Re-Direct 

Hi just to say I’ve updated my main site 

http://www.rob-reviews.co.uk 

So all future updates will be on there. 

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Sister Act – The Musical


The Beaufort Theatre Blaenau Gwent 

12th September 2017

This was one of my (now) annual visits to Am Dram theatre, as the Tredegar Operatic Society put on their show for 2017, Sister Act. A show which has literally only finished touring a professional production in the last few weeks.

Sister Act is obviously based on the 1992 movie of the same name which starred Whoopi Goldberg. It is also one of the increasing stage productions where the songs from the movie don’t appear (or at least feature) in the stage production.

However I can say that once the show started the different songs didn’t affect my enjoyment at all. The show was funny, entertaining with some great songs. The cast were only amateur in the literal sense that they didn’t get paid to perform. There was nothing amateur about the effort, skill and talent on display.

The story is of a club singer “Deloris Van Cartier” who witnesses her boyfriend, “Curtis Jackson” a gangster, kill a man So she has to go on the run to hide from him until she can give evidence at his trial for murder, (sounds a light, fun night out doesn’t it 😊). An old friend, now a policeman arranges for her to hide out in a local convent where she becomes “Sister Mary Clarence”.

The sisters there have a choir in desperate need of divine intervention (sorry couldn’t resist 😊 ) so she gives them the benefit of her performance skills.

The Cast: led by Louise Luke “Deloris”, Donna James “Mother Superior”, Abi Hodges “Sister Mary Robert”, Sophie Davies “Sister Mary Patrick”, Michael Clutton “Curtis Jackson” and Matthew Oliver “Lt Eddie Souther” were excellent. Ably supported by the chorus and supporting players. There was a live band to provide the music under the leadership of Matthew Hunt (Conductor and Keyboards).

The venue The Beaufort theatre, has modern but unfortunately NOT spacious seating, so my only two complaints were: the seating giving me  DVT worries, not the company’s fault and something I’ve feared at some West End Venues, and the sound was a little forced at one or two points, it appeared to me they were putting too high a level through to few or too small speakers. However these small quibbles aside it did not spoil my enjoyment of a really fun show.

Stand out songs for me: “Take me to Heaven”, “I could be that guy” and “The life I never led”.

There wasn’t a bad performance in the whole cast, from the surprise “Drag Deloris” to the principals. However if I had to single out some of the cast it would have to be Louise Luke, Matthew Oliver, Sophie Davies and Abi Hodges. All of whom I believe have the skills and talent to make it in the professional theatre.

A great nights entertainment and one which has made me realise I need to see more “AmDram” shows, so I plan to do this by seeing another company I know from years back doing their version of this show in October!

 

The Addams Family – The Musical Comedy

 

8th August 2017 – Wales Millennium Centre

Now almost everybody of my generation knows of the Addams Family, it was a black and white TV show that was repeated, it seemed at the time, almost daily on one of the 3 TV channels we had at the time, yes young urn’s we only had 3 TV channels! 🙂

So I digress, this is a musical based on the original comic strip created by Charles Addams.

Cast: Samantha Womack “Morticia”, Carrie Hope Fletcher “Wednesday”, Cameron Blakely “Gomez” and Les Dennis as “Uncle Fester”. Ably supported by Valda Avkins “Grandma”, Grant McIntyre “Pugsley”, Dickon Gough “Lurch” (my nickname in school funnily enough, well I suppose being 6’ 3” since I was about 12 it was an obvious moniker), Charlotte Page “Alice”, Dale Ripley “Mal” and Oliver Ormson “Lucas” together with a full chorus.

Book: Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, Music and Lyrics by Andrew Lippa, Director – Matthew White, Musical Supervision and Orchestrations – Richard Beadle, Choreographer – Alistair David, Lighting Designer-  Ben Cracknell, Sound Design Richard Brooker

Now I booked to see this show primarily due to Carrie Hope Fletcher who I follow on Social Media and who is a great singer. So I knew little about the musical, I know the song “Pulled” which she posted a video of her performance in a cabaret type situation and I liked that, I used to find the TV show amusing, so I thought why not.

So the story is of the Addams Family, but set a little later than the TV series (or for that matter the 1990s movies which I didn’t see) were based as Wednesday is now ‘all grown up’ basically a young lady who has found love with Lucas, who she now has to introduce to her family.

Stand out performances were (for me): Carrie, Cameron Blakely, Samantha Womack (who I knew could sing as I had seen her many years ago playing “Sandy” in Grease at the Dominion Theatre), Les Dennis and Oliver Ormson, with a special mention going to Scott Paige as one of the ancestors.

Favourite songs for me were: “Pulled”, “When you’re an Addams”, “The Moon and me” and “Crazier that you”. For me the surprise of this show was Cameron Blakely was is a brilliant comic performer who I must admit I hadn’t heard of prior to this production. I had seen him in some of Carrie’s videos on her YouTube channel “Its Way passed my Bedtime”, where he came across as a fun guy, but on stage he really commanded attention.

The set was great and as you can see I had a great view being in the front row. All the performances made for a really enjoyable evening. Go see it if you get a chance, you won’t be disappointed.

Funny Girl

 
Wales Millennium Centre 5th July 2017

Music by Jule Styne, Lyrics Bob Merrill, Book by Isobel Lennart (revised by Harvey Firstein). Director – Michael Mayer, Choreography – Lynne Page, Set Designer- Michael Pavelka, Costumer Designer – Matthew Wright.

Cast: (When I saw the show) – Sheridan Smith ‘Fanny Bryce’, Darius Campbell ‘Nick Arnstein’, Nigel Barber ‘Florenz Ziegfeld’ ably supported by a full supporting cast.

Funny girl is a musical based on the life of Music Hall performer Fanny Bryce. The original version opening on Broadway in 1964, it was later (1968) famously turned into a movie with Barbra Streisand and Omar Sharif.

This production originated in the UK at the Menier Chocolate Factory in London before transferring to the Savoy theatre, where unfortunately I was unable to get a ticket! So I was really excited when I heard the show was coming to Cardiff and that Sheridan would be taking the lead again.

Just as the movie is (now) known as a star vehicle for Ms. Streisand  you could say the same for this reinvention, with firstly Sheridan getting raves for the role and then in true ‘Broadway’ style her understudy when Sheridan was taken ill and the alternate (I prefer that word) took over for extended periods. To such an extent that this tour is co-lead situation with Natasha J Barnes taking the lead at about half of the venues.

Fanny Bryce was … well basically a Funny girl, a performer who would not be classed as beautiful in the traditional sense, in an industry where looks are quite a lot of the time a prerequisite for success but who through pure force of personality and skill made herself a star.

I would say the cast were excellent, Sheridan bringing the house down with the stand out numbers: “People” and “Don’t rain on my parade”. Darius (who people of my age are still trying to forget his Britney Spears Performance!) was brilliant and is really turning into a great stage leading man.

The staging is great and really shows how a small space / design can be adapted, as I know the Menier and if I stretched during the performance I could part the lead’s hair! Yet on the stage at the Millennium it was equally as effective.

A great show!

Not Dead Enough

 

 

New Theatre Cardiff – 13th June 2017

A bit of change for me this one as it’s a play not a musical. Now I have seen plays before but always in London, never at my local theatre. So what is this play about? Well …
Not Dead Enough is a play based on a book by Peter James, it’s part of a series of books and apparently at least one of the previous books has already been adapted for the stage.
The main character is “DS Roy Grace” played by Bill Ward, he is a detective in the classic vein, broken marriage, hard bitten and driven to get the bad guy. The other leads in this are Laura Whitmore “Cleo Morey” and Stephen Billington “Brian Bishop”, ably supported by Michael Quartey, Gemma Atkins, Gemma Stroyan, Charlotte Sutherland, Michael Luxton, Rebecca Eastham and Lukas Lee.
The action takes place between Brighton and Hove Police Station and the Mortuary in early 2016.
At it’s heart it is a classic ‘who-dunnit’, which means it would be unfair to give too many details in case it spoils the show if you see a different tour of this play.
Suffice to say a woman is found murdered and her husband the prime suspect seems to have an iron clad alibi.
I must admit I went to see this show as I wanted to see Laura Whitmore, a strikingly pretty lady who I ‘knew’ primarily for presenting the spin off show of ‘I’m a celebrity get me out of here!’ Now it turns out reading the programme that she trained at drama school prior to becoming a model and TV presenter. I am glad to say that the lady has some acting ‘chops’ and I found the whole play thoroughly entertaining, it kept me interested from start to he obligatory twist near the end. I found the whole thing was staged, lit and performed well.
Go see it, or any further books adapted for the stage if you enjoy the myriad of ‘cop dramas’ on the telly.

Beyond the Barricade

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Grand Theatre – Swansea

13 April 2017

So I made it to a new venue to me, well in the spirit of full disclosure I MAY have been here before but if I have I was 5 and it was a pantomime!

So I am here at what from the outside looks a really quite sad building, paint is faded and despite walking around the building twice I wasn’t completely sure which was the front door!

Luckily once I got inside the public areas: bar, café, toilets and auditorium were in good shape, the staff members I interacted with were friendly, professional and helpful. The seats were small and leg room restricted, but at my size that’s not something I can single this venue out with, most ‘older’ venues weren’t built for people my size.

So to the show –

Beyond the Barricade is a “songs from the shows” touring production, now in its 18th year. It stars: David Fawcett, Rebecca Vere, Andy Reis and Katie Leeming. With a live band consisting of two keyboards (one played by Mr. Reis), Russ Kennedy (Bass and Tuba) and I’m sure I saw him play a guitar to, Dave Williams (Drums and Percussion) and  David Lane (Keyboards) .

I’ve seen this show a few times before, my usual venue being the St. David’s Hall in Cardiff.

The performances were to a ‘man’ very good, with Andy Reis and Rebecca Vere taking the plaudits from me at this performance. David Fawcett is an easy going, humorous person with obviously a very good voice, he must have, he’s played Jean Valjean on numerous occasions in the West End and on tour, but for me this time Andy and Rebecca were the strongest performers on the night.

The show started well for me with a few songs from Miss Saigon, then throughout the show we were treated to: Blood Brothers, Carousel, Lion King, Evita, Spamalot, Little Shop of Horrors and of course ending with Les Miserables.

I enjoyed the show, thought, as I said the performers were very talented, but think now maybe I need to rest it for a few years before returning. I enjoy these type of shows, but it would be nice to see some new blood come into this field, and maybe increase the range of shows covered, I mean I saw a similar tour years ago, and was introduced to “I Never knew his name” from Civil War, so maybe have a “songs (you may not have heard) from shows” tour??

Next for me, unless something else takes my fancy first, is the Adams Family Musical at the Millennium Centre in August.

Rent – 20th Anniversary Tour

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Wales Millennium Centre 3rd April 2017
Book, Music and Lyrics by Jonathan Larson. This tour Produced by Robert Mackintosh and Idili Theatricals for Rent 20th Anniversary Production Ltd. Directed by Bruce Guthrie, Choreography Lee Proud.
Rent is (for me) the seminal Modern Musical, based on Puccini’s La boheme once known in some quarters as “The AIDS musical” I would say it is more the “Life Musical”. As for me the theme and outlook of the show is celebrate life, in whatever form it comes, as to be honest none of us know how long we have or what we will experience.
I saw the original London Production and own the DVDs of the Movie and the Last Performance on Broadway, and yet for me this production is the best. Something I don’t say often. As I heard a very clever lady say once “You never forget our first” so usually the first production you see is, for you, the one.
However for this tour the staging is great, the musicians excellent. There were one or two sound issues when I saw it but this was the first night in Cardiff and they didn’t detract from the enjoyment of the show.
The Cast: Billy Cullum ‘Mark Cohen’, Ross Hunter ‘Roger Davis’, Ryan O’Gorman ‘Tom Collins’, Javar La’Trail Parker ‘Benjamin Coffin III, Layton Williams ‘Angel Schunard’ Philippa Stefani ‘Mimi Marques’, Lucie Jones ‘Maureen’ and Jenny O’Leary ‘Joanne’ (Alternate, usually played by Shanay Holmes) were magnificent, capturing the essence of the characters, having brilliant performance skills: acting, singing and dancing all real ‘triple threats’ but also making the characters relevant and of the moment.
I must however draw attention to three of the cast: Layton Williams as ‘Angel’ was amazing, he lifted you up with his exuberance in the dance numbers and broke your heart in act II, Lucie Jones as ‘Maureen’ a character I normally struggle to relate to, as well as being one of the sexiest performances I have ever seen, has a voice to die for, and Philippa Stefani also a remarkable voice and acted the range of emotions required for this part impeccably. Special mention should also go to Jenny O’Leary who as an alternate amongst this stellar cast, more than held her own, and had the sort of vocal skills that deserve their own recording contract.
This may well be the sort of musical you don’t want to take young children to, although I honestly think the suggestion of 13 or above (which I’m sure I saw somewhere) is spot on. It is very raunchy in places, and with the language and themes of the show it is not for the feint hearted. I remember when I saw the London production a couple of the more senior members of the audience didn’t return for the second act. However I thoroughly enjoyed it, and believe it’s #NoDayButToday outlook and love your fellow man theme is one we can all aspire to.
Stand out songs for me were: ‘I’ll Cover You’ (the reprise of which I defy anyone not to be moved by), ‘Light my Candle’ a great modern ‘meet cute’ number and for vocal excellence ‘Take me of leave me’.
There are changes in this production, the set is (from what I remember) bigger, the orchestrations changed, although the only time I actually noticed this while watching the performance was during ‘Your Eyes’, I’m a sucker for the big belting guitar riff here but in this production it’s a ‘plain’ piano, but I can see what (I believe) they were going for a more intimate moment, and I have my original cast recording so I’ll give them this, as it definately worked on stage.
I left feeling moved, uplifted and with a new drive to make the most of every day, and look for the positive in situations and not always dwell on the negative, something I am sadly prone to do.
Go see this show if you get a chance!

At the Millennium Centre for the rest of the week and then check out their website http://www.rentonstage.co.uk for later venues.

The Wedding Singer

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28th February 2017 – New Theatre Cardiff

Just back from this (for me) new show, I know the movie and enjoyed it, but before attending the show I had no idea how or if the show varied from the film.

So the story at its heart it’s a boy meets girl tale, but, as all the best story’s are it’s not that simple. In fact it could better be described as boy meets girl whilst he’s engaged to another girl and the girl he meets is about the get engaged to someone else tale! I could continue in this vein to explain the story but won’t in case any readers want to see the show with no **Spoilers** 🙂

This production produced by Dan Looney in association with Paulden Hall Productions, Jason Haigh-Ellery, Tom O’Connell Productions and Tim Lawson. New names (again to me) in the world of touring theatre, put on a great show.

Having not seen a “West End” or “Broadway” production I can’t say it isn’t a reduced version, however I can say it is an impressive set, although there were some slight technical difficulties on the night I attended. Also the cast looks “full”, there is a live orchestra and there is no visible cost cutting in evidence.

The cast: Jon Robyns ‘Robbie Hart‘, Cassie Compton ‘Julia Sullivan‘, Ray Quinn ‘Glen Gulia‘, Ruth Madoc ‘Rosie‘ and Roxanne Pallett ‘Holly‘ are to a performer great! Special mention amongst the equally talented chorus must go to Samuel Holmes ‘George‘ who almost steals the scenes he’s in.

So what’s the story, well ‘Robbie Hart‘ is a wedding singer and whilst performing at one such event he meets ‘Julia‘ a waitress. Although there is an attraction Robbie is engaged to Linda, but when Linda stands him up at the altar further meetings between Robbie and Julia prove to them that there is “something there”. All would be fine except for Glen, Julia’s boyfriend. The story twists and turns from there.

It’s set in 1985 and features all those aspects of that year that those of us who lived through it would like to forget: leg warmers, day-glo colours in make up and clothes, and of course the music. Now this isn’t a jukebox musical, all the songs are original.

Also only two songs make it from the movie, which of course was not a musical. However the two songs that make it: “Somebody Kill me” and “Grow Old with you” are great, and soppy old so and so that I am, I was ecstatic that “Grow old with you” made it into the show.

Stand out moments / songs for me included: “Someday”, “Come out of the dumpster”, “Saturday night in the city” proving that Roxanne Pallett as well as being gorgeous has a “serious set of pipes”, “Not that kind” / “If I told you” and of course “Grow old with you”

I must also say that this show is proof to debunk the “Casting reality TV people in shows is bad”. What I’ve always believed but will now state is you should cast ANYONE who can do the job, and although Ray Quinn was in the X Factor and Roxanne Pallett Dancing on Ice they are both professional performers who can “do the day job”. Their singing, dancing and performances were excellent, you can tell that they are first and foremost professional performers, who have done the training, and certainly based on this show can deliver. So if their appearances on reality shows get more people going to see live theatre then why not.

I should finish by saying I personally had not come across Jon Robyns or Cassie Compton before but they were excellent in the lead roles, their singing was great and the interaction really delivered the relationship between the characters.

Oh I mentioned problems earlier, well we were late going in, the auditorium not opening until gone 7:20pm for a 7:30 start, and from reading previous reviews, the rumours I heard from front of house staff (of technical difficulties with the projection system) appeared to be true, as the show started and carried on with a projection appearing at various points with different ’80’ related’ images. However previous reviews mention 80’s film clips and a countdown to the show starting, so short of a minor delay it didn’t affect the show itself at all.

I say go and see this fun, light, brash show whilst you can, oh and don’t forget your leg warmers! 😉

I was not given a ticket for my review all comments/ opinions are my own.

Dreamboats and Petticoats

16 February 2017

So I went to the theatre again. This time to see a (or possibly from my point of view THE) Jukebox musical.

This is the continuing tour of the musical written by Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran around the music contained in the long running series of CDs of 1960s music.

Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran are of course famous comedy writers, who’s canon of work include: ‘Birds of a Feather’, ‘Goodnight Sweetheart’, ‘Shine on Harvey Moon’ and ‘The New Statesman’.

This really is the epitome of a Jukebox Musical , being based in the era of jukeboxes and being about music and song-writing. It features some of THE BEST music ever written, and this from someone 50 this year so not born until 1967. So you can’t say “well you only like it as it was the music when you grew up”, nope I grew up with later musical genres but still prefer this one.

This production directed by Bob Thomson, choreographed by Carole Todd is produced by the ‘godfather’ of touring theatre in the UK Bill Kenwright.

I first saw this show, strangely enough, almost exactly 7 years ago at the Playhouse Theatre in the West End, at the suggestion of my late Dad. Always being one who enjoys seeing the same show over and over again (my record stands at 33 for Miss Saigon) he said “why not try something new” and I’ll always be grateful for him nudging me to this great show!

So already being a fan of the era’s music I got a ticket for this show, and was blown away by the music, performances, energy and sheer ‘feel good’ nature of this wonderful piece of theatre.

The story is about ‘Bobby’ and ‘Laura’ two young people living in Essex in the early sixties. ‘Laura’ loves ‘Bobby’ but ‘Bobby’ only has eyes for ‘Sue’. ‘Ray’, ‘Laura’s’ big brother is ‘Bobby’s’ best friend, and then ‘Norman’ enters the picture taking Bobby’s chance of fame and chance with Sue in one move.

These and the other cast members play the roles and also all the instruments to perform the plethora of classic Rock & Roll songs.

At the performance I saw the role of ‘Bobby’ was played by Alistair Higgins, ‘Norman’ Alastair Hill, ‘Ray’ David Luke, ‘Sue’ Laura Darton and ‘Laura’ was played by the alternate Chloe Edwards-Wood, all of whom were brilliant.

As I say I’ve seen this show twice (or maybe three times) before, and for me if anything it was better. I felt the humour and timing was sharper, getting bigger laughs and all the support cast gave great performances too, special mention there must go to Jimmy Johnston ‘Phil/older Bobby’ David Luke ‘Ray’ and Mike Lloyd ‘Frank/Slugger/compère’ who were for me the best I’ve ever seen in the roles.

The leads when I saw it were great. I was a little disappointed when I heard that Elizabeth Carter would not be ‘Laura’ when I saw the show (having seen her perform before and loving her voice) but I must admit within minutes of starting I came to realise what years of attending shows in the West End, Broadway and many, many, MANY touring productions had taught me. You don’t get into one of these casts without the skills to do the job and Chloe was a brilliant “Laura’ and I would be happy to see her in this and other roles in the future.

It is, as i mentioned at the start a real feel good show, if anything maybe a little too feel good as I could have lived without the audience participation during some of the earlier numbers, I mean I pay to hear the cast not the audience, there’s always time to join in during the encore.

Stand out songs/performances for me included: “To know him is to love him”, “In Dreams”, “Runaway/Who’s sorry now”and “Teenager in Love”. Stand Out Performances: Chloe Edwards-Wood as ‘Laura’ and David Luke as ‘Ray’, the latter having a great voice and excellent comic timing, something that previous people I had seen in the role, although good, could not match.

I will definitely be seeing this show again, and strongly recommend you give it a go, it’s a great night out, and if you enjoy it, there’s also Dreamboats and Miniskirts a direct sequel featuring the same characters, and Save the last Dance for me another Rock and Roll Jukebox Musical by the same writers and producing team.