Monthly Archives: July 2016

Chicago (2 performances)

Saturday 30th July 2016. After a week with no show I’m glad to be back at magnificent Millenium Centre for two performances of Chicago. Can’t wait to see this show, I’ve never seen it before (not even the film) so have been looking forward to this all week. Chicago features the fabulous Hayley Tamaddon as Roxy Hart, Sophie Carmen -Jones as Velma Kelly, John Partridge as Lawyer Billy Flynn and Sam Bailey as Mama Morton.

Set in Chicago in the late twenties Roxy kills her boyfriend and ends up in jail with Velma and Mama Morton. There she meets the famous lawyer Billy Flynn and a whole new adventure begins. From  the start of this fabulous show we have some exquisitely performed dance routines from the whole cast. I have to say I was gobsmacked throughout the show with just how good this was. Everyone was so in step with the next, it was just awesome. WOW that’s as much as I can say.

The singing was just so good from the start. All that jazz began the act with the superb Sophie as Velma, and what a voice she has. As we meet Roxy we have another superb voice in Hayley Tamaddon, I never realised her voice was so good. Sam Bailey (again such an amazing voice) really belted out her songs with wild applause. And John Partridge, well what to say, his voice, especially that note in the song ‘we both reached for the gun’. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a note sung live for that amount of time without a breath, with several key changes thrown in, absolutely breathtaking (sorry about the pun), you had to be there to appreciate it. I don’t think I will ever hear that again for a while (yes I will, I’ve got another show tonight). Towards the end of act one the story rolls on with Velma singing and dancing to ‘I can’t do it alone’ (which was totally amazing, and then the fabulous duet with Roxy and Velma (my own best friend), before Roxy tells everyone she’s expecting a baby and act two approaches on that bombshell.

Act two begins with the Entr’acte and the amazing band, fixed on stage throughout, with some pretty inventive conducting from an exuberant band leader, really kicking off this act with a bang. Moving on with Roxy’s husband (played brilliantly by Neil Ditt) and that famous song Mr Cellophane. I must admit to a small tear during that scene, (along with the hanging scene as a Hungarian female prisoner is hung for her crimes). A few moments of reflection as we move through emotions. Such an amazing show follows on with Velma takes the stand and razzle dazzle, brilliantly sung (and danced) by Sophie and then John. Another fabulous scene is the Velma and Mama Morton called ‘Class’ before the finale hits the scene, where Roxy and Velma finally make it with a double act. A good ending with the band leader introducing all the cast, which I thought was a good gesture and something I wish other shows would do, because the ensemble are so good and need a mention for all their hard work.

With a fixed set throughout and the band on stage all show, this made a really slick show,full of comedy, great songs and fantastic dancing. I just wish I could have seen this show a lot more times on this run, but I will definitely be seeing more of this brilliant show on its next visit to Cardiff.

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No show Saturday 

Well it’s Saturday 23rd July 2016, with no show to see today. So I thought a little preview of what’s to come for me, in the next few months. ‘Chicago’is up first at the Millenium Centre, Cardiff next week, followed closely by multiple viewings of ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’with the amazing Carrie Hope Fletcher at the same venue. After that we have ‘Mandela Trilogy’ with the Cape Town Opera company. A busy August for me then.

September is a quieter period for shows with the Welsh National Opera in residence at the centre. This season we have ‘Macbeth’, ‘Merchant of Venice’ and the brilliant ‘Kiss me Kate’. Looking forward to watching these Operas. Before that, at the beginning of September at the New Theatre, Cardiff is ‘No Man’s land’.A play starring Ian Mckellen and Patrick Stewart. Can you believe that, two of the greatest stage actors ever. In Cardiff. Wow, that is going to be a fantastic evening.

October and November, and another busy few months with ‘Mamma Mia’at the Centre (multiple showings of that as well). And in the process of booking tickets for ‘Billy Elliot’at the Bristol Hippodrome, really got to see that show again, so hopefully will be booking a few more tickets in the next few weeks (already got two dates in the book).

So onto December and ‘Mary Poppins’at the Centre (multiple shows again would you believe). Also looking to book tickets for one of my favourite bands ‘The Shires’ at St David’s Hall in Cardiff, in November. Lots of shows coming up, really looking forward to all of them. And next year another bumper crop of superb theatrical productions coming to Cardiff. Can’t wait for these as well. 

Billy Elliot (12th and 13th performance)

Saturday 16th July 2016 at the Millenium Centre in Cardiff for the last two performances of Billy Elliot the musical. A very emotional day for me as I’ve fallen in love with this superb show, I can’t believe it’s moving on to another venue, really going to miss this, thank heavens for the dvd of the live London show.

For the matinee performance we have Billy (Lewis Smallman), Michael (Elliot Stiff), Debbie (Lilly Cadwallender) and the role of the Small Boy (Isobelle Chalmers). Yet another fabulous performance from everyone in the cast this afternoon. Lewis was just immense today,as usual. A real privelage to watch such a young man perform to perfection, so so good, just magnificent.

The evening performance has Billy (Matthew Lyons), Michael (Henry Farmer), Debbie (Italia Ross) and Small Boy (Isobelle  Chalmers). Another fabulous show tonight. Brilliant performances from all of the cast. Matthew is just superb in the role as Billy (just as Lewis this afternoon),with Adam and Haydn thrown on as well, all of the Billy’s are just so good it’s hard to differentiate,as I’ve said since the run at the centre began.

As this is last few shows in Cardiff, I have to congratulate the whole cast and team at Billy Elliot for making this show one of the best I have ever seen. I have seen all four Billy’s, all four Michael’s, the three Debbie’s and the three Small boy roles. Every single one of these performers has been absolutely brilliant and it is this fact that has brought me back time after time to watch this show. I could have seen every show and never get fed up of watching it. Superb entertainment throughout.

I have to mention the amazing adult cast, which were all simply fabulous. Annette McLaughlin as Mrs Wilkinson has been just magnificent, what a performance, which never faltered throughout the whole time I saw her on this amazing stage. Martin Walsh, Scott Garnham, Nikki Gerrard,(Charlie Martin as her understudy) and Andrea Miller as Billy’s family were again outstanding throughout, and who could forget Daniel Page as mr Braithwaite and Luke Cinque-White as Billy’s older self. Wow, just amazing. Of course the entire ensemble were just superb (as I talked about yesterday), they contributed so much to making this a really spectacular musical experience.

Some of my favourite scenes (outside of Billy’s amazing dances) came from the the Small Boy role, played so brilliantly by three young girls (Isobelle Chalmers, Bonnie Burgess and Nichola Turner). They added so much fun and hilarity to the proceedings and deserve a special mention for just being fantastic.

Billy Elliot the musical has been absolutely amazing throughout, I cannot fault any of it. I would put it with Wicked, Phantom, Les Mis and Only the Brave as one of my favourite, favourite shows of all time (yes I meant to put favourite twice). I just hope it comes back to Cardiff on a uk tour very soon. 

Billy Elliot (10th and 11th performance)

Friday 15th July 2016, back in Cardiff at the Millenium Centre for two more performances of the brilliant Billy Elliot (The musical). Can’t believe there’s only two more shows to go at the Centre (after today), looking forward so much to watching them all.

For the matinee We have Billy (Lewis Smallman), Michael (Elliot Stiff), Debbie  (Lilly Cadwallender),and the role of the Small boy (Isobelle Chalmers).

For the evening show Billy is played by Haydn May, Michael by Samuel Torpey, Debbie by Italia Ross and Small boy is played by Isobelle Chalmers.

The cast ensemble is the focus today, haven’t mentioned them too much, but all of the shows I’ve seen they have been amazing. From the first scenes as the miners assemble on stage awaiting news of the strike, with ‘The stars look down’ going through to ‘Grandma’s song’ and’Solidarity’ these guys are just brilliant, filing this huge stage with three unforgettable scenes. Also have to mention the giant dresses in the song ‘Expressing yourself’ to come on stage in these huge costumes and actually do a tap  routine is genuinely amazing, and a credit to the actors playing these roles.

On closer inspection (the fact I’ve seen it so many times) ‘Angry dance’ really brings out the work the ensemble do, building the scene for Billy to dance around. A great routine is turned into an even better one, which makes watching it a very special end to the act.

Act two begins with ‘Merry Christmas Maggie Thatcher’, a fantastic send up at their xmas party, involving the whole cast. A definite crowd pleaser and just brilliant to watch. We next see them at the climax to the show, this is where we see the best of any ensemble, with an absolutely fantastic acapela version of ‘Once we were Kings’, put together with the sounds of the lift shaft heading down the pit, this brings the whole show to a fitting end, with the odd tear or two thrown in for good measure.

To sum up the ensemble are the unsung heroes of any show, and deserve all the praise they can get, simply due to the fact that every single one of them is superb. They work as a well oiled team, play understudy roles and definitely should not be forgotten. 

Billy Elliot (9th performance).

Thursday 14th July 2016, and I’m back again at the Millenium Centre in Cardiff for my 9th performance of Billy Elliot the Musical. I just can’t keep away from this superb show and there’s still two more days to go before it ends its run in Cardiff.

For tonight’s performance we have Billy (Matthew Lyons), Michael (Henry Farmer), Debbie (Italia Ross) and the Small boy (Isobelle Chalmers). Another fabulous performance by all as usual, it’s so good to see so many different young actors playing these roles to perfection. Brilliant,as I’ve been saying since the first show here in Cardiff.

I feel I have to mention the production team at Billy Elliot the uk tour. Every performance I have seen has been amazing, with everything in place at the right time to enable all of the cast to do what they do best. The set just magically seems to roll along from one scene to the next with hardly any effort noticed by the visiting public. Although I expect that’s not the same backstage, credit given to the guys who keep everything going, making the show so incredible to watch.

The sound for this show is stunning, from  the quality of the band playing their hearts out in the pit,to the special effects sounds ringing through the auditorium, I have to mention Angry dance at the end of act one, a powerful and loud scene fit for a close of any act of any show. Also at the end of the second act with Once we were kings, the sound of the pit lift doors closing,running down the pitshaft to a grinding halt at the bottom,really made an impact, you actually thought you were in that lift, the sound resonating throughout the whole building. So realistic and more credit to the sound engineers who put this aspect together.

The lighting for the show was also really good and highlighted the areas of most importance throughout, although I would say that sitting in different areas of the theatre gave a different light sensation to the viewer. The stalls seemed darker in certain scenes than the upper circle, for instance. And I think that is the beauty of seeing it so many times from different vantage points, you get the feel for this and it makes the viewing much more enhanced. A lot of this is also down to the fabulous Millenium Centre and the way it is designed, everything changes with each show depending on where you sit, and that is another reason why I see shows so many times.

In all a superb achievement from all the production team for making this one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. Looking forward to coming back tomorrow for more of same.

Billy Elliot (8th performance).

Wednesday 13th July 2016 and I’m back in Cardiff for my next instalment of the brilliant Billy Elliot the musical. An exceptional show that I truly adore, I think that’s why I keep visiting the centre so many times, even on a week off from work. To me this is the best holiday I could imagine, watching magnificent theatrical shows day after day, sheer bliss.

For tonight’s show we have Billy (Haydn May), Michael (Samuel Torpey), Debbie (Lilly Cadwallender), and Small Boy (Isobelle Chalmers). 

Let’s talk about the superb choreography for this stunning show. There is so much excellence in this field I’m going to narrow it down a little and look at my favourites. First off is ‘shine’ a great mix of comic dancing by the girls of the ballet school, brilliantly put together to show the audience how awful they are when we first see them. I’ve always admired actors who pretend they can’t dance when really they are amazing, this proves how good this show is when these children pull it off to perfection. 

Grandma’s song showcase a fabulous section of choreography,with the male ensemble dancing mainly in slow motion. So good to watch and so precise at such a slow speed. Amazing. 

Solidarity is just sublime with the adult cast dressed as miners and police dancing together with the girls of the ballet school. This is one of the best scenes in the show, superbly put together, mixing all the action together on stage,in unison,just so good. Also in this scene,we see the whole stage come to a halt to watch Billy,as he begins to show what he can achieve. I still have a tear in my eye at this point (in every show I’ve seen).

Billy and Michael join together for a really  funny dance where they dress up in women’s clothing and do an excellent tap routine, which is hilarious to watch. Another fantastic performance by these two actors, totally bringing the audience to life, with a huge round of applause. 

Born to boogie is just fantastic. With Billy and Mrs wilkinson showing off some great dancing with Mr Braithwaite, supplying the comedy for this scene. Here we see Billy rehearsing for his audition with a tap section complete with the three of them skipping in unison. So much fun with this, a really brilliant piece of choreography to take us to the final scene of act one.  Angry dance, a more contemporary piece that highlights the brilliance of the young actor playing Billy, and his command of the stage for this particular scene. A fitting end to a fabulous first act.

Act two is equally brilliant, with two stand out scenes. Firstly Swan lake, danced with Billy and his older self. As I’ve been saying for all the shows so far this is amazing, when the two dancers on stage mirror each other until Billy is wired to a hoist and performs in the air, some fantastic routines, and so good for a young dancer 20 foot off the stage.

Which leads me to Electricity (my favourite routine off all). A real treat to watch these guys perform this scene. After his audition, which hasn’t gone as well as expected, Billy is asked why he likes dancing, he answers in exquisite detail with a superb routine to a very vibrant song, which has the whole audience captivated,to watch every single move. For me this is the best scene in the show, always brings a tear at the end.

To sum up, this is a truly mesmerising show with superb dancing throughout, from all of the cast. I could watch this over and over again, (what am I on about, I do, as this is my 8th show and a I haven’t finished yet).

Billy Elliot (6th and 7th performance).

Saturday 8th July 2016, back at the fabulous Millenium centre here in Cardiff for two more performances of Billy Elliot. As you can see I very rarely see just the one performance of a show. So looking forward to seeing this show all over again. It’s so good and worth watching many,many times.

With the matinee we have Billy (Matthew Lyons), Michael (Bradley Mayfield) Debbie (Evie Martin) and ‘small boy’ (Isobelle charmers). I now will have seen all of the alternate child actors playing these roles. All of them are just brilliant (as I’ve always said).

Let’s talk about the music today. As Maggie Thatchers voice starts it all off we open with ‘The stars look down’ a way of introducing us to the story ahead, wonderfully sung be the whole cast. Moving on to ‘Shine’ where we find Mrs Wilkinson (Annette McLaughlin) and the girls of the ballet school.A great song with humour and wild choreography bringing this to life. Annette is just magnificent in this role,(as I’ve been saying for weeks). Next is Grandma’s song, with Andrea Miller, a funny and poignant song well performed with great background choreography. As Billy decides he wants to dance, we move to ‘Solidarity’ another fabulous tune performed by most of the cast. As Police, Miners and the ballet school come together on this vast stage, the voices soar out into the vast auditorium, making this an unforgettable part of the show. 

One of the funniest scenes is with Michael and Billy dressing up in women’s clothes. ‘Expressing yourself’ is so good and performed well by the duo, along with a set of giant dancing clothes (has to be seen). Next ‘The letter’ a moving song with Billy’s dead mam, as centre stage. A definite crying song and one which brought a tear to my eye.

‘Born to boogie’ is a great song that shows us the first proper hint at what Billy can achieve. Sung by Mrs Wilkinson and Mr Braithwaite along with Billy. I get tired just watching it, to dance and sing together, wow. This leads nicely into the final scene of the first act ‘Angry dance’ when Billy gets angry and frustrated at being banned from dancing by his dad. Great music played wonderfully and loudly from a brilliant band.

Act two starts with a bang ‘Merry Christmas Maggie Thatcher’ is a great send up of the struggles of the strike with  a spitting image rendition by the whole cast again. Which leads nicely into another mascara moment, with ‘Deep into the ground’ sung by Billy’s dad and Billy himself. Performed brilliantly by Martin Walsh, I was again in tears (as usual). 

The ballet scene with music from Swan Lake is so beautiful and a delight to watch . Moving on to ‘He could be a star’ again sung by Billy’s dad and ensemble. Two amazing sections of the show which lead onto my favourite scenes at the Royal Ballet auditions. ‘Electricity’.music beautifully written for a great dance extravaganza by Billy himself to rapturous applause from an enthusiastic audience. 

‘Once we were Kings’ another great song performed by the whole cast as the miners go back to work, which again brought tears to my eyes followed by Billy’s letter to his mam, continuing the tears, again. The finale is a chance to get your breath back and compose yourself for 10 mins of serious clappin (no G), in recognition of a fabulous show.

For the evening show we have Billy (Adam Abbou), Michael (Samuel Torpey), Debbie (Lilly Cadwallender) and ‘Small Boy'(Isobelle Chalmers). As usual the standard is phenomenal you could hardly notice the difference between all these young actors (as I’ve been saying since the show began). A really magnificent show which just awakens the emotions each time. Don’t want this to end its so good. 

I know this blog is long, but when the show is that good sometimes you have to indulge yourself in the finer points of this 3 hour musical to tell everyone just how brilliant it is. More to come next week as this is definitely not my last.

Billy Elliot (5th performance)

Saturday 2nd July 2016, back at the Millenium centre, Cardiff,for another visit to the fantastic Billy Elliott musical. As the title suggests this is the 5th occasion I have been fortunate to see this show and must admit to being blown away by the sheer brilliance of it all. This has to be one of the best musicals around and a bit of shame it’s run its course in the west end.    

Checking the cast list for tonight,we have Haydn May playing Billy, Samuel Torpey as Michael and Evie Martin as Debbie. And not forgetting Bonnie Burgess as the sweet ‘short boy’ role.I’ve seen these actors before and must say they are all exceptional in their various roles (in fact they are all brilliant,as I’ve been saying for the last few weeks).

Tonight it’s time to talk about the adult cast, who again are totally amazing. Annette McLaughlin as Mrs wilkinson is just so good with great support from Daniel Page as Mr Braithwaite (so funny and a pretty good dancer for a big man). Billy’s family consists of dad (Martin Walsh), Tony (Scott Garnham),grandma (Andrea Miller), and not forgetting Billy’s dead mother (Nikki Gerrard). As the show progresses these characters play a major role in Billy’s life, as the strike leads to heartache and misery, things go from bad to worse, leading up to the brilliant climax to the first act. So much going on in that first act, just brilliant to watch.

During the interval I’m actually exhausted just watching and need a short break to get over the fantastic scenes of that first act. So now onto the second act. The ballet scene immediately comes to life with a wonderful performance from Billy and his older self (played by Luke Cinque – White), sheer heaven to watch and my favourite part of the show Electricity, really is an amazing performance from such a young person (as I mentioned in last weeks blog). The adult cast are just superb as usual, and intermingle with the children to perfection. Such an amazing show to watch, so will be back again next week for more of the same.