After seeing Opera della Luna's Sorcerer, I was hoping for a more traditional production. This fulfilled excellently, keeping all Gilbert's words and Sullivan's music, and having excellent direction to support them.
The curtain rose during the overture, leaving the scrim in, with some action in front. This seemed to center on four strangely mobile trees, which shifted around several times during the production - like the bush in the Looney Tunes short "Don't Give Up the Sheep", if anyone else is as sad a cartoon geek as I am. The scrim was put to excellent use, with front and back lighting used in turn to hide or reveal what was happening. Lighting states during the full stage scenes were a little simplistic, perhaps, but the follow spots were wielded so expertly that the principals were always hilighted; the one time that two spots couldn't manage alone was the quintet, in which two couples took the sides of the stage, and the vicar sat on the rostrum in the center; and for that, there were three orange specials, hilighting in colour excellently. The vicar's one could have done with being a little brighter, as the stronger background light there overshadowed it a bit, but it was still visible.
The singing was generally good; although some of the principals seemed stuck upstage at some points, and thus less audible, they were much clearer when they came down; and the chorus always gave us well balanced harmony. A few songs were taken rather slowly, such as the end of the Incantation scene, but the show never really dragged. Speaking of the Incantation, though - we got some REAL pyrotechnics! No cheating with a puff of smoke and a bit of a lighting effect, this was a real bang. Actually, there were five bangs; one in JWWells's opening (which was also enhanced by some traditional magician's tricks), three in the incantation of course, and finally (I don't think I'm spoiling the plot for anyone here!) at Wells's death. The death worked extremely well. He stepped behind a curtain, then poked his head out for "Be happy all", and finally disappeared behind it, with a pyrotechnic flash. The curtain opened instantly - and he was gone!
A strong cast kept the show moving along at a good pace. Mrs Partlet (Cathy Murray) and her daughter Constance (Charlotte Deverill) set the scene of rustic village life, and when Dr Daly (Ian Metcalfe) came on, they hid behind the trees (which had conveniently brought themselves up near the steps) to watch and listen. The scene between the three of them was well directed, with the conversation using most of the space downstage, and the upstage areas having a few other people scattered around, taking an interest in the proceedings. Lady Sangazure (Cherrill Ashford) carried herself in perfect style, clearly a fitting mother-in-law for a great Pointdextre. Aline (Jemma Truss) looked and sounded lovely - any tenor would do well to win her for his bride, such a pity she had to go to such a bounder as Alexis... but as tenors go, he (Rossano Saltfleet) certainly earned his right to woo the lead soprano. Their duets sounded lovely. Sir Marmaduke (Mike Griffiths) had the voice and presence to take command of the stage, calling people to his mansion for a feast, courteous but not afraid to make himself heard in a crowd. John Wellington Wells (John Gerken) also took complete command of the stage, though in a different way; one does not ignore the man who, while he may not turn you into a guinea pig, would be likely to blow you to pieces - not maliciously, but just by mispositioning one of his explosive charges! (As he laid some on the steps, during his opening explanations, one fell down onto the next step. Fortunately it wasn't fused, or the story would have been cut quite short... hmm, that would be an interesting plot twist!)
A most enjoyable evening. Well done to all involved.