Kevin Johns Biography
Kev’s career has been varied – drama, musicals, stand-up, presenting and of course Pantomime!
In theatre he played Will Hay in The Wales Theatre Company’s production of the musical Amazing Grace and has appeared in several stage touring productions for Fluellen Theatre Company including Vicar Joe in Toshack or Me and To Hull and Back, Broom in Dr and The Devils, Rev Eli Jenkins and Willy Nilly in Under Milkwood, Oscar in The Odd Couple, The Grave Digger in Hamlet, Hobson in Hobson's Choice and Yanto Pugh in his one man show Taffy Shakespeare
He appeared in the National Theatre of Wales show The Passion directed by Michael Sheen appearing as the MC of The Last Supper and the film version The Gospel of Us.
Kev is considered to be one of the world of Pantomime’s Top Dames and this year will be Kev's 21st year in Panto when he plays Mrs Smee in the Qdos Pantomimes Production of Peter Pan.
Kev has appeared with musical tribute show, ‘The Westenders’ and surprised everyone by playing Micho in the Ballet Russe production of La Fille Mal Gardee at the Grand Theatre.
On stage he is Wales’ most sought after comperes and is very much in demand as a conference and after dinner speaker
Kev also regularly appears with the National Chamber Orchestra and has compered concerts for International Singers such as Russell Watson, Hayley Westenra, Paul Potts and Rebecca Evans.
On television Kev has appeared as Geraint Flower on the BBC Wales show High Hopes and on Songs of Praise and the ITV Wales show ‘The Market’ and regularly appears on Sky Sport channels talking about his great love, Swansea City FC
He also narrated the 4 part BBC 2W series, ‘The Demolition Men’
Kev was recently honoured to receive the MBE from Her Majesty the Queen for services to charity in Wales and the Ambassador for Swansea Award from the South Wales Evening Post.
Kev is also much loved for his daily Breakfast Show on Swansea Sound Radio and the ever popular Sunday Hotline.
He has written two books for Y Lolfa Oh Yes It Is and The Vicar Joe Jokebook
Hobson`s Choice is one of the great classics of twentieth century theatre and is a play that has had many, many revivals since its premiere in America (of all places!) in 1916. It is a real slice of Victorian northern working class life, where class is everything and one’s chances in life are defined by birth.
Top of the pile is Mrs Hepworth sailing onto the stage like a stately galleon and dispensing largesse (and business) to a grovelling Henry Hobson, bootshop proprietor, middle class and proud of it. The shoes she bought on her previous visit were exquisite and she wants more. But the shoes were made by William Mossop, definitely the bottom of the pile, whose father came from the workhouse, and who is consigned to a life of making boots in the bowels of the shop.
And then there is Maggie, Hobson`s feisty eldest daughter, who knows a good business deal when she sees it, marries William and, with Mrs Hepworth`s financial backing, sets her husband up in a successful business much the discomfort of the alcoholic and misogynistic Hobson.
Hobson`s Choice is that rare theatrical animal. A play with plenty of great humour and yet one that has a very real social message lurking under the surface. Fluellen Theatre’s new production keeps that balance very well. It is a production that will keep you smiling throughout, but you’ll come away with the issues firmly in your mind.
For the central role of Hobson you need an actor who is full of bluster, sound and fury and yet one for whom we never lose a certain sympathy. And in Kevin Johns we get just that. Mr Johns was several decibels higher than the rest of the cast and his delivery, both verbal and physical was a joy. He is an expert of the double take, which he put to good use throughout the show.
He was the head of a very impressive cast. Aled Herbert was a totally believable and sympathetic Mossop. Initially (and hilariously) fighting off Maggie`s approaches, but finally (and most movingly) demonstrating his love for her.
Jennifer Wallen and Bethan Johns were superb as Hobson`s younger daughters, self-absorbed and catty; Claire Novelli was an imperious Mrs Hepworth in her one short, but excellent scene; and there was a superb cameo from Christopher Hale as Tubby the corpulent workshop manager, decrepitly slow, dangerously short-sighted and with a cough that could start an epidemic.
In the performance I saw Jessica Sandry, the actress playing the pivotal role of Maggie, had lost her voice and her dialogue was spoken by another actress via an off-stage microphone. Rather than being the disaster it promised, the performances of both actresses were so good that one soon became totally absorbed in the production.
Peter Richards` perceptive direction kept the play going at a great pace and Holly McCarthy`s clever set gave a fine sense of place.
Set in Manchester a lot of the play’s humour derives from the colloquial expressions in the dialogue. The cast’s accents were uniformly excellent, and I can say this with some authority as I was accompanied to the performance by a native Mancunian who gave it all a big thumbs up. As William Mossop might have said, “Ee by gum. A right winner”
Reviewed by: John Cole
Reviews : Aladdin at Swansea Grand Theatre 2011
It has everything you could want – including amazing 3D effects – all wrapped up in a professional package.
The anticipation was palpable in the auditorium and the energetic opening number was bold and colourful. The lead characters were skilfully introduced and the Emperor of China’s costume was magnificent, with a head-dress which appeared to be almost as tall as he was. David Lawrence played the part to perfection.
Lauren Pixii Urquhart as Scheherazade was lithe and luscious, the envy of every little girl (and most mothers) in the audience. Zoe George played Princess Jasmine as a sweet and demure girl and she sang some delightful duets with the very upbeat Liam Doyle as Aladdin.
The villain of the piece, Abenazar, was played with a modern twist and humour by Gavin Woods and was booed and hissed with great enthusiasm by the whole audience.
But Widow Twanky was, as ever, the comedy star of the show with Kevin Johns demonstrating why he is such a hugely popular pantomime dame, year after year. His costumes were even more outrageous and we all enjoyed his topical references to local places and events.
The big name in this year’s panto is, of course, Jimmy Osmond who really got into the spirit of panto. The audience loved him and joined in with everything he asked of them. At one point the panto became a bit of a Jimmy Osmond Show with Jimmy singing some of his hits of yesteryear, but the audience lapped it up and would have been disappointed if it hadn’t been included.
The 3D effects were amazing – from huge chunks of rock hurling through the air to flying dragons, spiders and magic carpets. There was always the danger that modern effects of this sort would detract from the earthy magic of panto, however, our two 11-year-old boys (who we thought might be getting a bit past panto) left the theatre declaring the whole evening as “amazing” and “brill” – quite an achievement.
The addition of this retro, chart-topping pop star makes this story of Aladdin and his lamp one that is bound to please the city’s grandmothers yet leaves song choices rather bewildering for younger viewers. Still, while they sing along to Little Darling and join in on a ditty about how they think Jimmy is dishy, there are other more universal treats in store for the rest of the audience.
3D glasses offer moments of in-your-face special effects, which feel all the more magical for occurring in a theatre environment. From the genie to the magic carpet ride, all these effects work well, although some might want to use one of their three wishes to delete the spider from the story. Moving from the virtual to the actual, the ever popular pantomime dame Kevin Johns is the real Ga Ga-esque star of the show as Widow Twankey, while Gavin Woods makes a convincingly weird baddie as Abanazar.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs 2010/11 Swansea Grand Theatre
South Wales Evening Post
The temperatures might be plummeting outside, but Swansea Grand Theatre is doing its bit to warm the hearts of panto fans with this magical production of the classic children's story in which goodness triumphs over evil and love finds its way.
This is a very fast-paced show - the second half, in particular, flies by - and while some of the jokes might be overly familiar (there is even a classic Kenneth Williams line from Carry On Cleo), the script takes a more disciplined approach in terms of storytelling: anyone who has ever wished that they could fast-forward through the usual panto routines which interrupt the narrative will find little to bother them here as director Pete Hillier (who also stars as Muddles) has clearly taken pains to pare them down in terms of length.
The performances are top notch: Hillier's Muddles is smartly portrayed and his rapport with the audience is tremendous, as is that of Swansea's very own Kev Johns, whose comic turn as the Nurse is a hoot.
Kevin Sacre-Dallerup (the Prince) and Sarah Lark (Snow White) make the perfect romantic pairing, and the Dwarfs are beautifully played as characters in their own right - I would have liked to see them listed individually in the programme, which is something the company may like to consider in future.
The villainess of the piece is, of course, Melanie Walters, whose Wicked Queen transforms herself at one stage not into an old hag but Gwen from Gavin and Stacey: while this strikes a chord with fans of the show, I admit to never having seen the series (I'm more of a High Hopes fan myself) so many of the references went over my head.
The costumes are colourful, Chris Barrett's lighting lifts the atmosphere and
the dance numbers are beautifully performed not only by the company's own artists but also by young students of the Grand Theatre School of Drama and the Louise Edwards School of Dance.
Just the ticket for lifting the spirits in these troubled times, and guaranteed to put a smile on the most jaded of faces, Snow White runs at the Grand until January 16. Don't miss it - and watch out for those poisoned apples. Graham Williams
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
2010 The Stage
The Hollyoaks heartthrob Kevin Sacre plays a dashing Prince Frederick in this X Factor-reworking of the Brothers Grimm-meets-Disney fairy tale, and the swooning audience certainly think he is the fairest of them all when he is serenading Snow White with the Bruno Mars’ pop song Just the Way You Are.
Snow White (Sarah Lark) and her mismatched gang of dwarfs may be the focus of the show’s title, but overall it is the dames and the dark side that get the best laughs and lines in this year’s panto, and it is Swansea’s own stars who shine the brightest. Kevin Johns, who has recently been awarded an MBE, makes his 13th panto appearance at Swansea Grand as Dame Dolly from Dunvant, with more day-glo costume changes than the Oscars. Dolly’s rendition of Beyonce’s Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It) was a hilarious highlight of the show.
Melanie Walters (Gavin and Stacey) also returns home this year as the Wicked Queen Gwendoline. She makes a veritable, villainous vamp, playing completely against type, although there are plenty of references to the BAFTA award-winning comedy, including a cameo appearance from Gwen, and her catchphrase, “Anyone for an omelette?”
2007 Graham Williams
One of the criticisms most frequently leveled at modern pantos is that they have sacrificed their traditional “community” feel in favour of a more glitzy, commercialised approach. Happily, this offering from Qdos Entertainment manages to combine the best of both worlds.
Yes, all the pop culture references are present and correct and at one point we even get a performance of the Scissor Sisters’ smash hit I Don’t Feel Like Dancin’ - I wish I had placed a bet on it being included here - as well as James Blunt’s soppy ballad You’re Beautiful.
What is so wonderful about this production, however, is its local appeal: Mike Doyle and Kevin Johns have never worked better together and they clearly relish their respective roles as WisheeWashee and Widow Twankey but it is the casting of Craig Gallivan as Aladdin that works especially well, since he brings an unmistakably local voice to a character that would in previous years have gone to an Aussie soap star.
Okay, we get an Aussie soap star too - namely Mark Little of Neighbours fame, who plays Abanazar - but his heightened, larger-than-life-style is perfect for the part and he seems to enjoy his role as a villain who, by his own admission, is “addicted to boos”.
Phillip Arran (Emperor of China), Sianad Gregory (the Princess) and Gemma James (Genie of the Ring) also contribute greatly to the success of this fun-packed production, which also features a turn from the Acromaniacs as the Chinese Policemen and some sharp dance routines from the Grand Theatre School of Dance.
Credit has to go to musical director Griff Harries and to lighting designer Chris Barrett, whose inventive touches do much to lift the mood of a show which should hopefully break box office records throughout its run.
Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs
2006 Graham Williams
The last few years have seen the Grand’s pantos attracting ever larger audiences and breaking box office records and this year’s offering from Wales’s second city looks set to continue the trend.
This year’s big draw is Gillian Taylforth, whose presence has once again raised the age-old question of whether soap stars belong in panto. Happily, her OTT approach is ideally suited to her role as the Wicked Queen - even if her accent might not be entirely regal.
Comedic capers come from local favourite Kevin Johns, who brings his local knowledge and love of all things Welsh to his role as Nurse Rhondda, while Fogwell Flax captures the hearts of young and old alike in his role as Muddles. Sterling support comes from Frank Vickery as Chambers, with Rochelle Smith as a winsome Cinderella and Simon Lipkin as the Prince.
Strong contributions, too, from the predominantly young and athletic performers, who portray the seven dwarfs as individuals with their own distinct identities.
Plus points include the almost total lack of modern chartbusters, with an original selection of songs composed by Olly Ashmore, and some eye-catching sets. Points deducted, however, for the decidedly anti-climactic aftermath of Snow White’s bite into the poisoned apple - she is only unconscious for a matter of seconds before being brought back from the brink by a kiss from the Prince.
A slick and nicely staged production, which should set box office tills merrily jingling for the remainder of the run.
Vicar Joe South Wales Evening Post
Depot Studio, Arts Wing, Swansea Grand Theatre
Another outing for Vicar Joe, portrayed with relish by the ever-popular Kevin Johns and a character originally seen in the plays Toshack or Me! and To Hull and Back, two football-
themed comedies written by Peter Read and directed by Peter Richards, who are re-united for this piece from SA4 Productions.
This time around, the format is very different since it is a one-man show, revolving entirely around the irreverent Reverend and his run-ins with the church council.
Kevin Johns clearly loves the character, and Read has taken pains to include topics close to the performer's heart – not simply football and religion, but also a sub-plot about the plight of the homeless.
Vicar Joe is a character with a great deal of mileage, and one suspects that we have by no means seen the last of him: indeed, given the lack of good clean family orientated comedy on TV, it would be interesting to see the character given a chance on the small screen.
How about it, BBC Wales?
The Odd Couple South Wales Evening Post
Depot Studio, Arts Wing, Swansea Grand Theatre Tuesday, April 28
A great treat for comedy fans from the Swansea-based Fluellen Theatre Company, this entertaining adaptation of the Neil Simon classic sees an eight-strong cast on top-notch form. Kevin Johns might seem an unusual choice for the role of slobbish New Yorker Oscar Maddison (originally played by Walter Matthau in the movie and by Jack Klugman in the TV series), but he fares well and has some great one-liners, as does Adrian Metcalfe as the fastidious and prissy Felix Unger.
The contrast between the two characters is conveyed very cleverly, and there are some great contributions from George Andrews, Huw Richards, David Dooley and Peter Richards (who also directed the piece) as the pair's poker buddies.
Lovely performances, too, from Jessica Sandry and Naomi Martell as the Pigeon sisters, Cecily and Gwendoline.
Just the thing to lift one's spirits at a time of recession and swine flu, The Odd Couple ends its run at the Arts Wing tonight Thursday).
Under Milk Wood South Wales Evening Post
Swansea-based Fluellen Theatre Company - best known for their in-the-round productions of classic works in the Grand's Arts Wing - have upped their game for their latest
production, a warm realisation of Dylan Thomas's chronicle of 24 hours in the life of a seaside town played out on the main stage.
This is very clearly a labour of love for director Peter Richards, who has not only brought together some of Fluellen's finest and most reliable performers but has also thrown a few surprises into the mix: namely, Grand favourite Kevin Johns - whose refreshingly different approach to characters such as Eli Jenkins(the Reverend, not the pub), Sinbad Sailors and Willy Nilly will hopefully attract those who would normally give dramatic theatre a very wide berth -
and production designer Edward Thomas (best known for his work on Doctor Who and Torchwood)who, together with Gwyn Parry, has created a stark and minimalistic raked set upon which the characters' hopes, fears and dreams are given free rein to soar.
Add to all this a beautiful musical score composed and performed by Delyth Jenkins and you begin to understand the care and attention to detail with which the production has been put
I also enjoyed the "voice of the guide book" sequence, which took the form of a filmed sequence shot in the style of a 1950s travelogue.
A splendidly persuasive piece of theatre, Under Milk Wood ends its run at the Grand on Saturday.
Bard is brilliant
TO go or not to go that was the question…I have never been a particularly big fan of Shakespeare but I do like the work produced by Fluellen Theatre.
Their latest offering, Hamlet playing in the Swansea Grand's Arts Wing, was simply superb. With a strong cast headed by Huw Richards, in a truly magnificent performance as our hero, or anti-hero, under the directorship of Peter Richards, this production will rank as one of Fluellen's great productions. Some inspired casting with popular entertainer Kevin Johns making his Shakespearean debut as one of the gravediggers brought some neat comic touches to the role and probably helped ease some of the building tension as the familiar tale unfolded to its tragic climax.
A strong supporting cast included George Andrews, David Dooley, Christopher Hale, Robert Hopkins, Eloise Howe, Miranda Roszkowski, and James Scannell made this a memorable production. The Bard at its best
Swansea Grand Theatre
Swansea Grand Theatre
YOU'VE seen the press coverage, Youtube and might even have been following it on Facebook — now the wait is over. Lyn Mackay's new musical (a prequel to the popular Swansea Girls) has finally hit the stage and it's an absolute corker.
This is very much Lyn's baby and is clearly a labour of love — the cast pull out all the stops, and have done her and themselves proud in their recreation of a community torn apart by the horror of the Second World War. This is a show with heart, and it packs a real emotional punch.
The story revolves around the lives, loves, hopes, dreams and despairs of characters who are not only beautifully drawn but also skilfully portrayed, there is a hint of Under Milk Wood about the manner in which we are introduced to the people whose lives unfold before us, but there is far more to the scenario than this, and the production's interweaving of plots and sub-plots is reminiscent of old British movies in which characters on the fringes were as important as the main players.
There are no weak links: MennaTrussler, NiaTrussler-Jones, Richard Burman, Claire Hammacott, Zoe George, Liz Stockton, Dean Verbeck, Phillip Arran, Cath Fraser-Sparks and Dudley Owen all excel, as do Kevin Johns (whose solo number Someone Else's Son is a tour de force), DanicaSwinton, Linzi Drew and Jack Roberts. A word of special praise for Stefan Pejic, whose portrayal of Alfie is nothing short of mesmerising.
The show is not without its funny moments, and there are some rollicking numbers including a superb anthem which looks forward to the day when the bomb-ravaged centre of the old town will rise like the proverbial phoenix from the flames.
A spontaneous standing ovation on the opening night said it all, and underlined the affection with which theatregoers regard this splendid production.
Toshack or Me
Toshack or me!” returned to the Grand Theatre with more spirit and fans than before, (some who’d obviously heard about its success the first time round and wished to experience it for themselves.)
Peter Richards directed a piece as lively and atmospheric as an expectant football match itself. The feel and character of the game was captured within the show, with football chants and songs taking us back to this significant time in Swansea’s footballing history. 45 minutes each side of the interval cleverly backed up this idea of a match within a play.
It was great to see those who wouldn’t usually be interested in the theatre attending, and some Swans fans who remembered the giant leap into 1st division even turned up sporting their team’s scarf. Although it was a first time for many, it was clear they were made to feel very much at home in the way the show reached out to them.
Dave, the football-obsessed lead, was played with enthusiasm by Rhodri Miles. His super-energetic performance brilliantly captured the love for the Swans present in the hearts of many audience members, making them identify with and laugh at themselves through him.
Fresh from his Panto run, Kevin Johns took the part of the Vicar, who prays for his team to win and is filled with the wrong kind of spirit that often lands him in trouble. With his usual apt comic timing, Kevin Johns proved excellent entertainment, whipping the crowd up just as he’s done so for years at Swans games.
Johns and Miles were the main instigators of visual comedy – one of the play’s strongest points, leaving the audience in stitches.
Giving her husband the ultimatum, “Toshack or me,” was Charlotte Rogers. Sympathetic to her role as the football widow, Rogers reached out to the non-football fans in the audience – as little of them as there were!
Eloise Howe again showed her talent for playing comic roles in Natalie; a dippy-hippy councillor, who had to work harder to get the mainly male audience to laugh, but did so with triumph.
George Andrews as the Bishop sported great stage presence and awareness of the audience, responding to their reactions.
The supportive best friend of the football widow had a secret of her own – an obsession with a certain Swedish band. With zest and liveliness, Jessica Sandry bounced around the stage, proving her vocal talents with a celebratory song after the Swans’ success.
The use of a screen where images of ABBA and finally the all-important match were projected, transported the audience as if they were there experiencing it for themselves. As someone who isn’t the greatest football fan in the world, I was still caught up in the atmosphere and thoroughly enjoyed my 90 minutes as a Swans supporter. At times, the audience was almost as ecstatic as twenty-five years ago at Deepdale.
Definitely one for the fans, but still an entertaining night for all, Peter Read hammered it home for Fluellen. This nostalgic look back at the golden days meant the audience left in high spirits, having re-lived Swansea’s success for the second time.
Read seems to be saying that not all obsessions are bad, they can provide happiness and escapism, and those that deny they are the obsessive kind, need only to look at themselves a little closer.
Reviewed by: Ella-Louise Gilbert