Monthly Archives: October 2016

Mamma Mia (10th performance).

Sunday 30th October 2016, what a fabulous end to the weekend, back in Cardiff for another performance of Mamma Mia. Today’s subject of conversation has to be the work of the shows writers. Bjorn Ulvaeus and Benny Anderson. Whose prolific talents pushed Abba to amazing heights. 

If I’m honest with myself, as a kid growing up, they were never my cup of tea, their music was overplayed, so got a bit monotonous. That all changed with two factors, firstly on hearing for the first time the album version of ‘Eagle’ which is one of my favourite songs of all time. Secondly buying the cd of the stage production of Mamma Mia, which totally changed my attitude to all Abba’s past collections. Now seeing the music turned into the musical in front of my eyes, I don’t know how I ever doubted them. 

Bjorn and Benny have a brilliant concept to turn their music, with a few rewritten lines, into a thouroughly amazing show. Making their songs and lyrics fit a certain pattern, to produce a show that actually works on so many levels. If you think about it, though, you can fit many songs into everyday life, but that’s where Bjorn and Benny’s brilliance comes into play. I can see why it’s run so long in the west end. I’m wondering just how many mothers have sang ‘Slipping through my fingers’ to their daughter on their wedding day, as they get ready. I know some mothers who have, and have mentioned just how emotional that has been. Or even broken up a relationship to ‘knowing me, knowing you’.

Having seen it so many times now, it amazes me just how many of these songs actually work in the whole show. It’s like Benny and Bjorn wrote every song all those years ago, knowing that they would be used in a magnificent stage show, somewhere down the line. A quick mention for the musical ‘Chess’ co written by these guys , which is another show I totally love and can’t wait to see a revival of that, if it ever comes this way. 

And so to today’s performance. As usual absolutely faultless, full of life and character, just so fantastic to watch. The whole cast were just awesome. As I’ve said throughout this run, want to see this show again and again, which at the moment I seem to be doing. Really can’t wait for more shows next weekend.

Mamma Mia (8th and 9th performances).

Saturday 29th October 2016, The weekend has finally come around again. I’m back in the Capital for two more performances of the brilliant Mamma Mia at the Centre. It’s only a few days since I last saw this musical,but I really can’t wait to see it again. 

Today I’d like to talk about the lighting and the set for the production. Firstly when you look at the set it’s minimal, but in a good way, and it really works. The central theme being the Taverna owned by Donna. The walls move around the stage, creating some really good scenes. Allowing the set to be opened up for group dance routines, then closed up again for the more intimate phases of the show. The floor of the stage becomes the focal point, with a path leading from the wings to centre stage, that the whole show revolves around, as most of the actors enter on this path. At the end, as it lights up to see Sophie and Sky off stage. Along with a massive moon on the back wall, producing a stunning effect.

The lighting of the stage really goes a long way to adding to the set. A large lighted, blue frame surrounds the stage throughout, with colourful backboarding adding to the effect. It makes the white walls of the taverna stand out more on stage. The use of the on stage lighting works well, especially for the dream scene at the start of act two. From my vantage point today, you could see the effects that lighting has on this set. Really colourful, putting added emphasis to the scenes playing out before your eyes.

When you add the two together you actually get an impressive set creation, fit for this fantastic musical. I think it’s great to see this show so many times, as I get the chance to talk about different aspects, that don’t really figure in most blogs. Trying to vary the topic of conversation means there’s time to mention these items, which, above all are a major part in putting on a production, such as this.

For this show though, I don’t think it’s the set people really come to see. A great show has to have the music in the first place, followed by superb singing and fabulous dance routines when the need arises. Of course everyone knows and loves Abba’s back catalogue, which is really what the audience want, and above all else, exactly what they get. 

Today’s shows were again so good, fabulous singing and dancing,as usual. Just a treat to watch another two shows in one day. 

Mamma Mia (7th performance).

Thursday 27th October 2016, well I made it back to Cardiff and to the Millenium Centre in time for tonight’s performance of Mamma Mia. What a day two brilliant shows really made this a special day off.

So on to tonight’s show and a few cast changes since my last visit,with Sara back as Donna and the understudy Sky, Bill and Sam, who were again incredible, never letting down the show on any way, which tells a story of its own. And that is what I’ve always said,that the ensemble and understudies are worth their weight in gold. 

The voices of the whole cast are again incredible, as usual, fabulous to listen to and even better to sing along to (to yourself of  course, wouldn’t want any unsuspecting theatre goer listening to my voice). The dance moves are so Crisp and vibrant, as usual, making viewing this musical a real treat as well as sounding great to go with it. This show just gets better every time I see it, which I’ve said all along, so no difference there then. 

A shorter blog today, but just to add a massive thank you to the staff at the Centre. I booked my ticket on the train coming back from Bristol, so arriving at the Centre at about 7ish, the staff on the ticket sales counter actually had my ticket ready for me. Now that’s what I call a really fantastic service, from the best theatre in Britain. Really capped an end to a wonderful day at the theatre.

Billy Elliot (14th performance).

Thursday 27th October 2016, a change of venue and city today. I’m in Bristol at the Hippodrome to see another performance of the brilliant Billy Elliot – the musical. Spoilt for choice the next few weeks with Billy doing a run in Bristol and Mamma Mia in Cardiff until mid November. So Thursday day off work,Bristol bound,weekend at the centre, problem sorted.

Today’s matinee cast has Billy played by Lewis Smallman, Michael by Elliot Stiff, Debbie played by Italia Ross and the brilliant Small boy role by Isobelle Chalmers. Can’t wait to see Lewis again as Billy, met him and his family in Cardiff, a brilliant young star of the future.( As are all the Billy’s who perform with this show). Also can’t wait to watch the fabulous Annette McLaughlin as Mrs Wilkinson, another stand out performer amongst this truly amazing cast. This is yet another musical I adore, with this fabulous cast, it’s great to be able to just pop on a train and be able to see this again, so close to home. 

The first act alone made me cry as soon as The small boy walks through the auditorium and settles on the stage for the start of the show. So brilliant again to watch, brought back so many memories, even though it was only a few months ago, that I last saw this brilliant musical. The child actors just get better and better. Lewis was just phenomenal today, such a massive performance from such a young man. The ballet scene and electricity was just superb. Couldn’t fault the lad at all. The second act also reduces me to tears, with again so much going on, brilliant dance routines and just fabulous entertainment from start to finish.

The show just moves on so quickly now, that’s it’s over before you know it, making me want to see it again and again, as usual. So I’ve booked next Thursday off work and as things go to plan, will be back at the Hippodrome next week. 

As we speak I’m in the train back to Cardiff, hoping to see Mamma Mia tonight. Fingers crossed.

Mamma Mia (6th performance).

Sunday 23rd October 2016 at the Millenium centre in Cardiff, for part two of my weekend extravaganza, watching the brilliant Mamma Mia musical. So I’m talking about the superb music and singing on the show,getting on to act 2 today.

Act 2 begins with the band and the entracte, a medley of songs to get you in the mood, leading nicely into a remarkable dream sequence, ‘Under Attack’sung brilliantly by Sophie and the entire cast. Then comes two absolutely fantastic Abba songs with Donna singing ‘One of us’ which is so beautiful to listen to, bringing on a little tear, (Sara and Jenna sing it better than the original, which is a true testament as to how good these actress actually are). Leading nicely into ‘SoS’ again sung brilliantly by Donna and Sam. I have to say the three main Male leads have great voices, really adding to the feel of the whole show.

The scene changes for ‘Does you mother know’ with Tanya and the bridesmaids entertaining the young bar staff, with a great dance routine from Pepper, and a fabulous rendition of this song, providing a marvellous comic scene to savour. 

The next scenes really bring some long lasting tears to my eyes. Firstly Sam sings ‘Knowing me Knowing you’ to a bewildered Sophie. Again sung superbly, a treat to the eardrums. Then Harry enters the fray with another fabulous rendition of ‘Our Last Summer’, more tears after this.

The tears really start to flow when Donna helps Sophie get ready,with the most brilliant song the world has ever known,for a wedding. ‘Slipping through my fingers’ is perfectly sun by Donna (this is better than than the original, in my view), I don’t think I’ve cried this much for any song for ages. The tears don’t stop there, When Donna sings ‘The Winner takes it all’ to a motionless Sam. This is, for me, the best section of the musical, with the singing so so good. 

Approaching the finale now, with a fabulous comic routine from Bill and Rosie as we have ‘Take a chance on me’. As the wedding approaches and the three dads come together Sophie decides to postpone the weddding, so Sam asks Donna to marry him with the aptly titled ‘I do,I do,I do,’ sung by Donna, Sam and the whole company. Before Sophie finishes, with her beautiful sweet voice for a reprise of ‘I have a dream’.

That’s not the end of this show, as the finale really gets going with Three great songs sung by the whole cast. ‘Mamma Mia’, ‘Dancing Queen’ and ‘Waterloo’ end proceedings. With Donna Rosie, Tanya, Sam, Bill, and Harry on stage in amazing coloured platform boots and Lycra costumes. So good to watch and even better to listen to as the whole ensemble sing their hearts out at the end of this wonderfully colourful show.

Today’s show was fabulous again, just gets better and better every time I see it (as I also said the last time). Thouroughly engrossed, although now it’s going too quick, I want loads more, but will have to wait until next weekend for more. 

┬áMamma Mia (4th and 5th performances).

Saturday 22nd October 2016, back at the Millenium Centre for two more performances of the brilliant Mamma Mia musical, into the second week of its run in the Capital. I want to talk about about the music today, written by Bjorn and Benny during the seventies and early eighties, when Abba were at their peak. There is so much superb music and singing to mention I think I need to split this one up, so I’m concentrating on act 1 today. 

The show begins with the band and the overture giving us a sample of what’s to come. As the curtain rises we hear the beautiful, sweet voice of Sophie with ‘I have a dream’ followed by ‘Honey Honey’ with her friends Lisa and Ali, great song this and funny to go with it. As Donna enters the scene (today played superbly by Jenna Lee James) with Rosie and Tanya the pace increases with a wonderful rendition of ‘Money Money Money’. Moving on again the men enter the fray with another beautiful cover of ‘Thank you for the Music’ sung beautifully with Sophie.

‘Mamma Mia’is next up when Donna discovers Sam,Harry and Bill have arrived for the wedding, sung by Donna then later the men, we have yet another fabulous rendition of this amazing song. Continuing on this fast pace to ‘Chiquita’ with Rosie, Tanya and Donna bringing us a wonderfully comical routine. Moving on to the girls delivering a great version of ‘Dancing Queen’. 

Sky and Sophie then carry on the action with’lay all you Love on Me’ bringing on the male ensemble with a truly comical dance routine throughout the song. The boys rush off for the stag do, leaving the girls on stage for the hen night. Platform boots and Silver Lycra take over the stage as Donna,Rosie and Tanya brilliantly deliver ‘Super Trouper’ to a huge applause from an appreciative audience.

As act 1 closes Sam,Bill and Harry are caught in the hen night as they realise one of them maybe Sophie’s dad, bringing them into confrontation with Sophie herself. The female ensemble begin singing ‘Gimme,Gimme,Gimme’ before Sophie meets Bill, and sing one of my favourite songs of Abba’s ‘The name of the game’. Act  1 closes as the company belt out ‘Voulez Vous’ bringing down the curtain to a brilliant first act of singing and dancing excellence.  

There is so much great music,singing and dancing in the first act alone, just making this show so amazingly good.  I think this production is probably the best I’ve heard, I cry almost on every song, the singing is just brilliant by all the cast. After each performance I literally crave to watch it again and again. The two I have seen today are no exception, seemingly getting better on each viewing. Can’t wait for my next performance of this fabulous show. 

Mamma Mia (3rd performance).

Sunday 16th October 2016, back at the Millenium Centre in Cardiff Bay for my third performance of this brilliant musical, Mamma Mia. Yet another show I’ve instantly fallen in love with, I could watch every single showing, if I had the chance, it’s just so uplifting, with amazing performances from all of the cast members.

Let’s talk about the male cast today. Sam Carmichael is played by Richard Standing. Bill Austin played by Christopher Hollis and Harry Bright played by Tim Walton. I have to say these guys are amazing, great acting and fabulous voices to go with it. Such a relief to know that they can actually sing,(unlike certain individuals in the film version), and sing brilliantly to go with it.

Sky,Pepper and Eddie (Phillip Ryan,Louis Stockil and Sam Robinson) are just awesome with again fabulous singing voices to go with it. Although I must mention Louis for some brilliant dance routines throughout the show, especially the scene with Tanya and the song ‘does your mother know’fabulous just fabulous.

Of course I have to mention the male members of the ensemble, as I did for the girls in my last blog, these guys were again so amazing with some fabulously funny and brilliant dance routines. They also never fail to amaze at every show. Couple the whole ensemble together and, as usual, they add immensely to the character and feeling the show generates. 

Today’s afternoon performance was again just superb. Really made a boring Sunday come to life. Even with a few cast changes with Jenna  Lee James playing Donna and Matthew Ronchetti playing Sam it never altered the show one bit. That’s how good they all are. Which proves a point that the ensemble and understudies are worth their weight in gold.  

A fabulous end to a brilliant weekend with three wonderful performances of a truly great musical. If anyone reads this you have to go and see this show, it’s brilliant.

Mamma Mia (1st and 2nd performance).

Another Saturday (15th October 2016) upon us and more shows to write about. This time Mamma Mia visits,with a five week run at the Millenium Centre here in Cardiff. So looking forward to this fun, feel good musical, with its fabulous Abba score.

As this is my first visit of the run let me quickly run through the main female cast. Donna played by Sara Poyzer,Emma Clifford is Tanya with Jacqueline Braun playing Rosie.(Donna’s friends). Sophie is played by Lucy May Barker, with Ali and Lisa played respectively by Micha Richardson and Blaine Colangelo. (Sophie’s friends). I will get to the guys on another occasion, as I’m seeing this more than once, would you believe.

I have to say this show is absolutely amazing to watch. So many happy moments and sentimental scenes rolled into two and a half Hours of sheer bliss. Fabulous just fabulous.

The girls in the show are brilliant, Lucy’s voice is so sweet and beautiful, really setting the scene, as she opens both acts. Sara is just superb as Donna and WOW what an incredible voice she has, one minute belting out these timeless classics, the next reducing me to tears with one of my favourite Abba songs ‘Slipping through my fingers’. Tanya and Rosie add a little extra spice to proceedings, with some fabulous routines,and again great voices from both actresses. May I also say that Ali and Lisa also continue the fun aspect of the show, but have great voices to go with it.

The female ensemble contribute massively to the whole show,as is the case for every performance I have seen. They never get enough praise for their work, but I admire everyone of them,as they are the backbone of the whole show. I attempt to mention them on all of my blogs, for just being fantastic and irreplaceable. 

One of the advantages of seeing shows so many times is the different seating arrangement for the shows. I move around the auditorium and capture different aspects of each performance. This afternoon, I sat in one of the balconies, looking directly down into the pit.Watching this small but fantastic band going about their work to perfection, as usual. Also from my vantage point I can look back at this amazing theatre and observe the whole audience, packed to the rafters and really enjoying this show. Tonight I’m in the front of the circle, altering the way I watch the show, for a second time. I think this is another reason why I enjoy seeing the same show many times over.

Mamma Mia is just a fantastic musical, I would recommend this show to everyone and can’t wait to see it again. There’s so much to talk about, if I put it all in today this would go on and on for hours. So I will leave it there for today and carry on the next time with the male cast.

Little Shop of Horrors.

Saturday 8th October 2016. A change of venue tonight, I’m at the New Theatre, Cardiff for a performance of  the Little Shop of Horrors. Another show I have not seen, not even the film, so this is another opportunity to view a new musical, to add to my growing list of shows I have seen over the past few years.

One of the main stars of this musical is Rhydian. Having seen this amazing singer twice before, I know I’m not going to be disappointed. He has such an amazing voice, so powerful, and a real joy to listen. A privilege to hear another fabulous performer at this beautiful little theatre.

When you enter the auditorium the first thing that hits you is the amazing set on stage,and during the show it has that wow factor throughout. I have to admit this is one of the best sets I’ve seen and adds some feeling to the whole show.

From the start the singing from all the cast is just brilliant. Great songs sung to perfection. And wow what a fabulous musical this is, really surprised me, another show that took my breath away, I just want to see this again and again.

The roles of Seymour and Audrey were brilliantly played and sung superbly. The three girls singing fabulous harmonies and Rhydian with 4 different characters including the dentist were just sublime. And of course Audrey 2, great voice and amazing puppetry coming to life in front and of your very eyes. (Couldn’t get a programme,sold out, so unable to name the cast, but they were just awesome.where they find these fantastic singers from is beyond my comprehension, but show after show they find new and extraordinary talent, thank god for the British theatre and its many creations).

I have to mention the onstage band snuggled in a little side Shop, just off stage. These few guys played their hearts out and were just so good, magnificent in fact.

To sum up I thoroughly enjoyed this truly fantastic musical and wish I could have seen this it much more than I did. Once is never enough for me, these days. I’ve learnt my lesson, need more great shows like this one. I will definitely be back to watch the next time around, can’t wait.

Kiss me Kate.

Saturday 1st October 2016 and Sunday 2nd October 2016 another weekend at the Millenium Centre for WNO’s production of Kiss me Kate, the third instalment of this seasons operas. This is again a show that I have not seen before, so really looking forward to these two performances.

The main cast consists of Quirijin de Lang playing Fred Graham, Jeni Bern as Lilli Vanessi. Amelia Adams-Pearce playing Lois Lane and Alan Burkitt as Bill Calhoun. With music and lyrics written by Cole Porter this promises to be an epic show.

 And may I say Wow, a brilliant show,great singing,as usual from all the cast, again I couldn’t fault any voice in the whole production, just so brilliant,and a credit to the lyrics of the great Cole Porter,with the cast of the WNO really adding it’s weight to the whole proceedings.

The dance sections were also fabulous,with a stand out tap routine in act two from the exceptional talent of Alan Burkitt, reminding me of his role as Jerry Travers in the uk tour of Top Hat,another one of my favourite musicals.(seeing it many times at the Centre).

The show also has some fabulous comic sidelines to many of the scenes. With the two mafia operatives taking centre stage throughout. With added bonuses from the rest of the cast. Making this a real extravaganza for the whole crowd to appreciate.

Kiss me Kate also has some great Shakespeare dialogue included, as the show is set,on the set of a stage production of ‘Taming of the Shrew’. Mixing Shakespeare and Cole Porter works so well with this timeless classic.

The Welsh National Opera Orchestra were again brilliant, playing this amazing score with ease. They never fail to produce the goods on every occasion I have seen them, and always impress with the quality of their playing capabilities. They have to be one of the best and most consistent orchestras in Britain today.

The WNO are on tour now,but some good news, is that Kiss me Kate will be back at the Centre in early December this year, for a week of shows. I definitely will be back to watch a few of these magnificent performances.