Friday, 14 August 2009

Gondoliers (Derby G&S Company)

We got to the theatre tonight, as usual, after 7pm. Normally it's possible for us still to get seats at that point, but this show was so popular that even the gallery was sold out! Fortunately for us, there were two ladies each seeking to return one ticket, so we were still able to see the show.

Rather than the well known overture, the show opened with a new one written by Andrew Nicklin, the musical director. (Thanks to the anonymous commenter who confirmed this!) I'd love to be able to hear it again a few times. Performing a different overture is a daring move, as the orchestra will be unfamiliar with it, but it seemed to work quite well here, and gave us a different look at the music.

The singing was of a high standard. Balance between vocal lines was mostly good, although at a few points there was a lack of basses; and diction was absolutely superb - I could hear every word that was sung, except during "Small titles and orders", where laughter - my own included - drowned out the song! There were some changed lyrics, but they were so funny that we missed out on some.

But even more notable than the singing was the attention paid by those on stage to what was happening. The chorus took an interest in what the principals were doing, and reacted appropriately. This was consistent throughout the entire show, but was especially notable in the opening chorus and some of the work with the two kings and two queens. Excellent!

Above all else, the show was fun. Everyone on stage had fun, and we had fun. There were some peculiar touches added to the show, such as Luiz being asked for a demonstration of his ability to imitate a farmyard - which he gave, but it was deemed unsuitable. It was even less suitable later on, when he re-entered - his series of farm animal noises led to the Duke's firm conviction that he needs to travel with a full band! (My quirky brain wondered why Luiz, since he had this skill, didn't obey when Casilda said "Neigh, Luiz"!) Another change that worked well was the mention of "The Duke Of Plaza Toro Dot Com" - it got a laugh, and another laugh in the second act (where it comes up again). And then for "Small titles and orders", as mentioned above, the laughter drowned out the words... the number was performed with a data projector and a screen flown in, absolutely fitting for the demonstration of the value of a dot-com company!

I've said a lot, so I'll take only a quick look at the main characters. Luiz (Ollie Metcalfe) and Casilda (Alex Saunders) were completely believable in their duets. Casilda made plenty of the coldness, even brusqueness, toward Luiz, and then as the Duke and Duchess left, you could see them watch the moment approach when they could embrace. Casilda made good use of her riding crop when Don Alhambra harassed her, too. The Duke (Simon Theobald) carried himself with all the nobility of a Duke, even when his Duchess (Joan Self) was telling their daughter what an effort it was to love him (and how she tamed him, complete with bullfight antics). Giuseppe (Colin Dawes) missed a couple of musical entrances early on, but settled into things and gave an excellent performance. Marco (Paul Bailey) gave a simple and clear rendition of TAPOSE (Take A Pair Of Sparkling Eyes), and both of them made extremely awkward kings (trying to shake hands with the Duke and with Casilda, and each time ending up shaking hands with each other rather than look complete fools). Their wives Tessa (Sharon Cutworth) and Gianetta (Charlotte Clement) have lovely voices (Sharon also demonstrated excellent diction with some patter work in the cabaret), and their post-wedding dialogue was delivered full of energy, as it should be. Don Alhambra (Stephen Godward) acted very suitably offended when addressed in such a familiar way as "My man" (to the extent that Marco backed off on "But which is it") - recall what I said earlier about reactions. His full voice carried well. Inez (Zena Bradley) entered in glittering array for her "moment", which was a bit of a surprise - apparently these brigands know how to make piracy pay! Her voice was plenty strong enough to command the stage, as Inez needs to.

One piece, if you'll excuse the pun, of stage business bear mentioning. The opening of Act II was dominated by a chess game, which would have been distracting if there had been any other business happening, but once you realise that this IS the primary business (and once you realise that the two kings are... the kings), it becomes of significant interest. I wish I had had my usual seat in the gallery, rather than down in the stalls, as I couldn't see the game very well; but the game ended with what appeared to be a classic queen-rook mate on the edge of the board, although I'm told the rook was adjacent to the king and not protected, which would have meant the king could simply take it to get out of check. But that aside, it was an interesting way to handle the opening, with the kings being pushed around by the two chess players.

All involved showed enthusiasm and energy, making a very fun night.

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