New Tiger Bay musical for Wales Millennium Centre

November 9, 2016 by

A new musical is to be staged at Wales Millennium Centre, in November 17 called Tiger Bay, the name that Cardiff Bay was known as before the docklands redevelopment.  It is the brain child of the managing director of Cape Town Opera who has been rediscovering his Cardiff roots.

While the musical may share the name of the famous Hayley Mills movie set in the gritty late 1950s and flop BBC soap opera set in the 1990s, this show, a WMC production in association with Cape Town Opera, will be set at the turn of the 19th Century when the coal port was at it height and Cardiff boasted a thriving mercantile class.

The show’s director will be Melly Still who has  just directed Cymbeline for the Royal Shakespeare Company at the Barbican and who has directed Coram Boy at the National Theatre and on Broadway, and co-director Max Barton, Artistic Director PIGDOG and recently Associate on Stephen Schwartz’s Schikaneder.

The original score will be composed by Welsh composer Daf James,  based on book and lyrics by Cape Town Opera’s Michael Williams and design by Olivier award-winning Anna Fleischle.

The story tells of Valleys girl, Rowena Pryddy, who longs for a future away from David Morgan’s shop floor and its boarding house in central Cardiff. On the outskirts of the city, a man arrives in Tiger Bay looking for an escape from his past to find refuge in the city’s underworld of public houses, immigrants and street urchins. Above them all, in the Zodiac Room of Cardiff Castle, the Third Marquess of Bute grapples with his own seemingly insurmountable troubles and ironically it will be a lowly Water Boy who inspires the richest man in the world to leave a legacy for everyone.

The role of John Stuart, Third Marquess of Bute, will be played by John Owen-Jones – best known as The Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera and as Jean Valjean in Les Misérables in the West End and on Broadway – with further principals to be announced. Completing the cast will be a diverse ensemble to portray the rich multicultural community of the period plus a talented children’s chorus. 

Graeme Farrow, Wales Millennium Centre’s Artistic Director, said “I am immensely proud that 2017 will see us realise our next significant piece of work, Tiger Bay, a musical born from the history of our culturally diverse home in Cardiff’s former docklands which has relevance to the world we live in today. I hope that our latest venture will bring a great Welsh story to the world in a time when arts and culture must be a uniting force in our communities.”

Directors Melly Still and Max Barton said “Expect a gritty spectacular and a real thriller that draws on the lives and losses of the people from Tiger Bay, with a healthy dose of romance thrown in. This is a celebration of all that is unique about an extraordinary community, and we’re delighted to be involved with the community itself. And, doing justice to Tiger Bay’s celebrated music history, there are some belting numbers to boot.”

Michael Williams

Michael Williams, writer and Managing Director at Cape Town Opera said, “First and foremost I have honoured the musical as an art form, although much of what found its way into the story is actually based on fact. Inspiration came from the complex mix of class, race and cultural diversity of this unique place in turn-of-the-century Britain. In writing Tiger Bay, the process of embedding myself in all things Welsh was made even more compelling when I uncovered my own Welsh roots; my grandfather worked in the Salvation Army in Cardiff and my mother was born there so, for me, the strong partnership between Cape Town and Cardiff began years ago.”

Alongside Tiger Bay, the Centre will be producing a programme of musical theatre workshops with young people from Cardiff’s Butetown and the Tiger Bay area.

Tiger Bay will premier on Wednesday 15 November 2017 at Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff (preview performance on Tuesday 14 November) and  will run until Saturday 25 November 2017.

Booking opens on Monday 28 November 2016. Tickets will be available £7-£39 and can be booked online at or via the Centre’s Ticket Office in person or by calling 029 2063 6464

Meet the creator of Tiger Bay:

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