Monthly Archives: June 2016

Billy Elliott (3rd and 4th performance)

Saturday 25th June 2016. Back in Cardiff Bay at the Millenium Centre for two performances of Billy Elliott today. I am so looking forward to watching this fabulous musical again, makes the working week go very quickly,when you can look forward to a great weekend at your local theatre.

For the matinee show we have Haydn May as Billy. Henry Farmer as Michael and Lilly Cadwallender as Debbie. For myself I’ve now seen three Billy’s, three Michael’s and two Debbie’s. Hopefully will be able to watch all of the young actors playing these roles before the run is over. 

What a brilliant first act again. Concentrating mostly on the choreography today, some superb dancing throughout. A magnificent section with grandma and the male dancers. Moving through to solidarity with combined dancing from the whole cast as police, miners and the dance school, truly mesmerising, and my favourite piece when the whole class stop and admire Billy as they realise just how good he can be. Wow really hit home at that point, and I have to say I had tears rolling down my cheek again.

The second act was totally amazing, yet again. Two great pieces of dancing action fill this amazing show,with the ballet scene with Billy and his older self and Electricity, when Billy dances in front of the panel at the Royal ballet and more importantly in front of his dad. Oh my god,this again brought tears to my eyes,for just brilliant dancing by one so young.

A short break now, then back for the evening performance. With Lewis Smallman playing Billy, Bradley mayfield as Michael and Italia Ross as Debbie.This takes me up to 4 Michael’s along with 3 Billy’s and Debbie’s, nearly a full house of these wonderful child actors.The different actors I have seen playing the main child roles have been brilliant and is so hard to tell them apart dance wise. All of them are just so good. I would also like to mention the role of the little boy, played so sweetly today by Nicola Turner (and all the other fabulous actresses who play this role) they are all fabulous.

After act one again so fabulously brilliant, the whole show cannot be faulted,as I said in last weeks blog. Even with the cast changes you still can’t tell the difference between any of them. Amazing.                    

Also the second act was also fabulously brilliant and just gets better every time I see it. I don’t want it to end,to see it whenever humanly possible. This is a ‘must see’ musical, and definitely needs to be put in the diary as such. Go and see it, you won’t be disappointed. Fantastic just fantastic. 

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Billy Elliott – the musical

Saturday 18th June 2016. Back in Cardiff at the superb Millenium Centre for two instalments of Billy Elliott today. Really looking forward to this show, first chance to see the live performance of the musicals month long run in Cardiff.

Let us begin with the matinee.The whole show was just fabulous with some stand out performances from all the cast, I don’t think I could find a fault in anything during the show.

May I start with Lewis Smallman as Billy. Wow what a superb display of excellence,amazing for such a young man, a really believable character and performed to perfection. Michael played by Samuel Torpay,another massive performance from such a young man and oh so funny, made me laugh just watching him. And Debbie played by Evie Martin really adding some gloss to the kids roles. Of course the dancing was brilliant and choreographed so so well. 

With so many delightful scenes it’s difficult to choose one in particular,everyone of them was just sublime to watch, and I don’t think I’ve ever laughed and cried at the same time for a particular scene for quite a while. 

The adult casting again was so strong with so many brilliant actors playing their part to perfection. Although I have to mention Annette McLaughlin for her role as Mrs Wilkinson. Wow,just like Lewis, she was outstanding,what a stunning performance, I really cannot wait so see her again in the role, superb.

The staging,lighting and all the behind the scenes activity seemed to be faultless and I have to commend all of the staff involved backstage for such a Herculean effort, to put this show on and make it look as good as it really is. And of course not forgetting the band working their magic in the pit, they too were amazing.

The evening had  a few cast changes, with    Adam Abbou playing Billy. Elliot Stiff as Micheal and Lilly Cadwallender as Debbie. During the first act about two thirds in we had the unlucky event that Adam had injured himself and could not continue, replaced by Lewis Smallman. If I’m honest i couldn’t tell them apart dance and speech wise, both of them were amazing.Also I have to say the other main kids roles were just as good as this afternoons show, great casting by the production team.
For me Billy Elliott is an amazing show and cannot wait to see it again and again. Brilliant just brilliant.

Ben Folds

Sunday 12th June 2016. My last show of the weekend, back at the Millenium centre for Ben Folds. Another performer I know nothing about,having never heard any of his music. Of course as this is Festival of voice season that means nothing. Over the past week or so everything I have seen has been brilliant, which means as usual tonight will be the same.

Firstly we have Lera Lynn on stage. From Nashville with a very distinctive sound. A two piece band with some superb guitar work from both of them. They played for about 40 mins with very relaxing melodies and some excellent singing from Lera (very impressed with her voice). They did a great version of fire at the start of their set. And continued in that vain all through, culminating in another brilliant cover of ring of fire towards the end. A thoroughly enjoyable start to a great evening, definitely going to watch out for her in the future.
After the break we move onto Ben Folds with Ymusic, a six piece band made up of strings, woodwind and brass, a mini orchestra. From the start of the set, Ben’s writing tested these musicians with some technically difficult routines, which they breezed through, and were well up to the task, taking everything in their stride to make it all work. I was very impressed with the way Ben writes, very clever as to build a song from scratch, adding bits here and there, with the help of the mini orchestra he creates a really fresh and distinctive sound.

His following is strong with a nearly full auditorium,he gave his fans a really amazing show. At one point creating a song on stage with the use of a Welsh phrase, to everyone’s delight was a touch of genius, with the help of the musicians add libbing  as the song progressed. Another high point was some audience participation, some really nice tones coming from the crowd and was actually a joy to hear. Very pleasing from a Welsh crowd. Shows what we can do when we put our minds to it.

Another fabulous night of music closed the Festival of Voice for this year. I must say I was very impressed with this show and towards the end realised just how much an accomplished pianist Ben Folds is, I am pretty much a fan now, and wouldn’t mind seeing his show again the next time he visits Cardiff.

The Last Mermaid (3rd performance)

Sunday 12th June 2016 this is my 3rd performance of this fabulous show in the Weston studio at the Millenium Centre here in Cardiff. This is the last chance to    see this production before its run comes to an end. 

I was so impressed with the whole show, an impressive cast, beautiful music, outstanding vocals from everyone stepping foot on that stage, and of course the absolutely fabulous lead in Charlotte Church, such a fantastic vocal talent. 

Today was just so beautiful, I cried again throughout the performance, and as it was the last show it really hit home just how good this was. The music just kept coming at you,drawing you into the story and some wonderful songs like Tell it to the waves (one of my favourite songs). In fact all the songs were just perfect I couldn’t fault any of them, and once I started crying, couldn’t stop. So beautiful. (I know I’ve used that word a lot but that’s just how I feel. When something is that good,and affects you in that way,there is no other way to describe it).

I also have to praise the production team for such a magnificent spectacle, with amazing lighting and colours flooding the stage, especially as the mermaid becomes human and  the hustle and bustle of everyday life. A good point there for everyone to follow, sometimes you have to calm down, slow down and take things easy for a while, I think most people could take heed of that daily.

Another section that impressed was the ending. Where, after humans killing her whale she wants revenge and is ready to unleash her wrath on the world,when she is distracted by the singing of a young girl she had met earlier. As her temper cools and she embraces the child she tells everyone to live together and saves the world.WOW again such a beautiful ending  and more tears. Even writing this I can feel myself welling up. WOW (again).

Finally to the production team at the Millenium centre for putting on another fabulous show, two now in the space of a few months with the equally fabulous Only the Brave to add to this. Long may this continue, can’t wait to see what comes next. 

Laura Mvula

Saturday 11th June 2016 back at the Millenium Centre in Cardiff for another visit to The Last Mermaid and directly after that a quick dash upstairs for Laura Mvula. Really busy day for me, but well worth it.
Firstly the second performance of the day for the Last Mermaid with the brilliant Charlotte Church along with the equally brilliant cast. Again a truly mesmerising show which had me in tears of joy throughout. Just wish I could have seen this from start to finish (as I managed with Only the Brave back in March/April of this year) as I would easily have watched this over and over. Fabulous.

Now to Laura Mvula in the Donald Gordon  theatre,at the centre. I must admit to not having listened to much of her music, so I will be seeing her “blind” so to speak. Heard a lot of good things about her so really looking forward to this.

Firstly though is the support act and boy was she good. A young French singer, Naim. Her voice was exceptional absolutely brilliant. Armed with just a piano and a guitar this artist played her heart out.  Such command of the keyboard, she blew me away,I must say I was pretty impressed and loved her whole performance. I have seen some amazing acts and this was in that category. So so good, a real treat tonight.

And finally to Laura Mvula. A fantastic singer from Birmingham. Wow what an amazing voice,together with a five piece band and two backing singers for company, Laura made the whole night sail by. Having never heard any of her material I was again mighty impressed with her songs, mostly written by herself.  She has a big following too,with most of the crowd going wild after her most liked melodies. The highlight for me was an a song she sung with just a microphone and nothing else. Then you really had a feel for the amazing voice she has. 

I must admit the last few weeks have introduced me to new music I thought I would never listen to in my lifetime, but thanks to this festival of voice season,that has changed. Laura Mvula is now on my “one to see again” list and will definitely be watching her the next time she visits the centre. I may even splash out on some cd’s for my collection. Fabulous night of music.

The Last Mermaid 

Saturday 11th June 2016, at Wales Millenium centre in Cardiff for an early performance of the Last Mermaid. 

Oh my god this was an absolutely brilliant show. So good I’ve just booked to see it again tonight and tomorrow.

The story of a young mermaid,the last of her kind. Everything is new and wonderful to her. She befriends a whale, also the last of its kind, and is given the chance to become human and walk on land, after saving a man who was lost at sea during a storm. The land is full of humans rushing around and never slowing down, and as she tries to calm everything down her life changes and longs to be back in the ocean. 

As soon as the music begins we are treated to some magical scenes of underwater life, projected onto transparent plastic screens, which make it all the more realistic. The singing is so good by all the cast in the lead up to the birth of the mermaid. And then we have the brilliant Charlotte Church as the the last mermaid, I have to say her voice is just stunning and a few occasions I was brought to tears by how beautiful she sang. In fact I struggled to keep a dry eye for the whole show.

The dancing throughout was a joy to watch and so well choreographed, Clemmie Sveass as the heart of the mermaid was exceptional, along with the other members of the ensemble, who strived to make this a fantastic showpiece, which I have to say totally succeeded in its mission.

Watching this performance was a real treat, the costumes were fantastic,the set and staging were brilliant and the lighting really stood out on this small stage in the Weston theatre at the centre. Again I have to praise the music and the singing throughout. Magnificent. The music written by Charlotte Church and Sion Trefor with story and lyrics by Charlotte and Jonathan Powell. Double magnificent (if that’s even a phrase).

I was so engrossed in the show I didn’t want it to end,it was so beautiful throughout I could have sat and watched for hours on end. I can’t wait to see it again tonight.

Choir clock

Having arrived early I’ve just found out about choir clock. Situated around Cardiff every hour, a different choir will perform around the capital until midnight tonight. 

This promises to be a fantastic showpiece for a Saturday away from the footie, if you are about the city today look out for these choirs or even pay a visit to the Millenium Centre and pick up a leaflet showing where everyone is performing. You never know you may enjoy the chance to see some amazing voices absolutely free.

Rufus Wainwright 

Sunday 5th June 2016 back at the Millenium centre for Rufus Wainwright as part of the Festival of voice season in Cardiff. This is my first chance to see a music icon at the centre. I must admit to not having heard much of his music, but feel this is too good an opportunity not to pass up.

The evening started with a young artist named Ala.ni  and a guitarist. The music they produced was just incredible, I was very impressed with her vocal talent and stage presence,such an amazing voice and at one point left the stage and continued singing as she’s walking through the stalls,may I add without the use of a microphone,her voice carried throughout the auditorium. Totally amazing, which also shows how good the acoustics are at the centre. She played for 30 minutes or so and I was totally hooked on her performance. A really talented and  impressive set, got you in the mood for the rest of the evening. 

And so on to the main act with Rufus Wainwright and boy was I impressed and totally not what I was expecting. This guy was fabulous,a really talented singer/songwriter whose voice blew me away. I was enthralled for the whole performance and if I’m honest didn’t want it to end. I knew hardly any of the songs he sang but couldn’t care. The voice just took me and that was enough.

What was equally amazing, Rufus only had a piano and guitar on stage but managed to create something special which turned me into a fan almost immediately. Also as a songwriter he has written an opera and from what I’ve heard tonight some good songs to go with  it. The following he has also amazed,as the auditorium was packed to the roof,and what a reception he had from his devoted fans. 

This was another fantastic evening and one I will never forget. Definitely will be booking tickets for this performer when he returns to the centre.

Cavalleria rusticana and Pagliacci (2nd performance)

It’s Saturday 4th June 2016 with my second viewing of this wonderful double opera performed by the Welsh National Opera company at the equally wonderful Millennium centre here in Cardiff. As I take my seat for this performance it’s a chance to look around this huge auditorium And admire the spacious and luxurious qualities of this amazing theatre, which I have always said is one of the best in the world.

From the moment the orchestra began warming up you could feel the atmosphere building,a sell out crowd would be enthralled again by the amazing voices on show. 

As the opera begins (Cavalleria rusticana)the music just envelopes you,drawing you in to the scenes about to unfold. The set is magnificent and as the stage begins crowding with this large chorus the singing fills this huge auditorium with delightful tones leading up to the superb resurrection hymn. 

Again I have to say the main players were excellent with Camilla Roberts, Gwyn Hughes Jones and David Kempster giving their all. The chorus were just heavenly and what to say about the orchestra(conducted by the great Carlo Rizzi),simply amazing as they always are and probably always will be. The whole cast give their all to this mighty performance,and by the end of this particular piece,leaves you craving for the next instalment.

After the interval we have the magnificent Pagliacci, a fitting end to a truly magnificent evening. With the large chorus again filling this huge stage we are treated to an extravaganza of a performing troupe,complete with fire eaters,clowns and an old van masquerading as a stage,for the final and tragic scene. 

This performance was again faultless with Gwyn Hughes Jones, David Kempster and joined this time by Meeta Raval taking centre stage. Joined by Gyula Nagy and Tristan Llyr Griffiths along with a strong chorus and a group of talented children making up the rest of the cast, made this a night to remember, as it just got better every time.  

I went through a huge raft of emotions tonight and tears filled my eyes most of the time,mainly due to the incredible orchestra and two beautiful operas so well written,and so well performed by a magnificent company. Long may it continue. I myself want more,so I’m really looking forward to the next season of operas, can’t wait.