Shrek the musical.

Saturday 14th April 2018, back at the Millennium Centre in Cardiff Bay on this glorious sunny day (finally), for a performance of the utterly brilliant ‘Shrek the Musical’. Tonight’s show will actually be my 18th in all, over two tours, with a new cast to go with it. This happens to be one of my favourite musicals, although I love everything I see, but there are a few that stand out for making me feel so good about myself, this is one of them. It’s so funny with fabulous songs, you walk out of the theatre with a huge smile and feeling contentment throughout your whole self (if that makes sense to anyone but me).

The cast for today’s show consists of Michael Carolan as Shrek, with Laura Main as Princess Fiona, Samuel Holmes as Farquaad, Marcus Ayton playing Donkey and Joseph Dockree as Pinocchio. I must say the voice of the Dragon (Lucinda Shaw) was absolutely outstanding, as Candace was on the last tour. If I’m honest all the cast were again just brilliant,as usual. Another surprise was just how good was the voice of Laura Main, having watched call the midwife for so many years, I never realised she could sing, but was I really proved wrong with an excellent performance tonight.

Another favourite role in this show tonight would be that of Lord Farquaad (Samuel Holmes), he is hilarious, with great songs and quirky dance routines to aid him and his ensemble in supplying the big laughs throughout the show. Talking of the ensemble, who I mention on every occasion I can, were superb again, they perform every day with such precision and rarely get a mention, so it’s up to me to sing their praises.

On my birthday weekend I’ve had such a great day, watching one of my favourite musicals along with my son (Andy) his Girlfriend (Hannah) and my Mum (Hilary).

Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella.

Saturday 7th April 2018, and after a really difficult week in work, I’m back at the Millennium Centre in Cardiff Bay for two performances of Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella. Another milestone for me this weekend, is tonight’s show will be my 450th performance of a show. For the record I’ve only seen 161 shows, but seen those 450 times (365 of those at the Centre), so another special day today.

For today’s matinee Cordelia Braithwaite will be playing the role of Cinderella, a beautiful dancer with so much grace and elegance, throw in the brilliant Liam Mower as the Angel and Dominic North playing the Pilot and you have the perfect trio for such a fabulous performance. Again the whole Ensemble just blew me away, the dancing was just impeccable, combining fabulously with the Prokofiev music at the heart of the show.

For the evening show (my 450th) we have Ashley Shaw as Cinderella, Andrew Monaghan as the pilot with Paris Fitzpatrick as the Angel. Once again the dancing from Ashley is spectacular (as with Cordelia in the matinee), enormously impressed with both leading ladies. The standard of dance from both shows was outstanding, and a fabulous opportunity to watch them today, before they head off to Liverpool.

The set, lighting and sound effects were excellent, probably Matthew’s greatest Ballet to date, so moving, and bringing a classic up to date with a Second World War theme was a stroke of genius, that only he could possibly get away with. I also love the costumes for this production, just adds that 1940’s hit of reality to this show.This really perked up a bad few days for me, bringing my Saturday to an amazing end.

Strangers on a Train.

Saturday 31st March 2018, another long weekend again, so I’m back in Cardiff for a performance of ‘Strangers on a Train’ at the New Theatre. The classic film version was based on the novel by Patricia Highsmith and directed by the great Alfred Hitchcock. Having once again not watched the film in question, the stage play will be my first foray into this adaptation of the story.

Tonight’s cast has quite a few recognisable faces in its midst, including Jack Ashton (Call the Midwife), John Middleton (Emmerdale), along with Chris Harper and Hannah Tointon. Chris plays the role of Charles Bruno with an eccentricity, making him look like a total nutcase, intent on keeping promises made on a train journey in past times. The plot is fast paced, keeping everyone on the edge, wondering what’s going to happen next.

The set is designed brilliantly, with opening sections to both floors, bringing the action to life, in various guises, as the plot moves on. Very impressive use of space. I was also fascinated with how the second act unfolded with Charles getting drunker and madder, also Guy (Jack Ashton) getting more tormented as the act unfolds. Great acting by both. Although I have to point out that I was impressed with all the acting from all. It was nice to watch a play for a change, don’t get to watch many.

Today has been an extra treat for me, loads of walking around the Bay and the City followed by a wonderful play to round off a superb day.

Spamalot.

Saturday 24th March 2018, another fabulous day in the Bay, and a chance to watch two performances of ‘Spamalot’ at the Millennium Centre, another new show to add to my growing collection. It’s fabulous to have such a wonderful theatre so close to home, capable to hosting any show the theatrical world can throw at it, I still consider myself so lucky to be able to watch these superb shows in the City I love so much.

For this run in Cardiff we have the legendary Wynne Evans as Sir Galahad, a real treat to see him in action on the big stage, and at the Centre to go with it. The show itself is typical Monty Python, very silly but great fun, with some excellent singing voices on show. Sarah Harlington as ‘The Lady of the Lake’ has a fabulous voice, very impressive. Although as usual, on every show I’ve seen, all the cast sing brilliantly, another reminder of the tremendous depth of talent we have around the UK at the moment.

The music and songs in the show are uplifting, funny and silly all at the same time, a great credit to its writers, giving the audience something to laugh at, at every opportunity, with quite a few modern day references thrown in for good measure. One song stands out, that we can all take heart from, ‘Always look on the bright side of life’ has a fabulous straightforward lyrical presence, which I myself would love to be able to follow, as I stumble blindly through life.

I have to say how thoroughly enjoyable this musical was to watch, very funny with some great singing, which made me extremely bright and cheerful on my drive home.

The Sleeping Beauty (Birmingham Royal Ballet).

Saturday 17th March 2018, after a week off watching rugby, I’m back at the Millennium Centre in Cardiff Bay for two performances of the Birmingham Royal Ballet production of ‘The Sleeping Beauty’. Having not had the opportunity to watch much Ballet over the last few years, today comes as an added bonus to my theatre culture, so really looking forward to this show. It’s a different experience to watch a Ballet, with stunning music (today’s written by Tchaikovsky) and dancing so graceful and effortless (or so it would seem) it just takes you into a different world, relaxing everything your body puts up against you throughout your working week, it’s the perfect de-stresser.

I have to commend the layout of this Ballet, with magnificent costumes and a lavish set to add to the superb dancing on show. The attention to detail is fabulous, with superb pointe work set against some fascinating dance steps. For the matinee Yvette Knight plays the role of Princess Aurora, with Maureya Lebowitz for the evening, their performances are just incredible with such poise and balance throughout. I’ve never seen anyone balance en pointe for so long in various parts of the Ballet, that was something to savour. In fact the whole cast are just superb, elegant, precise and a total joy to watch.

The Orchestra of the Birmingham Royal Ballet are another brilliant facet of this company. The music is played to perfection, giving the dancers plenty of scope to perform, with perfect timing throughout. I am so impressed with this company, everything they have done today has been outstanding, and watching it twice in the same day has been so beneficial to understanding just how technically perfect these dancers and musicians have to be. Another superb day at the Centre, well worth watching twice, and an amazing experience to see a classic Ballet performed to this standard.

Brendan Cole – All Night Long.

Sunday 4th March 2018, another day in Cardiff Bay (weather problems again), and an unexpected treat tonight, with a visit to the Millenium Centre to watch Brendan Cole and his show ‘All night long’. So I get to watch one more in my mini break, which moves into day five. A really beautiful day today as well, with all that snow melting, well in Cardiff anyway.

Wow, what a superb selection of brilliant dancing from eight individuals. Brendan and his team are excellent, the speed, the teamwork and syncing together is just amazing, add that to the excellent band live on stage along with two fabulous singers in Iain and Jenna, and you have an absolutely gorgeous evening entertainment. The highlight being a Rhumba to gasp over, Jenna sang fields of gold so beautifully alongside Brendan and Faye dancing to perfection, I cried from the sheer beauty of it all, I’ll never forget that moment.

The whole night was just superb, I defy anyone to come out of that auditorium without a smirk plastered all over their faces. Brendan’s best show to date, although I must admit I’ve loved everything he’s done so far. The quality of singing, dancing musical choices just blew me away. One of the best nights I’ve ever had at a dance show, just wish it longer, went way to quickly. Look forward to next years show.

Sunset Boulevard.

Saturday 3rd March 2018, day four of my planned showfest, the last two days though have been pretty harrowing, with all shows in Cardiff cancelled due to this extreme weather hitting the UK pretty hard. Today we have some thawing finally so I get to go to the Millenium Centre to watch two productions of ‘Sunset Boulevard’The reviews for this musical read well, but to be in that auditorium listening to it live was worth the wait. I’ve always wanted to watch it since I heard the Glenn Close cd version, and if I dare say it, this was better. Danny Mac as Joe Gillis is superb and has a great voice for the part. Molly Lynch (Betty) is another with a great voice, so impressed with both. Then you add Ria Jones as Norma Desmond alongside Adam Pearce as Max. The voices again are stunning, Adam has got max down to a tee, stunning vocals, and a huge range to his singing talents, then we come to Ria Jones, and let me just say, the best Norma Desmond I’ve ever heard, (I’ve heard a few people sing her on cd), the sheer quality, every time she sang I cried with joy, and the best bit is I get to cry all over again in tonight’s instalment.

May I also mention the Ensemble cast, yet again these guys were exceptional in everything they set out to do, fabulous voices in their sets as well. I always stake a claim for the Ensemble, they are the just brilliant. As were the Orchestra in the pit, playing this wonderful Andrew Lloyd Webber music to perfection. Once again these two sets of players are superb, I’ve yet to hear anything bad from any touring company, everyone seems to be on top of their game, on every performance, and show I’ve seen over the last five years or so.

Two stunning performances from the cast today, makes my mini break worthwhile, although not quite how I’d planned it, but, as they say, there’s nothing you can do about the weather,it’s an uncontrollable factor, that we have to bare, see I knew counselling Would work for me in the long run.

Wicked (number 26 and 27).

Wednesday 28th February 2018, (day one), my mini break begins with a trip To Bristol Hippodrome for two performances of the superb musical ‘Wicked’. This will be my last visit to this show here, until it’s arrival in Cardiff throughout November, so I’m making the most of it today. With the rest of the week off work I’m on a musicals short holiday (weather permitting) between Bristol and Cardiff over the next four days. Bristol is bathed in sunshine, but it’s freezing to go with it, lots of hot coffee and Costa’s to come.

For both the Matinee and Evening shows we have Amy Ross playing Elphaba with Helen Woolf as Glinda. I have yet to mention the role of Nessarose, played beautifully by Emily Shaw, who has a great singing voice, fitting into the role perfectly, and a real joy to watch. It’s a shame the character doesn’t have a bigger part, I think that’s the only thing I would change in this fabulous musical.

Yet again both performances were superb, the bond between the characters keep growing and getting better with every performance. Amy and Helen are just brilliant together, add in Aaron as Fiyaro, and you get a wonderful mix. All the cast are exceptional making this an absolutely stunning affair, one that I cannot stop watching.

The set, lighting and costumes are so bright and cheerful, adding a huge amount to the brilliance the show produces. With its superb music, played to perfection by the musicians in the pit, the all round quality just impresses enormously, just can’t get enough of it at the moment. So looking forward to November when I can see this wonderful musical again.

Don Giovanni (WNO).

Saturday 24th February 2018, another glorious but cold weekend in prospect, so after my walk around Cardiff Bay for a few hours, I’m back at the Millenium Centre for the final show of this seasons Opera’s before the WNO start their tour around various theatres in the UK. Today’s final offering is ‘Don Giovanni’, written by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

For today’s show we have a few new faces, well new to me. Emily Birsan plays Anna with Gavan Ring as Don Giovanni, Katie Bray as Zerlina, all making their debuts with WNO. Also the return of Elizabeth Watts to the scene as Elvira, with her stunning voice ringing out over this impressive auditorium, and David Stout as Laporello. Although I have to say that all the principles are just tremendous, with such fabulous voices.

When you add in the magnificence of the WNO Orchestra and the incredible set for the show, then you have a brilliant end of season extravaganza. This season has been immense, with three stunning Opera’s, culminating in such a wonderful experience that will last for a lifetime, a real pleasure to have had the chance to watch such brilliant productions.

Tosca (2nd performance).

Wednesday 21st February 2018 and an unexpected bonus tonight, with a chance to watch another performance of Tosca from the Welsh National Opera company, at the Millenium Centre in Cardiff Bay.

Another surprise tonight was a cast change from my last visit to this Opera with the brilliant Mary Elizabeth Williams playing Tosca, sharing the role with the equally brilliant Claire Rutter. Having only seen Mary last weekend in another opera, (La Forza Del Destino). Her voice is just as perfect as ever with one aria in act two bringing tears of joy, as she sang through it. Along with Hector Sandoval as Cavaradossi and Mark S Doss as Scarpia, the three of them made this Opera so beautiful to listen to.

So again today, I’ve managed to see two fabulous shows in two different cities, as I’ve achieved on the past three Wednesday’s off work. What a superb way of spending my weekday off work, couldn’t hope for much more than that.