Monthly Archives: January 2017

Lord of the dance: Dangerous games.

Today I’m at a different venue, at St Davids Hall in Cardiff City Centre for a performance of Michael Flatley’s Lord of the Dance: Dangerous Games. Having seen this amazing show last year, I knew I would need to see it again, on its return to the Welsh Capital.

From a brilliant opera last night to a fabulous dance orientated show tonight, my horizons have been greatly broadened with these extraordinary shows so close to home. The standard of exquisite Irish dancing in this production is phenomenal. Everything is so precise, fast paced and just breathtaking to watch. 

With so much happening on stage, this story of good verses evil really packs a punch. With fabulous graphics behind the dancers, a superb score and live fiddlers on stage, and some great singing with the fantastic voice of Sophie Evans (Erin the Goddess) getting in on the act. The lead male dancers (Lord of the dance and the Dark Lord) and female dancers (Saoirse, Morrighan and Little Spirit) are just magnificent, and not to be outdone, the ensemble cast are absolutely brilliant as well, with pinpoint accuracy with every step taken throughout this show. This is most noticeable in the line, when all dancers take the stage for that classic Riverdance moment, as every dancer is in step with everyone else. Brilliant to watch, and so good live.

The staging is quite brilliant as well, along with the colourful screenes depicting images of good and evil, the additional lighting and sound really add to the feel of the show. The tap routines are so good, as heel and toe hit the floor simultaneously, creating a perfect sound level from all the combined dancers. So precise, and all synchronised, you would think it was one dancer hitting the beat. 

The whole event goes by so quickly, (you never want it to end, and when it does you just want more), and most of the time you cannot take your eyes off the stage, as you flit between good and evil. As choreography dictates this whole show, I must admit this has to be one of the best I’ve seen, and one I would love to see again and again which, as usual, I probably will, on its next visit to Cardiff.

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La Boheme (1st performance).

Saturday 28th January 2017, and I’m back at the Millenium Centre in Cardiff Bay, for the Welsh National Opera (WNO) production of La Boheme. Looking forward to watching this opera. I’ve seen it once before, with the Ellen Kent company. It will be nice to see how the WNO take on this classic opera. I have to say that everything I’ve seen of them so far (over the last four years) has greatly impressed me,  having seen nearly all of their productions in that time period.

This opera was just brilliant. The voices on show tonight were of the highest quality. Mimi played by Marina Costa- Jackson had such a beautiful voice and together with Dominick Chenes as Rudolfo, made a great couple, as his voice was just excellent too. Marcelo played by Gary Griffiths and Musetta by Lauren Fagan were also brilliant, making this a great pairing to go with Mimi and Rudolfo. 

The whole cast were excellent, as they usually are with the WNO, from the other principal singers, through to the chorus and the children appearing in the background. As usual the WNO orchestra, lead by Manlio Benzi, were just superb, playing this wonderful score to perfection.

An amazing opening night, and a full house to go with it, and as usual I had a few tears in my eyes during many of the scenes, as great music and fabulous voices combined to make this an unforgettable evenings entertainment. Will definitely be watching this production again at the Centre, before it goes out on tour.

Of course later in the year (April 2017), we have the brilliant musical ‘Rent’ which is based on this great opera. Another one of my favourite shows, I’m really looking forward to seeing this live on the Millenium Centre stage. 

Sunny Afternoon.

Saturday 21st January 2017, back at the Millenium Centre here in Cardiff Bay for two performances of the Kinks musical, Sunny Afternoon. Having never seen this before, I’m not sure what to expect. I’ll probably fall in love with it, and wish I could have seen it more times, as it ends at the Centre tonight (only here for a week).

I must confess that I am not a massive fan of the Kinks music, there are a few exceptions of course, but then I wasn’t a fan of a lot of the 60’s music, again some songs were brilliant, while others just melted away into the background, never to be listened to again. Although I have an open mind on most shows I see, and have yet to see a show I didn’t like, or completely fall head over heels for it.

So onto this main event. The first thing I have to say is ‘Oh My God’ that was absolutely brilliant, I was not expecting that. I laughed, cried and just had an amazing time watching and listening to this fabulous musical. This has totally changed my view about the music of the Kinks. The way the band members came on stage and sung better than I could have imagined. Sheer genius. So many great moments to cherish throughout. I particularly love the way Ray (Ryan O’Donnell) sings between the main songs,as he tries to influence the audience into seeing his own thoughts, and what a great voice he has To go with it. I also love the way all the Band members and cast play the instruments live on stage, adding a thrill to each song sung. A mention to the band members too, Mark Newnham as Dave Davies, Garmon Rhys as Pete Quaife, Andrew Gallo plays Mick Avery and Lisa Wright as Rasa. All of these were fabulous, and made for a fabulous show. The ensemble were again so brilliant, as they always are.

Plenty of songs throughout to keep everything going, most of them bringing a tear to my eyes (again). So many stand out numbers, including ‘Sunny Afternoon’,a great song in itself.  ‘I go to sleep’, so beautifully sung by Rasa. ‘Days’, sung accapela style to a appreciative audience, who never made a sound throughout. To ‘Lola’, one of my favourite songs, sung by the whole cast at the end. But my favourite piece is definitely the lead up to ‘Waterloo Sunset’, my favourite of all Kinks songs, and probably in my top 20 songs of all time, I cried as this was being sung, and I must say what a performance it was too, just brilliant.

I never realised how much good music they made in their younger days, I loved every song they did on that incredible Millenium Centre stage. So I’m keeping my first few paragraphs in as a reminder to myself that musical tastes can change, especially if heard through a different medium, meaning of course, the theatre. I’ve learnt so much over the past 4 years and now realise just how good these musical shows can be, and how much happiness they bring to my life. This is another Fantastic show I really want to see again, (told you so). 

Mary Poppins (17th and 18th performances).

Saturday 14th January 2017, so glad to be back at the Millenium Centre here in Cardiff Bay, for the final two performances of Mary Poppins, as it ends its Uk tour run tonight. This show has been so amazing, with every performance I’ve seen (all eighteen) just magnificent. It’s been a treat to watch such a happy, feel good musical in these cold, dark months, bringing a touch of sunlight back to everyday life.

For today’s matinee we have Violet Tucker as Jane Banks with Finley Miller as Michael Banks. The evening performance has Verity Biggs as Jane Banks and Lewis Furnee As Michael Banks. 

I’ve covered quite a lot in my recent blogs, so today I just want to talk about what I love about this musical. One of the main reasons this show is so good is the incredible cast assembled for this production. Zizi Strallen (Mary Poppins) has been just outstanding throughout, as she just glides effortlessly around the stage. Her singing voice is phenomenal and just so beautiful to listen to. Matt Lee (Burt) has also been outstanding, with his quirky delivery and great dance routines, a perfect match for Zizi’s Mary.

I have also enjoyed the performances of all the child actors I’ve seen, playing Jane and Michael Banks. They have all been magnificent, playing their parts so well. As I’ve said before, the future of British theatre is in safe hands, as long as we continue to nurture these fabulous young actors.

I have to mention the superb voices of Rebecca Lock (Mrs Banks), Grainne Renihan (Bird Woman) and Penelope Woodman (Miss Andrew). I have thouroughly enjoyed listening to each of them sing so beautifully. I have tears in my eyes when I hear ‘Feed the Birds’, Zizi and Grainne, wow, so good.  Another who has also impressed is Neil Roberts (Mr Banks), although I would have loved to hear him sing a few more times throughout the show, I really think he had such a great voice for the role.

The Enemble and Orchestra were superb, as they always are. The set and lighting designs were tremendous, (this has to be one of the best I’ve seen over the last 4 years), everything just fell into place from start to finish. I’ve also said this next statement a few times in my previous blogs, but I have to say this is one of the best shows I’ve ever seen, in my short time as a regular theatre goer.

So many impressive scenes to mention. ‘Jolly Holiday’, with its bright colours and beautiful dance routine. ‘Spoonful of sugar’, fabulous song and on stage trickery, and the brilliant ‘Supercalifragilistic’ with again so much colour and an unforgettable dance routine. Finishing the act is ‘Playing the game’, yet another imaginative scene, full of colour and great costumes. And that’s just act one. 

Act two brings the arrival and dismissal of the wonderful Miss Andrew into our midst, with the ‘Brimstone and treacle’, routines. Split between this is ‘lets go fly a kite’. Another stunning scene, bringing a tear to my eyes everytime, for being so simple yet beautiful, another one of my favourites. Leading to three of the best scenes in the show. ‘Step in time’ and ‘Anything can happen’with two fabulous songs comes some amazing dance routines and sets to die for. Of course who could forget the finale, which is beautifully set up, and so breathtaking to watch, a fitting end to a fabulous show. Which I think is one of the reasons I love these last three scenes, beautiful to listen to, magnificent to watch, the perfect blend of everything magical about the theatre.

Onto today’s final shows then, and as usual they were just outstanding. Top class entertainment so many times over. I love everything about this show, if I could wish to see a show more than I already have, this would be up there with them. Eighteen times is just not enough. 

Mary Poppins (16th performance).

Sunday 8th January 2017, back at the Millenium Centre for another performance of the brilliant Mary Poppins, which is entering its last week in Cardiff. I must admit to being sorry that it’s leaving, as it’s been fabulous entertainment for me over the past few weeks. I will definitely miss this show, as I fell in love with it from day one.

For this matinee performance we have Lottie Sicilia as Jane Banks along with Regan Garcia as Michael Banks. A few changes to the adult cast today sees Anthony Lawrence as George Banks with Claire Parrish playing Winifred Banks.

Today I’d like to talk about the costumes for the show. As it’s set in the early part of the 1900’s the clothing depicts that era. The women in long flowing dresses, the men in suits and tails, and the servants dressed to serve. It’s such an iconic look, as in those days, you dressed to go anywhere. The opening scenes start this way, until the arrival of Mary Poppins, with a bright coloured skirt and blouse outfit, and an array of extremely beautiful coloured coats to match. But as the ‘Jolly Holiday’ scene gets into full swing, the costumes change to massively bright pastel colours, which instantly light up the stage. It’s like watching a scene outside on a glorious summers day. 

We go from colour to the black and white of the bank, with the clerks in those colours. A replica of how people dressed for work in this period. As we move through the Bird Woman scene and onto Mrs Corry and her Shop in the park, we continue into another strong costume scene, with more bright colours, and panto style make up dominating the proceedings. Towards the end of act one, comes the ‘Playing the game’ scene, where the toys come to life. Another fabulous section, and a dream for costume designers to really show their talents. And I must say, pretty realistic designs they are too.

Act two begins with the arrival of Miss Andrew in a rather strict looking, no fussing outfit, totally suited to her character. When Mary confronts her, we see an excellent comparison to each costume. Miss Andrew, black and white and not very flattering, to Mary with her stylish blue and white, extremely flattering outfit (which is very noticeable in all her scenes).

‘Step in time’ is just superb, with all the ensemble dressed as chimney sweeps, which consisted of a pair of woolen trousers (very smart looking for the type of work) and a matching coat, with a typical flat cap. Mary wears her beautiful red coat for the whole scene. Burt, as well as the smart trousers, has a brightly coloured waistcoat on as well. Amazing designs to show great fashion sense for the era.

Towards the end of the show we move onwards to ‘Anything can happen’, another beautiful scene lighting wise, with the costumes really coming into focus, to match its surroundings. The ensemble enter in blue sparkly suits and caps (matching the design of the suits worn in other scenes), as the scenes progresses all of the cast enter in their main costumes for the show. Showcasing the costumes in their entirety, and I must say, very impressive, something to savour at the end of each show. 

With so many costumes to look after, the role of the dresser needs a mention too. Most of these are staff who work for the Centre. These wonderful people, who work a lot of the time behind the scenes, and out of public view, really come into their own in these big stage shows. Making sure that people are in the right place, at the right time, in the correct outfit for each scene. In my blogs I try to mention a lot of the backstage staff and other members of the teams that bring us these magnificent shows, as to me, they are the unsung heroes of the theatre world, and help to create the magic we get to see on stage.

Today’s matinee performance was again just brilliant, another joy to watch on an otherwise dull Sunday afternoon. Anthony and Claire were superb as Mr and Mrs Banks, proving yet again how invaluable the ensemble and understudies actually are, to the success of any show. Fabulous just fabulous. 

Mary Poppins (14th and 15th performances 

Saturday 7th January 2017, back at the Millenium Centre in Cardiff Bay, for two more performances of the brilliant Mary Poppins stage musical. Today is probably the best I could hope for. Outside its 10 Celsius, no wind, high cloud with a touch of blue sky creeping though from time to time, really mild for this time of year, and just fantastic for a stroll around the Bay before the show. For me, couldn’t ask for much more than that. Perfect.

For today’s matinee we have Lottie Sicilia playing Jane Banks with Regan Garcia as Michael Banks. The evening performance has Violet Tucker as Jane Banks and Finley Miller as Michael Banks. Again I’m so impressed with how good these child actors actually are, such a relief to know the future of great theatre is in safe hands.

I must say also that I’ve been very impressed with the standard of the whole production, with Disney and Cameron Mackintosh really putting together a first class team of lead actors, the talented children playing Jane and Michael, with an amazing supporting cast. A fabulous orchestra supplying the score day by day. And not forgetting all the backstage staff, who keep the show moving along. All of these talented people need a mention, to remind the watching thousands just how brilliant the whole team are on this musical extravaganza.

I would like to applaud the merchandising team as well, as usual, with Disney, the volume of products is phenomenal. With the help of the Centre staff there’s plenty of choice objects to buy, as a present or just a reminder of the show, although a lot of the produce is functional in everyday use, and well worth a look at, at least.

I would also like to mention the role of the Centre in this production. The auditorium is huge, with a massive stage to go with it, easily encompassing the whole set and contributing pieces that slide in and out, during the performance. The end scene of the show is really breathtaking, as the sheer height from floor to ceiling makes for an unforgettable moment of theatre magic, and also pretty daunting for anyone ascending to that great height. Being the best theatre complex in the universe also helps in achieving great results, (although I may be a little bit biased on that matter). I would also like thank a few of the Centre facilitators for some constructive thoughts on the content for today’s blog.

A word on today’s performances, again each one was just so good, although we had an unexpected ending to the matinee, it didn’t detract from the overall standard of the show. The evening was equally impressive with a nice ending. Such a fabulous show, even after 15 performances, I don’t think I could ever get bored of this musical.

Mary Poppins (13th performance).

Sunday January 1st 2017, and my first show of the new year. I’m back at the Millenium Centre for my 13th performance of the utterly brilliant Mary Poppins.

For today’s show we have Maia West as Jane Banks with Cameron Lant as Michael Banks.

Continuing today with a look at the set and lighting for act two, which starts in the very impressively designed Banks house as we meet Miss Andrew. As the children run away we move into an empty park scene for ‘lets go fly a kite’. The set is quite bare, but with a few kites flying around the scene, it doesn’t really matter, as centre stage is taken up with the arrival of Mary, with a very effective light show heralding the above. Really is a beautiful scene, and probably one of the best scenes in the show, mainly due to the fantastic singing centred around this part of the set design. 

Back at the house for the removal of Miss Andrew, with yet another bit of on stage trickery, and more effective lighting, to increase the atmosphere in the theatre. Yet another magical scene combined with first class singing. 

Moving on to another of my favourite scenes, with ‘Step in time’. As the children, Mary and Burt ascend onto the rooftops, which start appearing all over the stage, full of the ensemble dressed  as sweeps. The use of the chimneys moving on and off stage create a fabulous image of the cast travelling over the roofs of London. As the scene moves on we see a nice routine from Burt, using all of the set (quite literally), until the scene changes to the Banks household where the sweeps invade with a continuation of their dance routine. 

As the show moves towards the final, we have another fabulous set and lighting design, with ‘Anything can happen’. A really beautiful set for this scene, with the back screen set as hundreds of twinkling stars. A haze of blue light floods the stage, before the ensemble enter with long poles of light to add to the effect. A huge umbrella full of light descends on stage, as a fabulous dance routine ensues with all the cast. An absolutely amazing set for this piece of the action. Well worth watching for the end section alone. 

As the show enters its finale, the stars reappear, with a magnificent light show cascading through the whole auditorium. With an end to match any film you could think of. Just breathtaking to the watch.  I must say a huge amount of credit to the design team, to have put on a truly amazing production. 

Today’s show was once more absolutely brilliant, another massive treat for the Christmas period, before going back to work. Every person in this show is just phenomenal, well worth coming back again and again.