Monthly Archives: December 2016

Mary Poppins (12th performance).

Saturday 31st December 2016, and another visit to the Millenium Centre in Cardiff Bay, for my twelfth performance of the Outstanding Mary Poppins musical. A special treat on every occasion I’ve visited, just because it’s so good.

For today’s performance we have Lottie Sicilia playing Jane Banks with Regan Garcia as Michael Banks. Grainne Renihan returns as the Bird Woman. 

I’ve recently talked about the songs and choreography for the show. I think I need to mention just how good the set and the lighting is. Being a little bit technically minded, it’s nice to give this a mention, especially for this show as the set is probably the best I’ve seen for a touring production. I will start with act one today and move onto act two on my next visit.

As soon as you walk into the auditorium you get that ‘this looks  good’ feeling, as the stage resembles a nightime rooftop scene. From the opening the stage looks eerie and misty before opening out to reveal the Banks house, which moves into the front of stage, opening up like a dolls house to reveal the inner living quarters. A really imaginative design, that also includes the study area coming from side stage.  This is used at various times throughout the show, as we move between scenes. The house also revolves to reveal the kitchen which has a massive effect on the audience during the ‘Spoonfull of sugar’ scene.  We also have the children’s bedroom, where quite a bit of magic goes on. Again so brilliantly done, as things keep happening to keep the audience enthralled.

The park scenes are so bright and colourful for ‘Jolly Holiday’, with the set transforming from a drab park to an enormous flowery, brightly lit, almost cartoon scene. Use of coloured lighting strategically placed along with the onstage cast appearing in vividly coloured outfits really add a massive edge to the whole scene. At the end of the song the stage changes back so quickly to a drab park.  The use of sliding screenes is particularly prevalent throughout, which help the transition process, to achieve the required effect. Really impressed at the speed and precision of the change, which is a major factor in making this all work.

The Bank scenes are quite impressive as well, the design of the back screen is brilliant,so simple, but extremely effective, reminding the audience of the old fashioned, high ceilinged buildings of Londons architecture. Even the outside scene for ‘Feed the birds’, another simple screen, but so well designed to resemble the steps of St Paul’s, at the turn of the last century.

The scene for ‘Supercalifragilistic’ is again so simple, with a small brightly coloured Shop with folding sides. Yet it works so well with the bright colours of the costumes, effective lighting plus a brilliant musical extravaganza, make this an unforgettable scene.

Some of the show is centred on the roof of the Banks House. Another fabulous creation, with people appearing from the chimney. The back screen is also well designed to look like many rooftops alongside. Beautifully done and works so well. A fabulous first Act, just perfect. 

A quick word About today’s show, absolutely brilliant again, all the cast were just amazing. Mary Poppins has to be one of the best shows I’ve ever seen, a phenomenal success, which I really can’t wait to see again.

Mary Poppins (10th and 11th performances).

Friday 30th December 2016, once more at the Millenium Centre in Cardiff Bay, for two more performances of Mary Poppins. It seems like only yesterday I was in the Centre watching this fabulous musical. Just can’t seem to stop watching it this week. Being off work helps.

Another milestone happens at this evenings show, as it will be my 250th performance of a show in the Millenium Centre. 

For today’s matinee we have Lottie Sicilia playing Jane Banks and Regan Garcia as Michael Banks. Another change sees Sophie Caton taking on the role of the Bird Woman. The evening performance has Maia West as Jane Banks and Cameron Lant as Michael Banks. Sophie Caton continues as the Bird Woman. 

Today I’m continuing my conversation on the choreography for the show, carrying on with act two. It’s not until the ‘lets go fly a kite’ scene that we see some choreographed dance sequences, a few ballet moves, so sweetly done as some of the ensemble create delicate postures as the kites fly on stage.  Very relaxing to watch after the hectic start to the act.

As the musical moves on and Mary (Zizi Strallen) meets Miss Andrew, she seems to glide around the stage, hexing Miss Andrew, forcing her to leave very unceremoniously. The movement of Zizi, as from my last blog, seemed to be more dance related than just walking around the stage, which I think is just fabulous, and so pleasing to view.

One of my favourite scenes, has to be ‘Step in time’, an amazing tap routine with most of the ensemble dressed as chimney sweeps, along with Mary, Bert and the children. Breathtakingly stunning to watch and also a great score to keep it moving along. Bert (Matt Lee) takes centre stage with a neat little dance and tap routine, before taking to the whole stage frame for another tap sequence, how he can tap and sing upside down is beyond me, but it is just brilliant to watch. Mary and the children play their part to perfection, with a few tap routines themselves, thrown in for good measure.

One more amazing choreographed dance before the finale, with ‘Anything can happen’. The stage is filled with magical coloured stars, which look stunningly beautiful. The whole cast descend on stage, with members of the ensemble carrying long poles with star light at the end, making everything seem heavenly. This scene is again perfect and really does take your breath away, with some fabulous rhythmic dance steps intermingled with the wow factor. Another one of my favourite scenes.

The finale to the show is a re run of ‘Supercalifragilistic’, this time performed by the whole cast. Which I have to say is choreographed superbly. Every member of the cast is totally in step with each other throughout, even when the song speeds up at the end. As you watch around the whole stage, it’s mesmerising to see just how precise everyone is, which is a credit to the company and choreographers for this show.

I have been so impressed with the standard of dance throughout the performances I’ve seen. Whoever plays any part on stage is just magnificent. Another brilliant achievement for such a wonderful show.

Today’s matinee performance was once again brilliant, a masterpiece, even with the unforeseen ending, it didn’t detract from the main show. As Mary herself says, ‘Anything Can Happen’.  The evening performance was also perfect, a real joy to watch. Can’t wait to see it again. 

Mary Poppins (9th performance).

Thursday 29th December 2016, and I’m back at the Millenium Centre in Cardiff Bay, for my 9th performance of this very impressive musical, Mary Poppins. 

For today’s evening show we have Maia West as Jane Banks with Cameron Lant playing Michael Banks. Also a change to the adult cast as the Bird woman is played by Claire Parrish.

Today I wish to talk about the choreography for the show, which is brilliant. Mary Poppins is choreographed by Matthew Bourne along with Stephen Mear, which gives this production an edge, before it even starts. Having packed the show with great dancers in the ensemble, with Zizi Strallen and Matt Lee as your main characters, this makes the job a lot easier. The routines come thick and fast, with contributions from all. I would like to mention the children in the cast, who are absolutely fabulous, and keep up with the adult actors when required to do so (really impressive for their young ages). 

I’ll start with act one today and move onto act two on my next visit. The first scene I’d like to mention is ‘Practically Perfect’. With Zizi and the two children. Such precision in the way she moves around the stage, interacting with Jane and Michael. With gentle spins and steps,the scene just looks so natural. That’s the beauty of it, it’s so simple, but really hits home how effective it can be, to the audience.

We move onto the first major group dance, with ‘Jolly Holiday’, a really bright and breezy scene full of colour and great dance routines. Zizi and Matt take centre stage with the children, and other cast members, blending in as statues in the park. Beautifully danced throughout, so gracefull and effortless, bringing the whole scene to life, So impressive.

With ‘A spoonful of sugar’, we have another simple, yet effective scene, mostly from Zizi, as again she seems to glide around the stage, fixing all in her path, adding that little sparkle to everything.  It’s so subtle and beautifully done, without seeming to do anything at all. For me that’s pure genius, and really does work.

The next major scene is, of course, ‘Supercalifragilistic. And may I say Wow, superb. Again so precise, it’s  so good to watch. This is where the ensemble come into their own, with Zizi, Matt and the very impressive child actors, conjuring up a fast and furiously entertaining sequence, and so incredible to watch, with all the cast literary step for step throughout. One of the best choreographed scenes during the whole show.

The final choreographed scene in act one is ‘Playing the game’, with the ensemble dressed as the children’s toys. Another imaginative section of the show, well put together, with Zizi and the children at the heart of it. So much happening in this part, you need to see it a few times to appreciate the effect it has. You can’t watch everything on stage in one showing. That’s another reason I tend to watch shows many times over.

Another fabulous, feel good show again tonight, could watch it over and over again, as usual.

Mary Poppins (7th and 8th performances).

Wednesday 28th December 2016, back at the Millenium Centre in Cardiff Bay, for two more performances of the brilliant Mary Poppins. This afternoons show is another milestone for me, as it’s my 100th performance of a show, at the Centre, this year.

For today’s matinee we have Verity Biggs playing Jane Banks and Lewis Furnee as Michael Banks. The evening performance has Violet Tucker as Jane Banks with Finley Miller as Michael Banks. Both sets of children were quite amazing today. Just so good in everything they did, another real treat to watch.

Today I’m going to continue talking about the songs in the show, focusing on act two. As act two begins we see the Banks family getting ready for another nanny, with a reprise of ‘Cherry tree lane’, before the entrance of Miss Andrew (Penelope Woodman), with’Brimstone and Treacle’, really well sung by Penelope, who has a tremendous operatic voice, totally suited to the part, a real treat to listen to her sing.

As the children run away from the dreaded Miss Andrew, they bump into Bert in the park, where another iconic song begins. ‘Lets go fly a kite’, is again beautifully sung, by the cast, bringing another small tear to my eyes. At the end of the song we find Mary Poppins returns,holding a floating kite. We are then treated to another beautiful song, ‘Being Mrs Banks’, sung to absolute perfection by Rebecca Lock, another cast member with an amazing voice to her repertoire, again another treat to savour in this excellent production.

Back at the house Mary meets up with Miss Andrew, duetting to a reprise of ‘Brimstone and Treacle’, as usual superbly sung by both, another treat to listen to.  As Miss Andrew leaves, Mary and the Children sing ‘Practically Perfect’, before heading up to the roof to meet Burt, now a chimney sweep. They perform another brilliant song ‘Step in Time’. The music is played magnificently by the orchestra,as the ensemble, Burt, Mary and the children sing this beautiful song. This is another of my favourites, and sung so well, brings tears to my eyes, again. So much goes on during this song, fabulous singing and amazing dance routines throughout, making this such a wonderful scene to watch and listen to.

As the end of the show approaches, the company come together for ‘Anything can happen’, another stunning scene, with so many amazing voices happening all at once, beautiful to hear. As the show ends with Mary flying off into the distance the company come together for the finale, and another fabulous rendition of ‘Supercalifragalisic’, finishes  the show, to wild applause from an extremely contented audience.

Zizi Strallen is just magnificent as Mary, as I’ve been saying since show number one. Also Matt Lee as Burt is just so good, a great voice ,lots of fun and a great dancer to add to his all his other attributes.

One other voice we only hear fleetingly is that of Mr Banks played by Neil Roberts. I thought he had an excellent singing voice and would have liked to hear more throughout the show. What we did hear was another treat, singing his part wonderfully, with ‘precision and order’,’A man has dreams’ and ‘Good for nothing’.

Today’s performances were of the highest quality, as usual, just want to see every show possible before it’s run ends in Cardiff.

Mary Poppins (5th and 6th performances).

Tuesday 27th December 2016, after the Christmas break I’m back at the Centre here in Cardiff Bay, for two more performances of the brilliant Mary Poppins. Another show I could watch time after time and never get bored with, it’s just perfect.

For today’s matinee we have Verity Biggs playing Jane Banks and Lewis Furnee as Michael Banks. For the evening performance Violet Tucker is Jane Banks and Finley Miller plays Michael Banks. Again both pairs are absolutely excellent in their respective roles.

Today I’d like to talk about the songs in the show. I’ll start with act one today and move onto act two on my next visit. As the orchestra begins we have a medley of songs sung by Bert with the Banks family and servants. A great start to the show getting you in the mood for proceedings to come.  As we meet Mary, the first song we hear from the brilliant Zizi Strallen is ‘Practically Perfect’,beautifully sung with the help of the Banks children. Zizi has such an amazing voice, probably the best I’ve heard in all the recordings of this musical.

As the show moves on we get to the brilliant park scene and ‘Jolly Holiday (with Mary)’. With the help of the ensemble, this scene is brought to life, with fabulous singing and dancing throughout. Beautiful voices soar through this wonderful auditorium, to rapturous applause as the scene ends.

Zizi carries on with her absolutely magnificent voice in ‘A spoonful of sugar’,with help from the children and servants, and also the superb voice of Rebecca Lock (Mrs Banks), at the end of the scene. Another iconic song, sung perfectly by all, to huge appreciation from a packed audience. Moving onto ‘Precision and order’, sung by the ensemble, again in great voice, as the ensemble have done, during the whole show.

Then onto one of my favourite songs, that usually brings a tear to my eyes. ‘Feed the birds’, with the fabulous Grainne Renihan and Zizi Strallen. Both of them have tremendous voices, and sing this piece better than I’ve ever heard before. How they manage not to shed a tear themselves, at the sheer beauty of this song is beyond  my comprehension. So beautifully sung.

Nearing the end of act one, comes another iconic tune. ‘Supercalifragistic’, sung by most of the cast, is just so brilliant.The whole production of this song is amazing, with fabulous singing from all, and a magnificently choreographed set to go with it, Sheer joy.  Moving swiftly to ‘Playing the game’, where all the toys come to life to make the children treat them better. Another brilliant scene, with such good choreography and wonderful singing by some of the ensemble,it takes us nicely to end of act one,when Burt (Matt Lee) gives us a great taste of ‘Chim chim Cher-ee’, as Mary Poppins flies off stage, so ending act one. 

An amazing first act, with brilliant singing from all the cast, to some fine, iconic songs, that most people know and love. Songs from act two on my next visit. Both shows today were absolutely fabulous, as usual.

Mary Poppins (4th performance).

Saturday 24th December 2016, Christmas Eve and back at the Millenium Centre for my fourth performance of Mary Poppins. After another long week in work, I’m so looking forward to this musical again, as it’s just brilliant. 

For today’s show we have Lottie Sicilia playing Jane Banks and   Regan Garcia as Michael Banks. May I say that all the children I’ve seen, (three separate sets of these young actors) have all been absolutely brilliant. The talent we have in British theatre, at the moment is incredible, (as I’ve been saying for ages), and looking good for the years to come. 

Again today the show was just fantastic. Zizi Strallen is better than perfect as Mary,working comfortably with Matt Lee, as Bert. So many excellent performances by all the cast, as they have been in all the shows I’ve seen so far.

A shorter blog today as it’s Christmas, but I’m back at the Centre for more of the same after Xmas, so I’ll go into a bit more detail of the show at my next visit.  

Mary Poppins (3rd performance).

Sunday 18th December 2016. Today I’m back at the wonderful Millenium Centre in Cardiff Bay for another performance of Mary Poppins. After yesterday’s superb shows I can’t wait to see today’s instalment. Watching these shows so many times, I get the opportunity to view each of them from a different vantage point. Yesterday for instance I had front/middle and front left side of the upper circle. Today I have a totally different position, as I’m in balcony d (side of the circle). The opposite side to yesterday, so I get to watch from a different angle. The view changes every time, that’s why I continue to watch so many of the same show, I get a totally new aspect each time, which makes each performance special for me.

Moving on to today’s matinee performance, with a few cast changes, mainly to the roles of Jane and Michael. Violet Tucker is Jane with Finley Miller as Michael.

After two days of viewing this musical, I’ve fallen in love with it already. Fabulous singing and dancing. Magical special effects,(so difficult to achieve on a live theatre show, without looking cheap and nasty), that are so good and work so brilliantly as the show moves on. Not to mention the fantastic set, flowing seamlessly from scene to scene.

I always try to mention the ensemble and the mini orchestra settled in the pit throughout. Without these amazingly talented people, the show would never get off the ground. As I’ve always said, these guys and girls, don’t get a lot of publicity, but they should,as they are brilliant, just adding so much to the show. Today’s ensemble cast are superb, with their group dances and harmonies, combining with the principals to make each show so special to all who view it. Then we have the mini orchestra (don’t like’band’ it doesn’t sound right for this show), working away feverishly in the pit, bringing the music alive, in their inimitable way. Keep the excellent work you do going, because I will always champion this part of the cast for every show I get to see.

Another truly fabulous show, sitting on the balcony opposite and watching the light show at the end and looking across at Zizi as she flies was breathtaking. The chance to watch that from so many different positions is just worth it everytime. Again everyone in the show was superb. A fabulous way to enjoy a chilly Sunday afternoon, can’t wait to come back for more.

Mary Poppins (1st and 2nd performances).

Saturday 17th December 2016, after a long week in work I’m finally back at the Millenium Centre here in Cardiff Bay, for a couple of performances of Mary Poppins. Been so looking forward to seeing this production, I’ve heard so many brilliant reviews. This is another show I have never seen before, the last time I saw the film version was probably 20 years ago, so you could say this is new for me. So let’s see what I think about this show.

Oh my god, what a totally fabulous show, I have no idea where to start. Lucky I’m seeing it a few times. So much to talk about. The cast comes first, I think. And what a cast. Zizi Strallen is just magnificent as Mary Poppins, her voice is superb, her dancing skills are superb, she just looks like a Mary Poppins should look like. Burt is played expertly by Matt Lee, who again, is just brilliant, so charismatic and full of charm. And a great dancer to go with it.

The Banks family, again fabulously played by Neil Roberts as mr Banks with Rebecca Lock as mrs Banks. Rebecca has such a beautiful voice, it’s pleasure to sit and listen to her and Zizi singing to a huge crowd at this amazing theatre. The children were excellent with Violet Tucker playing Jane Banks and Finley Miller playing Michael Banks,(for the matinee), and Verity Biggs as Jane with Lewis Fernee as Michael, (for the evening performance). 

Moving to the servants with mrs Brill played wonderfully by a fabulous actress in Wendy Ferguson and Robertson played by Blair Anderson. Two other voices of brilliance come to mind, that of the Bird Woman played by Grainne Renihan and miss Andrew by Penelope Woodman, just magnificent. As all the voices are for the whole show.

The set was probably the best I’ve seen for a musical, so much going on all the time, so colourful and spectacular, adding so much to the brilliance of the whole production. As I said earlier, so much to talk about, and for me, many shows to come, to split up the different aspects of this wonderful musical.

In all, a brilliant musical extravaganza, full of everything you could ever want on a theatre stage. Honestly cannot wait to see this again, So so good.

Kiss me Kate (3rd performance).

Saturday 10th December 2016. So glad to be back at the Millenium Centre here in Cardiff Bay. I have the opportunity to watch the Brilliant WNO perform Kiss me Kate. This will be my third instalment of this fabulous production, and just cannot wait to get back into this most amazing theatre, after two whole weeks, without a show at the Centre. Tonight is another milestone for me, as it’s my 300th performance of a show, at all venues, over the past 4 years. My next is to reach 100 performances at the Millenium Centre in a calendar year, tonight is number 93, so fingers crossed I can reach that figure before new year comes along.

On with tonight’s show. Looking at the cast we have a similar line up as of the last show here. The brilliant Alan Burkitt, (Jerry Travers in Top Hat), is back as Bill Calhoun. Along with Quirjin De Lang and Jeni Bern as Fred Graham  and Lilli Vanessi. Amelia Adams-Pearce plays Lois lane. Great to see all the cast back for its final performance of this show at the Centre, with the brilliant Welsh National Opera Orchestra supplying a fabulous musical treat throughout. 

I must say I thouroughly enjoyed watching this again. Great songs, written by Cole Porter, fabulous comedy throughout both acts, some amazing vocal talent on show,(as you would expect from the WNO). a superb tap routine from Alan Burkitt and another brilliant dance section for ‘Too darn hot’ from most of the cast. It’s nice to be back with such a magnificent, feel good extravaganza of a show, making me realise why I love the theatre so much. Two weeks away is too long, so really looking forward to a nice long run over xmas, with Mary Poppins as the main viewing spectacle.