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Theatre

Urdd Youth Theatre to return to the limelight

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The Minister for Education and Welsh Language, Jeremy Miles, has announced new funding to support the re-launch of the Urdd’s national youth theatre, Cwmni Theatr Ieuenctid Cymru.  

The Welsh Government will invest £1 million over a five-year period to support the re-launch of the theatre.

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Cwmni Theatr Ieuenctid was set up in the 1970s, with the objective of providing opportunities for 14 to 19-year-olds to enjoy and expand their arts experiences through the medium of Welsh, but ceased to operate in 2019.

The Urdd celebrates its centenary this year, with the Urdd Eisteddfod returning for the first time since 2019 in Denbighshire. The Welsh Government has provided funding so that entry to this year’s Eisteddfod is free.

Jeremy Miles, the Minister for Education and Welsh Language, said: “I’m delighted to support the Urdd with re-establishing the Youth Theatre, which provided stage time to so many young actors for generations, some of whom have gone on to worldwide fame.

“The theatre will continue its tradition of providing opportunities for young people from all backgrounds to work with top professionals from the world of theatre, while opening up Welsh-language drama to new theatregoers through the Urdd’s strong community links.”

Siân Lewis, Chief Executive of the Urdd, said: “We are extremely grateful to Jeremy Miles for confirming the Welsh Government’s continued support to the Urdd as an organisation, and securing the future of our Youth Theatre for the next five years. We are committed to supporting the Government’s national strategy to reach one million Welsh speakers by 2050 and are determined to maintain and develop the Urdd’s century-long service and provision for the children and young people of Wales well into the future.”

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Director of the Urdd Eisteddfod and the Arts, Siân Eirian added: “Over the decades the Urdd’s Youth Theatre has offered unique and unforgettable opportunities for thousands of Wales’ youngsters interested in theatre. We see the need today more than ever, due to the impact of Covid, to provide equal opportunities and invaluable training for our young adults who want to pursue a career in the arts, and the re-establishment of our Youth Theatre will offer that at a national level.”

Actor Richard Lynch said: “I am delighted to hear of this support to secure the future of the Urdd’s Youth Theatre and look forward to future performances. I had the privilege of travelling with the Youth Theatre twice in the 80s, and I can’t explain how important those experiences were to me, and how they triggered my first steps into the world of theatre. Being given the opportunity to practice and then perform on Wales’ main stages as well as making lifelong friends was amazing, and I’ll be forever grateful for the opportunity.”

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Theatre

A night to celebrate all that is Grand about The GRAND

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A host of well-known names and familiar faces will come together on Swansea’s best-loved stage to celebrate 125 years of Swansea Grand Theatre on Saturday 23rd July.

Places change over the years, civic buildings come and go and the landscape of a city can become unrecognisable over a relatively short time.

Then there are the buildings that stand the test time and become so ingrained in the life of a place that you cannot imagine that it was ever not there. For people in Swansea there are few places of which that is truer than Swansea Grand Theatre.

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For 125 years this pastel-hued beauty of a building has brought talent from across the globe to Swansea, and to celebrate this milestone, resident company Grand Ambition has brought together a host of Welsh talent to say thank you to the theatre and to inspire a new generation of audiences.

On Saturday 23rd July, Grand Ambition is producing a night filled with music, dance, drama, song and entertainment from a star-studded line up, including Ria Jones, Mike Doyle, Kev Johns, Mose1time, Ify Iwobi, Valley Rock Voices, Karl Morgan & Who’s Molly?, Mal Pope, Crossing Borders, Hayley Gallivan, Bronwen Lewis, Steve Balsamo and Lee David
Bowen.

As well as established artists, a debut performance from The Rising Stars Theatre Co and the brilliant Fluellen Theatre Co, the Gala will also showcase young talent from the city, including resident companies Harry’s Youth Theatre, Mellin Theatre Arts and many, many more.

With a programme combining West-End show stoppers with Dylan Thomas, rap and powerful choral numbers, the Grand Gala promises to be a joyous celebration of Swansea.

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Grand Ambition is a new and exciting creative collective based at The Grand Theatre with a focus on developing audiences by telling Swansea stories and developing young and existing creative talent.

The company has been created in collaboration with Swansea City Council and Swansea based professional artists – Richard Mylan, Steve Balsamo, Michelle McTernan and Christian Patterson.

We asked them to tell us what inspired them to produce the Gala.

Michelle explained: “We all started our careers here at the Grand. It has a very special place in all our hearts. The fact that we have the opportunity to create “in house” engagements and work in this beautiful building is an absolute honour. Swansea Grand Theatre has stood the test of time and served our people and its city when she needed it the most. She has proved
to be a great institution and we must celebrate her in all her glory. The 125th birthday celebration will be a night to say thank you to her for always being there for us.”

“I feel now more than ever we should celebrate this theatre having been there for us for the last 125 years. We must honour its past and it’s incredibly bright future. The talent that we have on stage for this one-off event will reflect just that” actor and director Richard Mylan continued.

Musician Steve Balsamo is the third director of Grand Ambition and will perform on the night. He said “The Grand has always loomed large in my life and it’s always been a thrill to perform here. It’s so important to mark this 125th birthday and to pay tribute to this beautiful building, to remember the past and look forward to the future. Personally, to be able to sing my own song on this special night and to leave a thumb print on the legacy of The Grand will be an absolute honour”.

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Directing the event is writer, director and actor Christian Patterson. “It is an honour to be directing this Gala in the theatre that inspired me to be an actor. The Grand Theatre has graced Swansea for 125 years! It has entertained, delighted & enthralled people every single day of its existence and will continue to do so for many, many years to come. It will be a joy to
commemorate its glorious past and look toward its glittering future. Happy Birthday & long live Swansea Grand Theatre!” he enthused.

That future is fired by a new desire to connect with communities across Swansea. Cabinet Minister for Regeneration, Robert Francis-Davies commented, “These are exciting times for our city. Swansea Grand Theatre has always played a key role at the centre of Swansea’s cultural life, offering lots of opportunities for creativity for all of our communities.”

Recently appointed manager of the theatre, Grant MacFarlane, summed it up nicely: “I am immensely proud to be associated with the Grand Theatre and to be a part of its future. The Grand speaks directly to people’s emotions, is inextricably linked with the fondest and most vivid memories of Swansea’s citizens, and is at the heart of the city and its people”.

Tickets for the Grand Gala are available now for Swansea Grand Theatre box office, online, by phone and in person. Full details can be found at swanseagrand.co.uk/BirthdayGala. All line up announcements and updates will be available on Grand Ambition’s social media channels.

The History of The Grand Theatre: A timeline

125 years at the very heart of Swansea, thrilling countless generations of theatregoers along the way from Shakespeare to Pantomime.

1897: Mouillot and Morell, two entrepreneur actor/managers, seized an opportunity to build a Theatre in Swansea. They purchased the former Drill Hall in Singleton Street, demolished it and employed William Hope – an experienced Theatre architect to design The Grand – it is the only surviving example of his work. The estimated capacity was 2,500.

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1897: Swansea Grand Theatre was opened by the opera star Adelina Patti. She arrived at Swansea train station and boarded an open top horse and cart, the streets were lined with all her fans. It was a truly grand event.

Despite early success the Grand Theatre has had a chequered history.

1930: Swansea Grand Theatre was a full time repertory theatre.
January 1933: the Theatre closed for six months because of the flu epidemic. The audiences seem to miss the regularity of attending and after this break, there was a noticeable decline.

1933: The theatre became a “Cine Variety Theatre”

1934: The theatre closed. It lay empty for a while with just occasional use

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1947: Bought by Captain W.E.Willis

1950s: The struggles continued. The problem – apart from television, was the public investment and civic support that was happening for theatre in Cardiff. The privately owned Grand was falling behind in terms of attractions and the physical state of the building. It was
showing its age.

1957: Actor/director – John Chilvers presented a successful repertory season at the Grand. And eventually became the manager and stayed for over 25 years.

1970: Vivian Ellicott the Front of House Manager wrote:- “We have just reported on our first year’s business. The actual loss to the ratepayers has been £5.900 – chicken-feed! Thanks to John Chilvers, the figures are healthy”.

1978: At the end of a 10 year lease, the local council bought the Grand – making it Swansea’s civic theatre.

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1982-1986: £5million worth of renovation and building was carried out. The impressive new look Grand re-opened on 17th December 1986 with the pantomime Aladdin.

1999: A new arts wing was added housing a new box office, studio theatre (capacity 150), exhibition area, rehearsal rooms and café.

2020: The Grand Theatre stage became a testing centre for Covid19 during the pandemic until Aug 2021 with the public entering through the scene dock doors where sets along with their builders and technicians would normally have entered.

2020/21: The Multicultural Hub was built and became home to (RCC) Race Council Cymru, Chinese in Wales and The African Community Centre.

2022: The Theatre has a new manager Mr Grant McFarlane. Grant will undertake the leadership of the new manager for Swansea Grand Theatre and The Brangwyn Hall, in conjunction with the Council’s Cultural Services’ management team.

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2022: Grand Ambition become the theatre’s resident production company. Swansea Grand Theatre is steeped in history and the future looks bright.

Heres to the next 125 years!

(All images: Swansea Council)

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Port Talbot

Search begins for Port Talbot panto princess

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A South Wales theatre production company is looking for a member of the public in Neath Port Talbot to join its professional pantomime cast this year by playing a princess in Jack and the Beanstalk.

Newly formed MTAZ Productions Ltd is behind Jack and the Beanstalk which runs at The Princess Royal Theatre in Port Talbot from December 1st to 10th this year and the company is looking to the local community  to find its princess. 

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The lucky person will star alongside a professional cast of actors and will be chosen from an open audition being held on July 21st at the theatre. 

In order to audition you must be 18 years old or above and be available for all rehearsal and show dates. 

The show’s director, Anthony Argyle said: “We are incredibly excited to meet possible actors to play the princess. We have a great line up for this year’s panto and would love to cast a local actor in the role.”

Zoe Richards, Producer at MTAZ added: ‘It’s the first time we have produced the panto at Port Talbot and with Anthony being a local lad we want to make sure it’s a traditional panto experience created by professionals who grew up and have connections in the area.’

To find out how you register for an audition email themtfest@gmail.com 

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MTAZ Productions’ spellbinding Jack and the Beanstalk pantomime will be taking over The Princess Royal Theatre’s stage in December – with both family and ‘adult only’ performances. 

Audience members can expect plenty of laughs, incredible music, spectacular special effects, magic beans and bundles of audience participation in what is planned to be a “giant” of a pantomime!

Tickets are on sale now and already selling fast, to book call The Princess Royal Theatre’s Box Office phone line on 01639 763214 or book online at  www.princessroyaltheatre.com .

MTAZ Productions Ltd is a newly formed company co-owned by Anthony Argyle and Zoe Walters. Established to create experiences in storytelling in family and young people’s theatre. 

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Music

Hit musical ‘Jersey Boys’ is coming to Swansea Arena

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New dates have been added to the UK Tour of smash hit musical Jersey Boys, with the show coming to Swansea’s brand new Arena later this year.

The show will play Swansea Arena from Tuesday 29 November to Saturday 3 December 2022.

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The UK Tour of the Tony and Olivier Award-winning show is running simultaneously with a London West End production playing in a packed-out and recently refurbished Trafalgar Theatre.

Written by Marshall Brickman & Rick Elice, with music by Bob Gaudio and lyrics by Bob Crewe, Jersey Boys takes you behind the music and inside the story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons.

Described as “just four guys from New Jersey, until they sang their very first note. They had a sound nobody had ever heard… and the radio just couldn’t get enough of. But while their harmonies were perfect onstage, off stage it was a very different story.”

The show is packed with their hits, including Beggin’, Sherry, Walk Like A Man, December, 1963 (Oh What a Night), Big Girls Don’t Cry, My Eyes Adored You, Let’s Hang On (To What We’ve Got), Bye Bye Baby, Can’t Take My Eyes Off You, Working My Way Back to You, Fallen Angel, Rag Doll and Who Loves You.

Recipient of Broadway’s Tony, London’s Olivier and Australia’s Helpmann Awards for Best New Musical, Jersey Boys is the winner of 65 major awards and has been seen by over 27 million people worldwide.

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Jersey Boys originally opened in New York on 6 November 2005 and, by the time it closed on 15 January 2017, it was the 12th longest running show in Broadway history. It returned to New York with a new production in November 2017. The Jersey Boys US National Tour is still breaking house records in cities across North America.

Jersey Boys first ran in London’s West End from 18 March 2008 to 26 March 2017 – nine amazing years – and, at the time, was the sixth longest musical running in the West End. Last year, the musical returned to the West End, opening the new multi-million pound reinstated Trafalgar Theatre on 10 August 2021. Jersey Boys previously played two record-breaking UK and Ireland Tours from 2014 to 2016 and from 2017 to 2019.

The Jersey Boys UK and Ireland Tour will be staged by the entire original Broadway creative team, led by the Tony Award-winning team of director Des McAnuff and choreographer Sergio Trujillo, with scenic design by Klara Zieglerova, costume design by Jess Goldstein, lighting by Howell Binkley, sound by Steve Canyon Kennedy and projections design by Michael Clark. The orchestrations are by Steve Orich and the music supervision and vocal arrangements by Ron Melrose. Casting is by Jill Green.

Tickets are available from www.swansea-arena.co.uk.

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