Review of Tiger Bay @ WMC

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The Tiger Bay ‘roar’ lives up to the publicity that has surrounded it for months with some brilliant ballads, heartening history, capricious comedy and a stunning story.

Wales Millennium Centre has once again created an original production that is very big and very Welsh.  It’s Wales’ answer to Les Miserábles in an interesting period of our own history. I thought that it was a little slower than I would have liked at the beginning of the second half but the rest of it was very fast-paced and lively. I enjoyed hearing various Welsh phrases throughout the musical.

Tiger Bay: The Musical is set during the industrial revolution in Cardiff Bay. There is a great gap between the wealthy and those living in extreme poverty. Their wages and survival depend on big, black precious lumps of coal. The musical follows a group of people who want to challenge this tough status-quo and start a revolution. It was a very exciting and inspiring story even if, again, I had strong Les Mis vibes from it.

There were five main characters: Themba (Dom Hartley-Harris) who comes from South Africa and is trying to start a new life in Cardiff after losing his family in the Boer war, John Stuart (John Owen-Jones) – the richest man in the world at the time – who is trying to find his long lost son, Rowena Pryddy (Vikki Webb) who works in a shop and is the harbour-master’s fiancé: Seamus O’Rourke (Noel Sullivan) and is the antagonist of the musical, and Ianto (Louise Harvey) who is a water boy that is trying to contact his dead parents.

My favourite actor of the musical was the famous John Owen-Jones with his world-class singing ability. His performance was the most memorable part of the night! Also 10-year-old Louise Harvey; who is a pupil at Ysgol-Y-Wern and a fluent Welsh Speaker, is also the star of the show in my opinion. I feel that  Louise’s talents transformed the musical from a “good” musical to a “great” one! Daf James’ music was capable of showing off the cast’s singing abilities with stunning traditional Welsh 4 piece choir music.

A huge metallic bow of a ship is what lurks in the background throughout the musical which moves and disassembles. It was quite interesting at first but I would have loved to have seen more parts of Cardiff involved in the set. For example, a sign pointing towards a famous street or a familiar building, rather than a big metal ship that could have been anywhere. Some clever lighting managed to transform the stage into different settings almost instantly which meant that the show was able to move between different locations and scenes quickly, like a film.

If you get the opportunity to watch Tiger Bay, you should defiantly go and get ready to be blown away by the spectacular singing. I was happily surprised to discover how diverse Tiger Bay was in the early 20th century and the Welsh phrases here and there made me very proud.

The musical is on in the Millennium Centre between the 14th and 25th of November. Find out more on the website: 

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