I approach Ruddigore with high hopes and expectations. It's a show that can be really spectacular, but at the other extreme, it can fall really badly flat. Tonight's show may not have been tremendous, but it was definitely far from dull.
The chorus (villagers and bridesmaids both) were extremely attentive during Dame Hannah's song, taking a real interest in what was being said. A balance has to be struck - you don't want to upstage the song itself, but should have enough movement and reaction to keep the audience's attention where it should be. Tonight did well at that, at several other points as well (notably during the Act I Finale). It really lifts the show when all those on stage are aware of the action.
There will always be the odd slip-up in a full-length show, and unfortunately this was no different; I fear the stage crew will have had a fair job sweeping up all the dropped lines. However, the show was always picked up on again, and the pauses weren't the end of the world. As David Turner acknowledged earlier in the festival, it feels awful to be the one to lose a line, but it's not the ultimate disaster, and the show WILL go on. The same when the singing loses track of the orchestra... and the conductor can (and must) always bring things back together.
On the subject of music, though... The Act I madrigal was pure delight. Superbly sung, and well handled. All vocal parts were audibly represented, and Sullivan's music was heard to good effect. What more need I say!
In naming the principals, I am completely at the mercy of the programme, so I'm not sure that all these names are correct. Please let me know where I go astray! Whoever played Ruth lucked out completely, as her name is not even listed - granted, the part exists only for one scene, but she's an important part of the chorus all the rest of the time! So whoever you are, thank you for your performance tonight, and apologies that I cannot grace you with a name.
Everyone else, though, I can give a name to (hopefully the right one!). Robin (Andy McPhee) brought life and enthusiasm to the stage, maintaining energy even while being reserved and timid around Rose in the first act. With his devoted Old Adam (Stephen Godward), he opened the second act in a manner suitably creepy, and their dialogue was clear and crisp. Rose Maybud (Charli Clement) had such a sweet voice that I would have been sorely disappointed if Bygone Days had been left at just one verse - was delighted to be given both! Dame Hannah (Zena Bradley) performed well, although she could perhaps have used some more rehearsal time. Nonetheless, the Melodrame worked well, as did the transition to the duet with Sir Roddy Doddy; and she got rapt attention from the bridesmaids during her first song. Speaking of whom, it must have been inevitable that Roderick Hunt was cast as the newest ghost - as well as sharing the name Roderic, he fitted the role AND the voice superbly. (His painting, at the end of the hallway, really did have a bad light, too - it came on whenever the ghosts started doing their agonies, which was rather odd. That was the only time the lighting ever grabbed the audience's attention, though, normally far more subtlely supportive.) I thought Joan Self's Margaret had some peculiar facets to her, such as her doll (in pram), which she mistreated at every possible opportunity (why did she have it? What strange mad fancy led her to do this?); an amusing character, though a little hard to believe at times. She and Despard (Simon Theobold) had an amusing scene in their second act entrance, bringing on a bed and demonstrating their morning exercises and the very English notion of tea first thing in the morning - they had two cups waiting for them under the pillows! Dick Dauntless (Joseph Shovelton, not John Tyler as per programme) performed a very simple hornpipe and got everyone on stage involved - bridesmaids AND villagers. The girls were all over him, and he enjoyed every minute of it. Zorah (Jean Krzeminski) had to make sure she grabbed him before someone else got him!
The show deserved all the applause it was awarded.