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.

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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.

 

 

 

Mike Doyle in Concert

13/1/17

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New Year, new theatre at the New Theatre. A concert starring Welsh funnyman Mike Doyle. He of the Trade centre Wales adverts “Tell ’em Trev sent u!” But also an accomplished singer, comedian and all round entertainer, who won Opportunity Knocks back in the ’80s.

The show was two sections, you can’t say halves as the support act did about 30 mins, and Mike about 90. It was a suprise to see a support act as they were not mentioned in any of the adverts.

Luckily we were treated to a very talented lady called Samantha Link @samlinkmusic , who as a musical theatre trained performer delivered a polished and varied act, ranging from Opera to Queen! Certainly I would be happy to see more of this lady.

Then the man himself, Mike Doyle. His act is very Wales centered, however this changes as one of Mike’s main activities is headlining on cruise ships. So I think he was enjoying being ‘home’ and was playing to the home crowd.

The humour was very funny, and delivered with a breezy easygoing style. the songs varied too, his live band providing great backing. I will say I did hear a slight break in his voice during one song, but being the pro he is he just switched down his register and carried on. This is not suprising as he had litterally just come out of a pantomime run at the same venue playing the Dame even channelling his inner Honey G (you had to be there).

I saw Mike many years ago in a small club in my home town, and he was as entertaining and professional as I expected, he is definately someone to check out if you get the opportunity.

The Rat Pack at Christmas

15/12/16

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Well i’m here at the St.David’s Hall for a bit of swing, featuring: Stephen Triffit as ‘Frank Sinatra’, Mark Adams ‘Dean Martin’ and George Daniel Long as ‘Sammy Davis Jnr.’

The Rat Pack at Christmas is a (slightly) reduced version of a show I saw in the West End Years ago, as you may guess it features the kings of cool the Rat Pack. Songs include: That’s Amore, New York New York, Mr Bojangles together with some seasonal favourites Baby it’s cold outside, Let it Snow and the Christmas Song.

The performances were faultless, the cast having played the roles for many years, and the almost sell out crowd lapped it up.

I’m a little higher and to the side thaan i’ve sat before and to be honest I probably wouldn’t book the same seats again, the height isn’t a problem, but the angle meant I couldn’t see the backing singers, the main cast were fine as they were front and centre, so a great show and a reasonable view.

 

Broadway in Concert

16/11/16

Well I’m back at the Millenium Centre for Broadway in Concert, a ‘songs from the shows’ show, featuring an ‘all star’ cast: Lee Meade, Matt Cardle, Ben Forster, Sophie Evans, David Mahoney and the wonderful Kerry Ellis.

This is almost a sequal show, coming a year after Broadway at the Bay, a celebration of 10 years of the Millenium Centre. Poster Below…

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(excuse the ropey photo, no flash and in a rush)

This show featured, songs from loads of West End favourites including:Miss Saigon, Phantom, Les Mis, Chitty, Jesus Christ Superstar amongst others.

The stand out performance for me was Kerry’s version of Anthem from Chess, which could have blown the walls off the place.

A great night and I hope that they make it an annual event.

Ghost

22/10/16

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At the New theatre Cardiff, for a matinee, something I almost never do, and after the traffic I hit this Saturday afternoon may well never do again!

Here for a show I haven’t seen before, obviously I know the story as it’s based on the Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore movie of the same name. It tells the story of Sam a and his wife Molly, …

 

SPOILERS AHEAD

 

Sam is killed during a robbery and comes back as a ghost to protect his wife. It features some great songs the main stand out for me is the haunting “WithYou”.

Now I must say i entered the show with some trepidtion, a there had been some REALLY negative internet talk about the cast, primariy the leading lady Sarah Harding from the girl band Girls Aloud. There was even a ‘pirated’ copy of her performance on the first night, that sounded, shall we say less than perfect. However giving the lady her due I thought she was okay, she carried the tunes well, I enjoyed her performance, she isn’t the greatest voice for musical theatre but I enjoyed it. Oh and special mention to Jacqui Dubois in the ‘comedic lead’ of Oda Mae Brown, this lady is a star.

 

 

 

Miss Saigon ‘The Movie’

16/10/16

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Well this could be a little confusing as this post isn’t for a live performance but a visit to a cinema, and the photo is of the sign from a theatre in London.

But as i mentioned I love Miss Saigon and they recorded the 25th Anniversay performance I saw in 2015, and they released it to cinemas, initially a single 7pm showing, but then the demand dictated they put on a matinee showing. So I of course booked for both. this mean I spend nearly 6 hours out of 12 in a cinema.

The film itself was brilliant, I was expecting a locked off long shot with close ups for certain performances, however with the exception of a couple of quick mix shots during the dance numbers it was continuously moving close-ups and absolutlely amazing.

I have heard some say that as it was so good there was no need for a full blown movie, now I wouldn’t go that far, it is great, I love it (I own it as it was released on BluRay and DVD) but would love to see a full big screen version too, you can never get too much of a good thing.