War and Peace (WNO).

Saturday 15th September 2018, Opera season begins with ‘War and Peace’ from Prokofiev, at the magnificent Millennium Centre here in Cardiff Bay. Another to add to my collection of new productions in the theatre world. I’m quite looking forward to watching this, while all the while wondering how you would take an epic story to an Operatic stage performance and make it work.The cast for this opening performance has the beautiful voice of Lauren Michelle in the lead role of Natasha, with Mark LeBrocq as Pierre and Jonathan McGovern as Andrei to name but a few. As usual the singing from all the cast is excellent and really reverberates around this incredible theatre. A huge cast for this production with a massive Chorus really adding extra impetus for the bigger crowded scenes on stage, just fantastic to listen to.

I was a little shocked at how good the music to this opera actually was, having not expecting it to be, but honestly I was very impressed, it had everything from heavy full orchestra music to stunning beautiful melodies all in one movement, played brilliantly by the Welsh National Opera Orchestra conducted by Tomas Hanus.

An opera I will happily see again, and most probably will in the next few weeks, during its run in its home theatre in Cardiff, before moving on tour.

Evita.

Saturday 1st September 2018, another weekend rolls into place, with an opportunity to watch one of the best musicals ever created, at one of the best theatres in Britain today. So I’m at the Millennium Centre in Cardiff for a performance of ‘Evita’ from Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. I absolutely love this musical, having seen it previously at the New Theatre here in Cardiff, on many occasions.

Today’s cast has the absolutely amazing Lucy O’Byrne as Eva Peron, with Glenn Carter as Che, while Mike Sterling plays Juan Peron, who were also just superb in each role. Loads of great voices pack the Ensemble, including Oscar Balmaseda as Magaldi and Peron’s mistress played by Christina Hoey, who I’m so looking to see as she gets to sing one of the best songs in the show ‘Another suitcase in another hall’.

So many excellent songs through the performance, ‘ Oh what a circus, On this night of a thousand Stars, Eva beware of the city and Buenos Aires’ all follow on from each other and set the tone for the rest of the first act. The highlight of act two of course is ‘Don’t cry for me Argentina’ along with ‘High flying adored’, ‘Rainbow High’ and ‘The money keeps rolling in’, to name but a few. Although I have to say that all the songs are just superb, and sung brilliantly by the cast.

Getting onto the singing, I thought the standard was out of this world, I’ve mentioned Lucy already, but I need to reiterate just what an amazing voice she has along with Mike and Glenn, they added so much to this production. Whoever the producers cast on any given tour, give their all and it shows in the quality of these productions.

The dance routines were really good to watch as they took place throughout the show. I should also commend the Orchestra in the pit for their stunning portrayal of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s excellent music.

This musical is up there in my all time favourite top ten. It’s just superb and beautifully put together. It remains iconic in every way and will continue to watch on every tour possible, for as long as is humanly possible.

Let It Be.

Saturday 25th August 2018, and after a trip to Whitstable earlier in the week for a family wedding, (which was absolutely incredible), I’m back at the Millennium Centre in Cardiff Bay for the Beatles musical ‘Let it Be’. Another musical I have yet to see, so this will add to my growing collection of shows. I’m quite looking forward to this, although I must admit to not being a huge Beatles fan, I prefer the band members solo careers, but knowing me as I do, I’ll probably love it.

The cast has Emanuele Angeletti as Paul, Michael Gagliano as John, John Brosnan is George, Ben Cullingworth as Ringo, with the fifth member the ‘musical director’ Michael Bramwell, who played all the other instruments the cast couldn’t.

These guys have actually blown me away, for me they are better than the original band, I’m loving this show, now that’s something I never thought I’d say. I love the little interludes between each set, showing different themes and songs of the period as the band progress through their timeline. I’d forgotten how many good songs these guys actually wrote, with the choice of playlist suiting this particular musical, only including their best songs, in my opinion anyway.

If the first act blew me away, then act two just sent me to moon and back. The imaginary concert was just superb, with loads of my favourite solo tracks played even better than the originals. I even had tears in my eyes at some of the songs, which I never thought I would for this musical. I have to mention the guitars during the show, played brilliantly by the onstage cast, in fact the whole session was jam packed full of magnificent musicianship (if that’s even a word) and amazing singing. A truly magnificent cast and only 5 people on stage.

I was a bit apprehensive about ‘let it Be’, but as usual I was wrong, it’s a absolutely fabulous musical extravaganza and definitely one to watch again.

Summer Holiday.

Saturday 18th August 2018, and after a three week break from the Theatre, I’m back at the Millennium Centre in Cardiff Bay for the stage presentation of ‘Summer Holiday’ with the brilliant Ray Quinn in the title role. A film I may have watched hundreds of years ago as a kid, probably haven’t seen again for over 40 years, but if I’m honest, I’m actually looking forward to it, a chance to add another new show to my growing list and experience the wealth of theatrical talent that the UK has in abundance.

The one thing that determines a good show for me, is how I feel coming out of the theatre. Today I could have skipped around the Bay. I thoroughly enjoyed this musical, so much fun, some iconic songs brilliantly sung, the band in the pit playing their hearts out, great dance routines and a totally fabulous ending, getting the whole crowd involved.

Ray Quinn has such a fabulous voice, as does Sophie Matthew, although I was quite impressed with the whole cast, they all had great singing skills, put to the test in a classic stage remake of a classic film. I especially love ‘Bachelor Boy’ in the first act, also happens to be one of my favourite songs as a young lad growing up in the valleys. Along with a cracking duet of ‘The Young Ones’ in Act Two. Come to think of it, I was quite impressed with all the songs in the show, all sung brilliantly by a talented cast. Another musical I would watch again, if it tours again that is.

War Horse.

Saturday 28th July 2018, back at the Millennium Centre in Cardiff Bay, for the last two performances of ‘War Horse’ before it moves to another venue. Having the opportunity to watch this superb show eight times has been just phenomenal. So many different emotions come to light throughout, and even though I’ve watched many times, I still get that buzz every show.

Today I want to talk about the magnificent puppets used by this production. The use of puppet birds are the first we see as the opening sequence begins, followed by young Joey. The attention to detail on the horses are amazing, with great precision by the puppeteers to make everything realistic in the way the horses move. Young Joey sets the scene with some funny moments before the entry of the older Joey, a huge puppet horse, so realistic you forget that there are three actors operating it. Watching the Horse you realise very quickly the range of movement the main characters have been given, with the puppeteers able to move almost every part of the body when required. The choreography between puppet and other actors is just incredible to watch, interacting so perfectly from scene to scene.

The puppetry in act two becomes more incredible as the two horses appear even more lifelike when they set about staying alive during a ghastly war. The pulling of the field gun scenes are worthy of watching alone, just to visualise the sheer effort put into making this staging appear as realistic as possible. We even see a bond between the two horses form as the war goes on, adding yet another impressive realistic part to the show. I must mention the animal noises made by the puppeteers as they go through the show, again so realistic and helping the illusion of how real the horses actually look.

A final mention to the Goose, whose role is perfect to the comic relief in the first act, as we see Joey growing up with Alberts help. It really does make a huge difference to the way the show builds. An absolute epic production, brilliantly made and produced for the stage. Can’t wait for next tour.

War Horse.

Saturday 21st July 2018, another glorious weekend and a trip to the Theatre for two more performances of ‘ War Horse’, at the magnificent setting of the Millennium Centre in Cardiff Bay. Last week I talked about the production side along with the technical aspects of the show, today I’d like to look at the musical side to this drama, and the influence it has on this amazing play.

Most plays I’ve seen do not have a soundtrack as moving as this has. The opening sequence has a calming effect on proceedings with a beautiful piece of music set to represent the early morning before the fabulous voice of Bob Fox enters the fray, with his soothing Devonshire voice and accordion by his side, he almost narrates the story (in song) as the play moves along, the sequence then continues with the whole cast appearing on stage, joining in with the opening song, so superb to watch and brilliant to listen to. As the scenes progress the music links nicely to the scene it portrays, beautiful melodies as we see Joey and Albert bond over training and beyond.

Towards the end of act one, we see the mood of the music changes, from happy melodies to the brutal reality of war. Continuing in act two as the war progresses. Again superb pieces only this time more robust in nature depicting just how harrowing the First World War must have been for all those who were forced to participate in such violent years. The music adds so much tension to the war scenes, but the voice of Bob Fox appears throughout the act, seemingly calming everything down for a few moments before the intensity begins again, with loud explosions and gunfire filing the auditorium, the dramatic musical infill between these sections helps with the fluency if each scene, making it seem film like in it’s essence.

If you mix the fabulous music with the superb technical aspects of the show, you get a really amazing piece of theatrical magic happening on stage in front of your very eyes. Probably the best I’ve seen for a non musical production. Can’t wait to see it again, if I’m honest.

War Horse.

Saturday 14th July 2018, another glorious weekend is upon us, and back to Cardiff Bay and the magnificent Millennium Centre, for two performances of another of my ultimate favourite stage productions in ‘War Horse’. After last weeks double show, I have to make the same decision and repeat the feat. When a show this good comes to a theatre so close to home, you have to make the effort to watch as many times as you are able to, for me that’s every weekend on its run in Cardiff.Today I’m looking at the production side of this Play, the technical aspect of putting this together is just phenomenal. The Horses look spectacular, the detail in their mannerisms, all achieved by the puppeteers running them (which after a while you actually forget they are even there) just blow you away, I could sit and watch them for hours.

The scenes during the war can be pretty harrowing in places, but that adds so much to the production, telling you how barbaric that part of world history actually was. The choreography during these scenes were superb, with actors placed strategically around the stage to assist with following scenes, seamlessly interwoven during the play. To get everyone in the right place at the right time is such a feat to accomplish, but this show gets it right every time I watch.

Another impressive technical assist for the show is the sound and lighting. From the start the lighting focuses on the spot you need to be looking at, mainly on puppetry and keeping you there for the remainder of the show. The sound is also exemplary, especially in the war scenes, with huge explosions, gun fire and a great musical soundtrack to add to the occasion. Put these two together and the whole story comes alive in front of you, almost transporting you to the harrowing scenes contained in the War itself. I must also mention the amazing sound the horses produce throughout the play, even the hooves seem real as they move around the stage, along with the other horsey sounds made by said cast.

The whole show is sheer brilliance from start to finish, and I still want to watch over and over, next weekend I will get the chance to do it all again.

War Horse.

Saturday 7th July 2018, and I’m back in Cardiff Bay for two performances of ‘War Horse’ at the Millennium Centre. I absolutely love this amazing show, I’ve seen it before on its previous visit to the Bay, then it just blew me away. It’s got so much going for it, a great storyline, with scenes of comedy, heartache, and triumph all rolled into one, the amazing Puppetry on show really adds some sheen to each performance.One of the Musical highlights for me is the role of the Song Man with the brilliant voice of Bob Fox, adding a musical treat at strategic intervals throughout this incredible show.

Amazing choreography between the cast and puppets also add to the spectacle, making me forget that the horses are actually puppets and not controlled by three people. I’m also emotionally drained after watching two shows, I’ve laughed, cried and felt so many different emotions throughout the day, but it’s worth it just to see this beautiful show.

So looking forward now to next weekend and the chance to watch ‘War Horse’ all over again. knowing myself I’ll probably cry and laugh in exactly the same places as I managed today, we shall see.

An Officer and a Gentleman.

Saturday 30th June 2018, after a 6 week break with no shows, I’m finally back at the Millennium Centre in Cardiff Bay, for two performances of ‘An Officer and a Gentleman’. Again this is one of those times where I never really took much notice of the film, in fact, I cannot even remember watching said film, so this is a new experience for me, and another show to add to my growing tally of theatrical entertainment.Firstly can I just say ‘Oh My god’ what a fantastic musical, I never expected anything like this, just superb from start to finish. The cast for today’s performances bring another set of new names to enthuse over. Once again superb singing from all the cast including Emma Williams, Jonny Fines, Ian Mcintosh ,Jessica Daley and Keisha Atwell, I love the way the production team have changed the iconic 80’s songs in the show, to match up with the scenes, and just how well the cast come up with superb renditions of each song.

As they sang ”I want to know what love is’, which just happens to be one of my all time favourites, I just had tears in my eyes, the same could be said for ‘Alone’ in act two, another one of my favourite 80’s songs, with the same outcome. Another song that took my heart was ‘Family man’ sung brilliantly by Ian Mcintosh. Every number in that show was sung just superbly, I couldn’t fault any of it, and wouldn’t want to. Even songs I never liked when sung by the original artists, I totally loved with this cast singing them, and for me that’s a major success for any given show. The vocal talent we have in the UK is just awesome, we get to see new singers every week who totally blow us all away.

The finale had me as well, sadness and happiness in the space of a few minutes and the whole cast joining in with with ‘Up where we Belong’ to enormous cheers from a full, gratified audience.

I was so impressed with the whole make up of this wonderful musical extravaganza, watching it twice is even better, the Orchestra in the pit really helped with some wonderful renditions of great songs, musically they were incredible, another I would watch over and over even on future tours. I’m so glad to be back watching brilliant shows at a fabulous theatre, I never want to leave it so long between performances again, six weeks is way too long.

The last Ship.

Saturday 19th May 2018, another glorious day, so I’m back at the Millennium Centre in Cardiff Bay for Two productions of ‘The last Ship’, with music for the show written by Sting. I’ve heard good reviews for this musical, really looking forward to watching its last two performances at the Centre before it carries on with its UK Tour.

This show has been a complete surprise, thoroughly enjoyed it. The singing was just superb, fabulous voices and harmonies to die for. A huge set with fantastic graphics and images all over. Richard Fleeshman as Gideon Fletcher and Frances McNamee playing Meg Dawson are just brilliant, shining bright like the sun in the daytime sky, very impressed with these two individuals. Bring in Penelope Woodman playing Peggy White (Matinee performance), who has a stunning singing voice, and you have the makings of a great show with these alone. Joe McGann and Katie Moore (playing Jackie White and Ellen Dawson respectively) also impressed enormously, again fabulous singing voices. In fact some of the harmonies with multiple singers involved were enough to reduce me to tears, as they were so beautiful to listen to.

The influence of the music and lyrics from Sting were eminent throughout, played to perfection from the onstage band, and sang brilliantly from the entire cast (as I think I may have mentioned already).

A great storyline as well, with so many changing scenes, motivating the entire show, captivating the audience at every opportunity. A few tears in the second act, but I’m used to that now, I’d probably cry at Pepper Pig shows if I ever went to see one.

I have to say that for a new musical this could go a long way given the chance. For me it was superb, one to watch again and again, and luckily for me I get to watch the evening performance as well.