels The Musical is a wonderful evening at the theatre. Its sheer fun and you would be hard pushed to find anybody who could walk out of the theatre without having had a great evening with a great deal of laughs. This show really does “Give Them What They Want” and offers “Great Big Stuff”. This posse of classic con artists are heading to a theatre near you very soon and you’d be a Dirty Rotten Scoundrel by not seeing them.

Me With Noel Sullivan Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

Young Critic James Briggs with cast member Noel Sullivan who plays Freddy Benson

 

Review Jersey Boys, WMC by James Briggs

Jersey-Boys-main

Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons have well and truly hit Cardiff!

Being only 16, I must admit I didn’t know what to expect when I agreed to review the musical “Jersey Boys” at Wales Millennium Centre last night having not really heard of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. However, I was not disappointed and I was surprised at how many smash hits Frankie Valli but more importantly Bob Gaudio had written that I actually knew.

The musical tells us how the band was formed and follows each member of the band on their incredible journey. The main character we follow is Frankie Valli who is guided by Tommy DeVito, who initially puts the band together and is Frankie’s mentor. Stephen Webb is intensely convincing as Tommy and plays the part exceptionally well.   However, Tim Driesen provides an outstanding portrayal of the high pitched singing wonder that was Frankie Valli. The hugely talented composer Bob Gaudio is played by Sam Ferriday who later goes onto make a partnership with Frankie that would last for their entire careers and Lewis Griffiths plays the role of the deep voiced Nick very well.

Throughout the show you see the effect and pressures that the constant touring has on all their lives impacting on their relationships with their wives, children and each other and at times has a powerful impact especially when Frankie loses his daughter and the debt that Tommy DeVito gets into with his constant gambling and womanising which ends up with him being indebted to the Jersey mob.

However, the main reason why people will go to see this musical is because of the songs and they really do not disappoint! The band and cast are incredible and the show goes from one hit into another with songs such as Big Girls Don’t Cry, Can’t Take My Eyes Off You and Beggin’ you really are left with a feeling of ‘Oh What a Night’ we have just had!

Jersey Boys

Overall, with the packed auditorium and everyone up and dancing on their feet we can safely say Cardiff will find it very difficult to say Bye Bye Baby, Baby Goodbye as they leave following their last performance on August the 1st. A thoroughly, enjoyable performance that everyone should see.

Jersey Boys is on at the Wales Millennium Centre from 21 Jul – 01 Aug 2015

https://www.wmc.org.uk/Productions/2015-2016/DonaldGordonTheatre/JerseyBoys/