Monthly Archives: November 2016

Billy Elliot (18th performance).

Saturday 26th November 2016. It’s the weekend, and my last visit to the brilliant Billy Elliot the musical, as it ends it’s run in Bristol today. This is another show I’m going to miss, but at least I’ve had the opportunity to watch this amazing musical in two different venues and cities. The cast for this show are just superb, with a great mix of child and adult actors working so well together, to produce such a fantastic production, a totally amazing musical.

So to today’s matinee performance. We have Billy played by Lewis Smallman, Michael by Elliot Stiff, Debbie by Italia Ross, and the role of the small boy played by Nicola Turner.  

What an amazing coincidence, my first show for Billy had Lewis playing the lead, my last show also has Lewis in the title role. And what a performance today. Lewis was again outstanding. This young man seems a lot older than he actually is, he just gets better and better with every show. To literally run this show, on stage for 95 % of the time,it’s hard going, but seems to do it with ease. The ballet scene and electricity were just superb. Also the finale scene, Lewis had so much control of the whole thing, simply brilliant. (As I keep saying at every opportunity). I’m proud to say that I met Lewis and his family in Cardiff, what an amazing young man, I hope his career blossoms in the future, and leads onto some excellent parts in different productions as the years go on.

I must also add that all of the Billy’s I’ve seen, have also been excellent, although I think I’ve seen Lewis (7 shows)  more times than Adam, Matthew or Haydn. And the same goes to these fine young actors as well. Good luck to all of them, in the future.

And yet again another incredible performance from all the other young actors and actresses involved in today’s proceedings. These young stars of the future are just magnificent and get better every time I see them. I know I say this every show, and every show it’s true, the standard of performance from all, is second to none. It’s also great to see that the British theatre scene is so strong at the moment, with some incredible talent everywhere you look. I think that is another reason I see shows so many times. I just can’t get enough. 

So it’s been absolutely fantastic to have the opportunity to see this fabulous show so many times. I love it to bits. So from me I wish every single one of the cast best wishes for the rest of the tour. In the words of Tony ‘knock em dead kiddo’

The Full Monty.

Thursday 24th November 2016, another day off work today, so back at the Millenium Centre in Cardiff Bay, for a matinee performance of The Full Monty. As I’ve never seen the film before, I must admit I’m not sure what to expect today,  still it’s theatre at its best, so I’ll probably love the show, I seem to do that for everything I see.

The cast for today’s show consists of some recognisable faces including Gary Lucy, Kai Owen, Andrew Dunn, Lewis Emerick and Chris Fountain, and a great performance from the young lad playing Nathan (Gaz’s son). Also some great acting from the ensemble, making this a really good show.

I couldn’t stop laughing for most of the show. Really funny throughout, totally enjoyable and a show definitely worth another viewing, if it was here a little bit longer. One week never seems enough.  Added to the funny scenes,  were a few sentimental moments, which really hit home, sometimes producing a little tear. Especially the scenes with Gaz and Nathan, talking about custody battles etc.

The whole cast were simply fabulous, and because of that the show simply raced by, two and a half hours of pure, brilliant, entertainment gone too quickly. That’s another reason to try and see it again next time around. Really surprised me just how good this show actually was, (as I think I may have said before).  The day doesn’t end for me there. Off to Saint Davids Hall to watch the magnificent ‘Shires’ tonight. If they are as good as this show this afternoon, I’m in for a stupendously fabulous day off work.

  The Shires.

Thursday 24th November 2016. After my visit to the Bay for the Full Monty, I’m off to Saint Davids Hall in Cardiff to watch the absolutely brilliant country band, The Shires. Can’t wait to see this band. After watching them support the Corrs earlier in the year, it’s great to see them out on their own as the headline band.

I have to admit that ‘The Shires’ along with ‘Ward Thomas’ are my two favourite musical artists (bands), at the moment. Both of them are producing such amazing music at this time. I just hope this trend continues as the years go on, it’s so good to hear new bands making a massive difference to the style of music being produced, and putting British Country music on the world stage.

So onto tonight’s performance, Firstly we have Canaan Smith, an American country artist, as supporting act for the Shires. And wow this guy was brilliant. Fantastic to hear authentic music live in Cardiff. He sang about 6 songs in his repertoire, for the evening. Great voice and achieved with only two guitars. An appreciative audience of country fans helps as well. I think I would like to hear more of this guy. Maybe a few more visits to Bob Harris country show on Radio 2, just a hint if he’s reading this. 

Moving on to the main reason I’m here tonight, The Shires. And I must say they were absolutely brilliant. An hour and a half went so quickly, I never wanted it to end. The voices of Ben and Chrissy were just immense, belting out loads of songs from both albums. I feel really privileged to be at the hall for this fabulous gig. 

The band were also brilliant, backing up the main guys with ease. The fast songs were punchy and just full of life. Although I must admit to a tear in my eyes for ‘Naked’,  ‘Daddy’s little girl’, and ‘Brave’. Not to mention a brilliant cover of Robbie Williams song ‘Angels’, which I would say, sung it better than Robbie did. I even heard this live on Chris Evans breakfast show, and it was fabulous then.

Singing live is not straightforward, but ‘The Shires’ tonight made it look so easy, with a huge crowd getting behind them, it was probably one of the best gigs I’ve ever seen. Matching the Corrs earlier in the year. And who were the suport band then, only ‘The Shires’. Brilliant just brilliant. Long may this band continue to make superb music, and fantastic albums. 

Billy Elliot (17th performance).

The weekend is here again, it’s Saturday 19th November 2016, and I’m back at Bristol Hippodrome for my 17th performance of the brilliant Billy Elliot. The weekend wouldn’t be complete without at least one show, and even travelling from the Welsh Valleys on match day,(Wales v Japan this afternoon) to Bristol to watch this Magnificent show, makes my whole week worthwhile. This is yet another show I can’t get enough of, I could never get bored watching this musical.

For today’s matinee cast we have Billy played by Haydn May, Michael by Bradley Mayfield, Debbie is played by Lilly Cadwallender, and the role of the Small boy goes to Isobel Chalmers. I have to praise this role, in particular, Isobel was Brilliant today, it’s fabulous to see someone so young play a role in a great musical, that just adds something different to each scene. Another change from Thursday is that Scott Garnham returns as Tony. Again I have to say just how good Haydn is in the role of Billy,(just as Lewis was on Thursday), such a brilliant performance for one so young. Again the acting skills are so good now and getting better with each performance, the dancing, of course, was again superb,as it always is on every show. We got to see ‘Angry Dance’ today, after the problems with the set on Thursday afternoon. I also want to praise all the Michael’s and Debbie’s that have hit the stage, they are all fabulous as well.

Once again this show never fails to impress the audience, and today was no exception. A wonderful performance by all the cast again, as is the case for all of the shows I’ve seen so far. The children playing the main roles get stronger every time I see them. The supporting cast of ballet girls and the other child actors, are also brilliant in everything they do on stage, for such young men and women.

The only problem with visiting Bristol is I can only see the one show per day, travelling back to the valleys after 10.30 pm on the train is pretty awful. Loving Billy Elliot the way I do I want to see it twice every visit. But I will have to make do with one show for now. I’ve seen it 17 times, so I can’t really grumble, well not that much anyway.

Billy Elliot (16th performance).

Thursday 17th November 2016, day off from work, so in Bristol now for a visit to the Hippodrome, for another performance of Billy Elliot. Shows are coming thick and fast at the moment, with the brilliant Mamma Mia finishing it’s run in Cardiff, its Billy’s turn for more viewings. I must admit I love both musicals equally, (which I could say for every show I’ve ever seen), and it’s just fantastic to be able to see these fabulous theatre experiences so close to home.

For today’s matinee performance we have Billy played by Lewis Smallman, Michael by Elliot Stiff, Debbie by Italia Ross, and the role of the Small boy played by Isobelle Chalmers. Also we have a change of actor for the role of Tony, ( normally played by Scott Garnham) is played by Tom Bainbridge. 

As usual the show today was awesome. Lewis Smallman was phenomenal again, (as he always seems to be). I have to say what a brilliant performance, his dancing is just superb, and watching him throughout the last few months, his acting skills and timing are so good, even the little things, waiting to deliver lines after applause and things like that, you’d think he’s been doing this for more years than his young age would otherwise suggest. Even with a long delay for ‘Angry dance’ at the end of act one, (which due to a technical fault, couldn’t be performed), he came back out, at the start of act two and carried on as if nothing had happened. Due to the set malfunction, the show was half hour late finishing, But it was still a magnificent show.

I think the other Billy’s are exceptional as well, but I’ve seen Lewis more times during my visits. The whole cast is just so fabulous, and the mix between the adult and child actors is brilliant, as I think I might have mentioned before. Another show I could never get bored with.

 The standard of U.K. Touring musicals is exceptional, with a lot of the shows just as good as their West End counterparts. Also may I add that the vocal talents of all the casts of the shows I’ve seen recently, have been awesome. The drama schools around Britain must be teaming with fabulously talented people, as they seem to get better every year. Just look at Billy Elliot, most of the cast are school kids, but yet, on stage they are brilliant, learning their craft at such a young age. Being a young star in Billy Elliot, Matilda and Charlie and the chocolate factory,  would lead on to a brilliant career in the theatre industry, or you would hope that, at least.

Mamma Mia (19th performance).

Sunday 13th November 2016, and back at the Millenium Centre in Cardiff Bay, for the final performance of Mamma Mia, before it continues on its Uk tour  later this month. I’ve had a ball watching this amazing musical for the past month. I can’t believe just how much I’ve fallen in love with this production. 

Everything about this musical is perfect. The singing is just magnificent, by all the cast. The dance routines are fabulous and so clean and crisp, the same for every show I’ve seen. The energy of the whole cast is prevalent throughout each performance and just gets better every time. The band in the pit have also been superb, their musical precision on every track, at every show, has been phenomenal. I know I’ve mentioned this in most of my other blogs, but I can’t help it, this is just how I feel about this monumental musical. It’s simply brilliant. In fact if this was running for another month I’d still want to see it another 20 times on top of the shows I’ve seen so far. Just can’t get enough.

The production crew have been amazing also. With lighting, sound ,stage management and all behind the scenes staff, working together to choreograph this whole show. Making it the spectacle of brilliance, the audience appreciate time after time. The scenes just flow into one another with ease. The only problem with that is it goes so quickly. Before you know it  the show is over, so you just want to see it over and over.

In all my blogs so far for Mamma Mia, I think I’ve covered all the major points I want to put over, about this excellent musical. My only regret is that I never had the time to see it more than I did. I think I needed to see this more than 19 times. So let’s hope it tours again in the next five years or so. I can watch it on even more occasions when that happens. 

On to today’s final performance at the Centre,to start off we have Stuart Hickey playing Harry. As I’ve been saying throughout, the vocal talent for this musical is incredible, as every actor has such a good voice. But I have to mention a few cast members who are phenomenal. Firstly Lucy May Barker (Sophie), her voice is just amazing, I would put her on a par with Carrie Hope Fletcher as one of the best voices I’ve heard at the Centre. Every time she sings I get a lump in my throat, and a tear to my eye. Such a fabulous voice.  Secondly to Sara Poyzer and Jenna Lee James for their portrayal of Donna. Both of these singers are incredible, bringing the role to life with such vast vocal ranges, from real belters  (The winner takes it all) to the subtle and sweet tones, such as the brilliant ‘Slipping through my fingers’. And I can’t forget all the other lead roles, as these singers are just brilliant as well.A real pleasure to sit and relish these wonderful singers, live at the best theatre in the world. (Of course I’m talking about the Millenium Centre, as usual). Again another fabulous show and one I will never forget.

Mamma Mia (17th and 18th performances). 

Saturday 12th November 2016, it’s the weekend again and I’m back at the Millenium Centre here in Cardiff Bay for two more performances of the brilliant Mamma Mia musical. Today I’m going to finish talking about my favourite scenes of the show, which is more or less all of them. We ended last time with Sam singing ‘Knowing me, knowing you to Sophie.

The set changes to Donna’s bedroom as she tries to get ready for the wedding. Harry arrives and promptly gives her a cheque to cover the wedding costs,then breaks into a beautiful rendition of ‘Our last summer’,along with Donna,as they reminisce about the past. A lovely scene this is, as it paves the way for my favourite scene of all. As Harry leaves, Sophie enters to show her mum the dress.

This scene has me reduced to tears everytime I watch it. Sophie asks her mum to help her get ready. Donna begins and as the music starts for the introduction to ‘Slipping through my fingers’ I can feel the tears welling up. A truly magnificent piece of theatre then ensues, as Sophie puts on her dress as a tearful Donna watches on. As Sophie leaves she asks her mum to give her away. Such an emotional scene and so beautifully done. As if that wasn’t enough Sam enters and confronts a tearful Donna who puts him in his place with another fantastic rendition of  ‘The winner takes it all’. One amazing scene with three superbly sung Abba songs in its midst. Definitely the best scene of the show.

The final scene (before the finale) takes place at the wedding venue. With Bill and Rosie getting together for a comical routine, as Rosie tries to seduce Bill. Singing ‘Take a chance on me’Mayhem ensues as Bill wants nothing of it, until they share a kiss and the whole scene changes. A change of pace from the cryfest of the scene before. The pair are disturbed as the guests arrive for the wedding.

The wedding scene itself is brilliant as Donna admits she doesn’t know who Sophie’s dad is, Sophie decides to call off the wedding for a while as her three dads admit they would rather have a 3rd of her as a daughter. Another magic moment, and so heartfelt. As the party breaks up Sam calls them all back as he proposes to Donna with the aptly titled song ‘I do,I do,I do’. A really happy ending  to a fabulous musical adventure. The show ends with Sophie and Sky heading off for their adventure to discover the world, with Donna and the three dads seeing them off. Sophie sings a reprise of ‘I have a dream’ before heading off towards a huge impression of the moon at the back of the set. A moving end to a glorious musical.

Of course the show doesn’t end there. We then have the finale as all the ensemble take the stage for three more renditions of Abba classics. We start with a great dance routine to ‘Mamma Mia’ before Donna, Rosie and Tanya enter dressed in brightly coloured 70’s Lycra and platform boots for a brilliant version of ‘Dancing Queen’. Not to be outdone by the girls, Sam, Bill and Harry enter in equally brightly coloured gear and burst into the final song of the show. Another fabulous version of ‘Waterloo’ this time with the whole cast. I have to say I totally enjoyed every last minute of the show, with every scene just perfect.

And finally onto today’s performances, we have Jennifer Harding playing Tanya and Linda Holmgren playing Rosie. Boy were they good in the role. This is the first time I’d seen any of the ensemble playing these roles, and they were excellent, never letting the production down in any way. As I’ve said before, and always will, the ensemble are worth their weight in gold. I always try to mention them in some of my writings, as without them the show would not be a show. Brilliant just brilliant. And as for the show itself, again just amazing, I can’t get enough of this wonderful musical. As I’ve been saying for the last month, definitely one of the very best shows I’ve ever seen.

Mamma Mia (15th and 16th performances).

Thursday 10th November 2016, day off work today, so I’m down at the Millenium Centre here in Cardiff Bay for two more performances of Mamma Mia, before it’s run in Cardiff ends on Sunday. Recently I’ve been talking about my favourite scenes from the show,which if I’m honest, is probably every scene in the whole production. I finished my last blog at the end of act one, so I’ll start today’s with the start of act two.

After the ‘Entr’acte’ the second act opens with a really colourful dream sequence, I really love this opening. We see Sophie suffering from a nightmare to be confronted by her three dads, in full wedding regalia. And the whole ensemble dressed in swimsuits, goggles and brightly coloured long sleeve gloves. Together they sing ‘Under attack’ with a fabulously choreographed dance routine, seemingly trapping Sophie as she tries to escape her worries. At the end of this section, Sophie lurches to the floor and wakes with a scream as Donna enters to see what’s wrong. As Sophie and Donna row about the wedding, Sophie storms off leaving Donna on her own, who then sings ‘One of us’, so beautifully. Sam enters the scene, and as they both argue with each other about the wedding, they burst into song, with a fantastic rendition of ‘SOS. A fabulous start to act two, with three great songs packed into the opening scene. 

As the pair walk off in opposite directions, Tanya and the girls enter the next scene, with Pepper in persuit of Tanya. Another brilliant dance routine ensues, as Tanya sings ‘Does your mother know’ to a love struck Pepper. The dancing from some of the male cast is fabulous, especially Pepper, who must have born with elastic bands as muscles, his routine is just awesome. A funny and breathtaking scene, to lighten the mood before the wedding sequence. 

The next scene is another of my favourites, as Sky and Sophie argue over the fact that she has gone behind Sky’s back to look for her dad. As Sam enters at the end of the row, Sky runs off, leaving a distraught Sophie alone with Sam. As he tries to give her the vast knowledge he has of marriage etc, he sings a brilliant version of ‘Knowing me,knowing you’, to a bewildered Sophie. And I must say great singing by all the male cast in this role. A real treat to listen to and a magnificent start to act two. At this point I’ll leave it there for now, and continue the rest of act two in my next instalment.

So to today’s performances, and as usual very impressive, the performances just get better and better on every occasion. The dancing is still as sharp and crisp as all the other performances I’ve seen. The singing, by all the cast is just superb, as it has been since show number one. I know I say this every time, but I have to admit, it’s just brilliant. This show is quickly moving up my rankings as one of the best shows I’ve seen over the past 4 years. 

Mamma Mia (14th performance).

Sunday 6th November 2016, and another visit to the Centre, here in Cardiff for my 14th performance of the brilliant Mamma Mia. Today is a special day for me as it’s my 100th performance of a show so far this year, and I’ve still got a few more weeks to improve that milestone.

Onto the show, I’m going to continue my appreciation of my favourite scenes of Mamma Mia. Moving on to another comical part of the proceedings with Sky and Sophie. Sky delivers a great rendition of ‘lay all you love on me’, before the rest of the male ensemble hijack the groom for his stag do, with a continuation of the song, dressed in wetsuits, flippers and snorkel. A really comical scene, with some good dance moves from the cast, and excellent singing to go with it.

As the boys move off stage, the girls take their turn, with a star turn from Donna,Rosie and Tanya, as they do a superb number to ‘Super Trooper’ dressed in silver platform boots and white/silver Lycra outfits, reminiscent of 70’s glam rock. Beautifully sung with the help of the female ensemble, who seem to be having so much fun on stage. An absolute fabulous scene.

The final scene of the first act revolves around Sophie, Sam, Bill and Harry. As they enter the girls do, Sophie asks them to stay, with the ensemble entertaining the men with another fabulous rendition of ‘Gimme,gimme,gimme’, some really crisp dance moves and great vocal range. During this section Sophie, approaches Sam then Harry to find out who could be her dad, until she meets Bill, who realises he may be her dad. The music changes and Sophie sings the beautiful ‘Name of the game’ to Bill. Who later joins in when he says he maybe her dad. As the rest of the ensemble join the festivities, the first act ends with Sam and Harry realising they could be her dad as well, leaving Sophie with a huge quandary of what to do next. The scene ends with a bewildered Sophie in the middle of the whole cast, as they finish with ‘Voulez vous’. Another brilliant,sharp and crisp dance routine, with fabulous vocal talents from all he cast. A superb end to a magnificent first act, that really gets you in the mood for act two. I’m going to leave it there for today and continue my appraisal on my next blog.

So onto today’s show and I didn’t think it could get any better, boy was I mistaken, yet another fabulously brilliant performance by all the cast. Just awesome yet again. This musical and this cast amaze me every time, it just gets better and better. Can’t wait to see this show again, before it leaves Cardiff next weekend.

Mamma Mia (12th and 13th performances).

Saturday 5th November 2016, in Cardiff at the Millenium Centre for another two performances of the totally fabulous Mamma Mia. I can’t believe Just how much I’ve fallen for this show, I’m getting withdrawal symptoms already, and my last show was only on Thursday evening. What a difference now,to my younger days, when I didn’t really like the music of Abba. This musical has changed all that forever.

Today I’d like to talk about some of my favourite scenes in the show. This may take a while, as there are so many. The first scene sets out the theme, as Sophie posts her letters to her prospective dads, and sings a few lines of ‘I have a dream’ so beautifully, before her friends and bridesmaids (Lisa and Ali) crash through the doors. As Sophie tells them what she’s done, reading from her mums diary, they all break into song (Honey Honey) with a wonderfully funny routine, setting everything up nicely for the rest of the show. 

The next scene sees the arrival of Rosie, Tanya and Donna along with Sky, Pepper and Eddie. As they introduce each other we have a fabulous routine with Money Money Money, as the whole ensemble get involved with an imaginative set and a great rendition of the song by Donna (Sara Poyzer) and the cast. Brilliant to watch,so slick and well put together.

Moving onto the next scene, Sam,Bill and Harry enter, as they meet Sophie for the first time. This is when we really get to hear the amazingly beautiful voice of Sophie, (Lucy May Barker), along with Harry, Bill and eventually Sam, as they sing ‘Thank you for the music’. I love this scene,it’s so beautiful to listen to. This moves nicely to another funny scene when Donna meets Sam, Bill and Harry, her mortified look is brilliant, as she realises Sophie’s dads have turned up for the wedding. Donna belts out a great version of ‘Mamma Mia’, with the help of some strategically placed ensemble members, backing her on the chorus.

One of the funniest scenes of the first act is up next with Rosie and Tanya settling into their room, when Donna bursts in, horrified at what just happened. A fabulous comic scene as Rosie, Tanya and latter Donna sing another two superb renditions of ‘Chiquita’ and ‘Dancing Queen’. A really well put together, funny, extravagant scene, and yet another one of my favourite parts to the show. What am I talking about, I love every scene. So I’ll leave it there for a while and carry on from there on my next instalment.

Just a quick word on today’s two shows, before I go. Again both were totally amazing, just can’t get enough of this brilliant musical.  Just magnificent.