On Stage: Only The Brave, Wales Millennium Centre

Based on the real lives of men and women caught up in the D-Day landings, Wales Millennium Centre’s first full scale musical, Only The Brave certainly packs a punch with presentation.

Both heart-breaking and inspirational, the musical recounts the true story of two couples brought together by events in World War II, Captain John and Joy Howard and Lieutenant Denham and Maggie Brotheridge.

Only The Brave commences with a senior version of John Howard (played by Second World War veteran Peter Davies) looking back at the events from a hospital bed. The passion, camaraderie and courage that men and women displayed leading up to the D Day landings weaves in and out of events in England and occupied France, accompanied by an original musical score from Matthew Brind and Steve Marmion.

David Thaxton and Neil McDermott are at the forefront of the action as Captain John Howard and Lieutenant Denham Brotheridge respectively. Not only do they deliver believable characterisations but also lead their platoon with vocal strength on songs Only The Brave and Band of Brothers.

The musical’s strengths lie in its more humane moments , from the companies’ rendition of Cuppa Tea (a tribute to the essential front-line beverage) to Wally Parr’s questioning of events in What The Hell Am I Doing? sung with conviction by Thomas Aldridge.

Other moving moments are the ladies of the company performing Regret and Sympathy, while French resistance captives Isabelle (Nikki Mae) and Madame Vian (Helen Hobson) face the prospect of an uncertain future as they duet on Can It Be True?

Hitting the right notes both cast and musicians had a deserved standing ovation at the climax of the Thursday evening performance, a strong indication that this could be the first of many successful presentations of Only The Brave.

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