Having seen the cast list for this show, I came along with somewhat high expectations; and I can hardly say I was disappointed. Apart from a few points where lines were stumbled over, or the orchestra got slightly desynchronized with the cast, the show held together well.
The staging was, as could be expected, very traditional. There were a few points where things worked out un-ideally, such as Ida's fall into the river (there were not enough ladies' dresses to stop us from seeing her fall) and the double chorus in the second act finale (could hardly see the women at all, and I think they may have had trouble seeing the conductor), everything looked well-rehearsed and smoothly carried out. The Woman Of the wisest Wit quintet, especially, was superb, as was Hildebrand's song at the beginning, giving out instructions to his courtiers.
Hildebrand (Barry Fry) was in good form all through the show. Entering to fanfare, he commands the stage and draws your attention. A very powerful character, and this is never less obvious than in the second act finale, where he faces off with the princess and makes it clear that he really WILL kill her brothers.
Ida (Rachel Sztanski) handles that scene superbly as well; just as she handled every other scene. "Minerva" - striking those notes perfectly without a cue - the Broken Toy quartet - brilliant - and Cyril's drinking/kissing song was marked by excellent business between Ida, Hilarion, Melissa, and others. Her sad scene in the third act was also beautifully rendered.
After the drowning scene, she came back on stage looking very much as though she'd had a ducking (although still with dry costume of course), and the overcoat added to her costume made much of some of her gestures - she looked at times like the Sorceror's Apprentice, casting and commanding, just as she commanded the stage and the chorus without any trouble.
The forceful princess carried such weight and dignity that it's clear why she cannot "pocket her pride" - there is not a pocket in the world big enough for it!
Lady Blanche (Lucy Nicholson) had her aria, "Come Mighty Must", reinstated. Sung the way she did, it's well worth keeping. In her duet with Melissa, their voices did not truly harmonize as I'd hoped, through no fault of theirs; I'm not sure what was wrong, but perhaps it's just that I was sitting so close to the stage that one dominated whenever the other faced away from me. The singing was impeccable, and most pleasant on the ears in spite of this. And Blanche's acting, particularly during the second act finale, definitely added to the scene.
Hilarion caught my ear right from the beginning. His opening solo sounded excellent, and he held the strength of the part all through the show. His companion Cyril, alas, is not the best person to take on this sort of mission, and I'd hesitate to take him anywhere after that disgusting drunken scene! David Campbell pulled off the part well, although he is a rather less than convincing drunk. With Florian (Geoff Carison) they nicely completed the trios and harmonized well.
Melissa! A fairly small part, but superbly executed. Her change of mood from bold to pleading to bold again in "Death to the Invader" was funny, the moreso because her emotions were so very real. Rebekah Chapman was notable time and again for her acting, never dropping out of character, always that bit funny and always involved. Lady Psyche (Amy Buchanan), too, made much of her role, and Sacharissa (Bec Muratore) stood out in every scene she was in, taking part in the action whatever was happening.
King Gama (Andy Payne) had a strange twitch to his hand, the cause of which I wondered at. Is it anything to do with the hump on his shoulder, perhaps? A field of unbounded curiosity, on which I could blog for hours! His sons, too, Arac (Andrew Ferguson), Guron (Michael James) and Scynthius (Robert Moroni), took their parts well in hand. Their programme photos looked hopelessly unlike anything that could be Gama's sons, but as soon as they appeared in beards, with suitable expressions on their faces, all doubt was at once removed.
The choruses had their weak and strong members, as could always be expected. Their involvement with the show was good, particularly the men in the first act and the ladies in the second; there was plenty of interaction between leads and chorus at all times. Goldfishing was rare, with most or all of the chorus singing out in every scene.
After the curtain calls, the entire company segued into "Then jump for joy", which seemed to take Melissa by surprise a little. Not that it hurt anything - she carried on anyway, as a good performer should.
All in all, a very good show. My hands are still stinging from the applause. Well done, all!