Reviewed by Emily March
29th October 2019
Reviewer Rating: ★★★★

9to5 the Musical, based on the 80’s movie starring Dolly Parton burst into the Wales Millennium Centre last night. With it’s colourful set, shocking storyline and larger than life characters, I was intrigued to see how the show was transfer to the stage.

The cast was lead by three talented women; Caroline Sheen, Amber Davies and Georgina Castle, who played Violet, Judy and Doralee respectively. Each actress brought so much heart and humour to their character and it was great to see three female leads. Their onstage chemistry was genuine and believable which made their performance a joy to watch. Their voices, all strong, blended together beautifully to make for a perfect trio of leading ladies.

Amber Davies particularly stood out to me. Her acting was superb and she really portrayed that naive character with a flare of Glee’s Rachel Berry very well. She eventually found her feet in the eleven o’clock number, Get Out and Stay Out with impressive vocals and totally moving performance. She was truly  fantastic throughout.

The bright set was impressive with a giant 9to5 logo taking centre stage and being reintroduced at various moments of the show. The clock faced doubled as a video screen which featured narration from Dolly Parton herself.

This was a nice touch to the show and helped explain certain moments in more detail. I also loved the use of rolling desks in the show and the computer screens that made up the proscenium arch.

The music in this show is brilliant, reflecting Dolly’s bold brightness in its catchy tunes. However, the newer addition of Hey Boss, which replaced a whole series of fantastic songs from the original Broadway production, felt pointless and slightly weak. I struggled to understand the lyrics of the song, which wasn’t helped by the poor sound levels. I’d be interested to know why this decision was made for the West End/Tour version.

Similarly, Franklin Hart’s second song, Always A Woman, was boring and time consuming, and was unnecessary to the plot. This was no reflection on the actors who were great but more so on the show’s writers. The choreography was innovative but I didn’t feel the ensemble utilised it enough as it sometimes felt a little weak, but their acting really shone.

This review is not complete without a shoutout to the outstanding portrayal of Roz Keith by the hilarious Lucinda Lawrence. BRAVO.

Overall, this is a fantastic production that had me laughing out loud with its tongue-in-cheek humour and relevant storyline. A fantastic night out at the theatre, but definitely for adults only!

Reviewed by Emily March
21st October 2019
Reviewer Rating:★★★★

On Your Feet is currently sweeping the nation on its UK tour and this week, it’s Cardiffs turn. After seeing the show in London over the summer, I knew I would have to make a return visit to see this fierce, high-energy show. Although I went in knowing that is it is not a theatrical masterpiece by any means, I was excited once again for the incredible music, superb dancing and inspirational storyline. This touring production did not disappoint and once again, the rhythm got me good.

Philippa Stefani shines as Gloria. Her effortless vocals soar, her acting is captivating and natural and quite honestly, a true star is born in this role. What stood out to me most was her rendition of the emotional ‘Coming Out Of The Dark’, showing the soul and versatility in her voice. Stefani’s performance was one to remember.

Madalena Alberto was another stand out with her portrayal of Gloria’s bitter mother. Her shining moment ‘Mi Tierra’ was filled with passion and proved that Alberto is a seasoned professional with a stunning voice and moves to match.

ON YOUR FEET. Philippa Stefani 'Gloria Estefan' and Company. Photo Johan Persson (3).jpg

At Monday’s performance, Consuelo was understudied by Laura Friedrich Tejero who acted well beyond her years and made the audience fall in love with her in seconds. She brought both heart and humour to the role. George Ioannides is a fantastic Emilio, with both his sexy confidence and natural talent. He was supported by a fantastic ensemble of passionate performers who danced the authentic choreography with so much strength and energy.

The production was exactly how I remember it from London, however one key component that was lack of child actors that the previous production was lucky to have. Understandably touring with children has it’s restrictions/difficulties but they bring another dimension to the piece, and add the cute factor that the audiences love.

Some classic musical theatre moments where the characters burst into song felt a little awkward at times, even provoking some giggles from the audience because of how cheesy they were. Although these songs were sung beautifully, they broke the realism and weren’t a necessary part of the story telling. Despite that, the majority of the evening felt like a real Gloria Estefan concert.

My favourite moment was, of course, Conga, which got the audience up dancing in the aisles at the end of Act 1. I didn’t stop smiling. I also loved how the talented band were showcased on the stage. The loud music and bright lights set the scene and brought us right into the story. We were treated to a spellbinding mega-mix at the end of the show that got everyone quite literally on their feet and all round it was a super fun night.

The story of Gloria and Emilio is truly inspiring and their fierce approach to the music industry is incredible, and many elements of their story are totally relevant today. I would highly recommend seeing this show if you get the chance.

ON YOUR FEET. Philippa Stefani 'Gloria Estefan' and Company. Photo Johan Persson.jpg

On Your Feet plays at the Wales Millennium Centre until Saturday 26th October.
TICKETS:  https://www.wmc.org.uk/en/whats-on/2019/on-your-feet/

Reviewed by Emily March
14th October 2019
Reviewer Rating: ★★★

Grease bounced into the Wales Millennium Centre last night with a lot of energy, sass and a reimagining of the much loved classic. I was really pleased by Arlene Phillips’ exciting, fast paced choreography throughout the show that was demonstrated incredibly by the talent cast of dancers. I particularly enjoyed the dynamic dance moves of the male cast during audience-favourite Greased Lightening. The choreography was different to your average production of Grease, which kept it fresh. I was constantly excited by the choreography and was left excited for the next number to begin.

Martha Kirby makes a strong professional debut as the leading lady, bringing a little more sass and confidence than we normally expect from Sandy. Perhaps this acting choice represents a more modern portrayal of the character, standing up for herself and being empowered. It changed the meaning of the ending for me, which normally frustrates me due to Sandy changing herself to please a man, however lyrics from You’re The One That I Want such as “you better shape up, because I need a man” stood out to me, as I never really recognised it as a moment where Sandy takes charge and tells Danny that he need to be better to suit her, rather than her being better to suit him. I did feel as through Kirby over-sung a lot of her songs, and even though her voice was impressive, some more tenderness and reflective moments would’ve enhanced the storytelling.

Rhianne-Louise McClausky shines as the sassy Rizzo, with her strong stage presence from the moment we meet her on stage. Her moving rendition of There Are Worst Things I Could Do was a shining moment.

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Some more stand out moments during the show was Mooning, which demonstrated the sweet chemistry, impressive vocals and comedic timing of Ryan Anderson (Roger) and Natalie Woods (Jan). Beauty School Dropout is a favourite of mine, and this rendition did not disappoint. Darren Bennett brought charisma as Teen Angel, and the memorable dream sequence was highly amusing.

Natalie Woods, Jessica Croll and Eloise Davies who played Jan, Patty Simcox and Frenchie respectively each brought their own spark to the stage, bringing both funny and tender moments throughout the show. They were able to stay true to the original characters that we know, but bring something unique too.

The male cast however, only had one stand out for me which was Damian Buhagiar as Sonny. His stereotypical New York Italian portrayal added a lot of humour and energy to the longer, more tedious scenes which left us begging for a musical interlude.

As ever with Grease, it is hard not to compare performances to the original portrayals that we know and love. Even with the modern spin, Grease feels a little tired and over done, but the cast should be praised for their energy and modern interpretation, as well as the stand out choreography. If you’re looking for a fun night at the theatre with a spot of nostalgia, then absolutely go to see Grease. The cast’s passion was infectious and I left itching to return to performing.

Lea Salonga returns to London!
Date: 21/07/2019
Rating: ★★★★

The International musical theatre star: Lea Salonga, concluded her sold out tour at the world famous London Palladium yesterday. for not just one but two shows. Wowing with an impressive 17 song setlist, filled with much loved classics and some wonderful surprises, it was a concert that we’re glad we didn’t miss. As the crowds flooded into the auditorium, the excitement was undeniable as her die-hard fans awaited the moment for the house lights to drop. Greeted on stage with an ongoing round of applause I haven’t done anything to deserve that yet“, she says as the first notes of ‘Feeling Good’ start to play.

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Luke Hughes (luke.views)

Salonga has had an incredible steady career spanning over forty years in the business. She’s most known for the singing voice of both Jasmine (Aladdin) and Fa Mulan (Mulan) as well has her Broadway and West End credits for both originating the role of Kim in Miss Saigon, whilst also being the first asian descent to play both Fantine and Éponine in Les Misérables. Although no stranger to performing, she didn’t hide the fact that she was “freaking out to play the Palladium“, easily one of the most iconic venues in the UK. Salonga was originally scheduled to perform back in June but due to an injury had to post-pone, joking that she was happy to be visiting the UK during the summer months instead and that she was “thrilled to have London as the end date for the tour“.

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Luke Hughes (luke.views)

What was so special about the show was how relaxed she felt with the audience making it feel as though she was in a room with her closest friends. Her charm, wit and warming personality shone through and there wasn’t a moment where you felt she was disconnected. Her setlist was the perfect combination of what you’d expect her to sing vs some real surprises, in the form of One Directions “Story of my Life”, which her Brother had suggested was perfect for her voice.

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Sophie Ross (TheTheatreHub)

During act 2, Salonga asked for a member of the audience to join her on stage for a duet of “A Whole New World” and luckily for her, her chosen duet partner was a great singer. “Thank you for keeping up the reputation that all people from the Philippines can sing“, she said.

Throughout the entirety of the show, Salonga displayed a real genuine strength and power in her vocals, a voice that truly hasn’t changed since she began her professional career at 17. It’s a real joy to see that after all the time in the biz, she can still sell out venues such as the Palladium, as this show, was one that deserved to be seen.

P.s West End producers: It’s time to get Lea back into a West End show.

I have to admit, despite knowing who Nigel Slater is – I’m not massively familiar with his career or his books, includingToast. So going into the play adaptation of the book of his childhood, I wasn’t sure what to expect at all. What followed was one of the most heartwarming experiences I’ve had in theatre for a long time.

Toast recounts the coming of age story of well-known chef, Nigel Slater. It follows his life from 9 years old to 17, with everything being recounted through the memories of food, which is shared with the audience through treats being shared throughout the theatre for everyone.

The performances of all five cast members were faultless. Each gave nuanced and touching perspectives to the well-developed characters which gave the piece so much depth and really allowed the audience to connect with all the characters in some way. The relationship between Nigel (Giles Cooper) and his Mother (Lizzie Muncey) was especially powerful. Their chemistry was electric and it clearly showed how much Nigel’s relationship with his mother impacted his experiences with food.

The story (written by Henry Filloux-Bennett) is well-paced and brilliantly progresses from hilarity to heartbreak seamlessly. Within spoiling anything, the end of the first act made me feel as though I had been punched in the gut from how hard it hit me. I felt like I had to take a minute to recover as the house lights came up as it really affected me personally!

The use of set design (Libby Watson) was really intelligent. Lots of movable pieces of set allowed various kitchen and dining settings to be created from props being stored in every cupboard and draw onstage. It also clearly set the piece contextually – from the floral brown and yellow tiles to the various shades of brown throughout the set.

It would have been nice to have the cupboards be lined up a little neater along the back wall of the set – simply because as a perfectionist, this was a little annoying visually, but I was able to look over this and focus on the incredible performances instead.

Of course, what makes this play so unique is the use of food. Throughout the entire play, food is either being prepared, cooked, eaten or discussed in some capacity – even including a scene in which Nigel creates an entire dish on stage! For anyone who enjoys food, this play is simply a must! Especially when so many sweet treats are being passed throughout the performance.

It should be noted, that I loved how the inclusion of the audience eating completely changed the theatre etiquette during the performance. It allowed for appropriate small giggles and comments whilst food was being passed around but the focus was still paramount as soon as scenes progressed afterwards. It was like everyone was hypnotised by the performance – it was a fantastic atmosphere!

Overall, Nigel Slater’s Toast is an incredible piece of theatre. I left with both my heart and tummy full and I hope this is the beginning of a long and prosperous journey for this beautiful story of family and food.

Reviewed by Emily Schofield
4th July 2018
Reviewer rating: ★★★★★

The King and I will leave you fulfilled and comforted as it transports you to Siam.

As a fan of the classic 1956 film starring Deborah Kerr and Yul Brynner, I thought that I knew what to expect from this latest London production. But however high my expectations, this show has exceeded that tenfold and still managed to throw in a few extra surprises.

The story revolves around Anna, a welsh schoolteacher who comes to Siam to be a teacher for the King’s children. The show touches on the main issues of two completely different cultures meeting and expresses the desire for understanding between people, as Anna and the King learn to tolerate their differences.

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Photo: Matthew Murphy

Reviving her Tony Award winning role, Kelli O’Hara is the perfect Anna, with an incredible performance and stunning vocals. Despite the pressure of performing a role that’s so iconic, O’Hara made it look effortless, bringing her own take on the beloved character with ease.

She commanded the stage and led the rest of the cast with complete confidence and grace. Combined with her excellent chemistry with Ken Watanabe as the King of Siam, the duo did a fantastic job of showing the progression of their relationship and brought real honesty to their performances. The iconic “Shall We Dance” moment, is a real showstopper and one that the pair do with such ease and perfection. It’s infectious to watch them bounce off each others energy and the West End is lucky to have them.

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Photo: Matthew Murphy

The music, as expected, was spectacular. As a fan of the original film, I was already in love with the infamous Rodgers and Hammerstein score itself. However the vocals from the entire cast were so remarkable, that the music felt fresh and new, despite being classic songs that I’ve known for years. Especially the voice of Na-Young Jeon as Tuptim, which was beautifully powerful and gave me a new love for the character.

The entire cast gave their absolute all with their performances and delivered a wonderful experience combined. The energy was relentless and was such a pleasure to watch as an audience member.

One moment which really stood out to me was The Small House of Uncle Thomas, which was the ballet section of the second act. It was beautifully executed, with elaborate costumes (Catherine Zuber) and incredible choreography (Greg Zane/Emma Woods) which brought a tear to my eye! It was so refreshing and created a completely different dynamic which really helped to make this show as wonderful as it is.

The set design (Michael Yeargan) is one of the most visually impressive parts of this production. The detailed walls of the palace instantly transformed the theatre into the Palace of Siam, and the beautiful scenery for Lun Tha and Tuptim’s meeting in the garden was breathtaking and incredibly romantic. The atmosphere each change of set created fitted perfectly for each scene and really helped to bring the performances to life, contextually.

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Photo: Matthew Murphy

However, the children are what really make this show what it is. Their energy and joy throughout was infectious and made the show feel so much more truthful and heartfelt. They stole my heart from the beginning and lifted the spirits of the entire audience.

My only criticism would be that this show could potentially be difficult to experience depending on where you are sat. I think if you were sitting at the back of the theatre with a more restricted view, it would be difficult to capture the emotion and power that makes this production so special. For me, it’s worth experiencing up close in order to fully be impacted by the show. I think from a distance, it would be difficult for the show to affect you as personally as it impacted me.

With that being said, The King and I is a true spectacle. With polished performances from the entire cast and a story that will leave you in tears. It’s a real treat and definitely worth a watch whilst it’s here in the West End!

 

You can catch The King and I at the London Palladium until September 29th. http://thelondonpalladium.co.uk/event/the-king-and-i/

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Reviewed by Emily Schofield
20th June 2018
Reviewer rating: ★★★★

Kiss Me Kate is an incredibly energetic and entertaining show in which the art of Shakespeare imitates the lives of the actors performing it. With a large cast and operatic score, this production welcomes you to the chaotic life of backstage theatre in which drama is as prevalent onstage as it is off. 

The show tells the story of Fred Graham (Quirijn De Lang), an actor and director working opposite his ex-wife Lilli Vanessi (Stephanie Corley). As their rekindled love sparks drama offstage, the complications of romance begin to influence the production’s performance, with hilarious consequences.

The cast were brilliant, with committed performances from everyone and an incredibly energy that was tiring just to watch throughout. However, Aiesha Pease (Hattie), Zoë Rainey (Lois Lane), Joseph Shovelton (First Gunman), John Savournin (Second Gunman) really stood out with their performances. I found myself watching them whenever they appeared onstage and was captivated by them during the whole show.

The set design and costumes (Colin Richmond) in this show were phenomenal. The use of colour and period pieces made it very easy for the audience to distinguish the action onstage from the backstage scenes. The Shrew’s onstage set cleverly transformed throughout scenes to transition between dance breaks which allowed the show to flow steadily in between songs and scenes with ease. The lavish designs were also just a pleasure to watch and really allowed all the actors to stand out individually, especially in very busy and populated scenes.

Cole Porter’s score is integrally woven into the entirety of this production, creating a clear and energetic atmosphere til the very end. Especially in the opening number, “Another Op’nin, Another Show”, which was one of my favourite moments of the entire performance, as it perfectly captures the anxiety and excitement of a show’s opening night. I did find that the music began to get a bit repetitive at times, with the 3 repeat gag of reprises being a bit overused. However if these slight hiccups are overlooked, the music is thoroughly enjoyable and gives the piece, and equally the performers, a huge amount of character.

The only element of the show that really bothered me was the story. I found it quite slow-paced to start off with and a little difficult to initially grasp. There was also a lot of sexist undertones throughout the piece, which, whilst understandable in a period piece, felt outdated and a little uncomfortable for a modern audience to watch. However I respect that this was in keeping with the original material.

The dance breaks in the show were where this show really shone, especially the tap routine planted in the middle of the second act which was a delight to watch, All the choreography (Will Tuckett) had so much life and energy, and felt very natural in its’ progression and place within the show.

Overall I enjoyed the experience of watching Kiss Me Kate, and would recommend it to any fans of classic musicals as it is an entertaining night out.