Tuesday, 13 August 2013

University of St Andrews: The Gondoliers

If in doubt, go meta. When you have something crazy to do, hang a lampshade on it. And of course, make sure everyone knows their words and music. (Well, two out of three's not bad. Call it two and a half out of three.) There's only one recipe for a perfect show: Work hard, stick to it. Nothing like work.

Shows in the Paxton - err, I mean the Pavilion Arts Centre - can't fit in the same number of people who would comfortably fill the Opera House stage. Gilbert's specified four dozen chorus would (a) be shoulder to shoulder across the stage, and (b) require double-decker arrangements in the dressing rooms. So of course the chorus is a lot smaller (and so is the orchestra - about a dozen, though there are only ten names in the programme). The girls were fine, but there were a few times when the four gentlemen seemed a little thin on the ground. But thanks to the microphones (which weren't, as they have been in some other shows, turned too far up for most of the night), they did the job of six men each.

I'm sitting in the Festival Club, listening to Caroline Taylor (who played Casilda, and was also Kate in Savoynet's Yeomen) singing to us from Carousel. Lovely voice. Can you afford to export her to Australia? I want her in one of our productions! Ahem. It's not my place to embarrass the people I loved working with in Yeomen, so I'll stow my jawing tackle and belay. Anyway. She makes a great Casilda, and duets beautifully with Luiz (Adam Robbie). Luiz, meanwhile, considers his greatest accomplishment to be his farmyard imitations, which I have to say are terrible! Though he managed to get his employer, the Duke of Plaza-Toro (Ruaridh Maxwell), to join him; but considering how lost the Duke was (I'm fairly sure he had a map of Buxton - no wonder he couldn't figure out which way up it was), that's perhaps no great boast. In any case, all he could have done would be to defer to his Duchess (Elizabeth Unsworth Wilson), whose strength of presence made up for the accent that at times got in the way of her clarity; she suffered one of those horrible moments, and I wish there could have been a do-over opportunity for the sake of the DVD, but live performance can be rough. Her consistent drunk act gives some sort of excuse for it, I suppose! And having painted myself into a corner, I'll jump out somewhat randomly and cover Don Alhambra (Mark Hamid) on the flimsy connection that he looked rather younger than the Duke and Duchess, even though he ought to be at least their age (having been Grand Inquisitor when their daughter was a baby). Anyway. His primary purpose is, as always, to make trouble and then fetch up the bandit queen at the end, which he did competently. Inez (Annabel Phillips) gets that tiny but critical role, so much plot in so little stage time. Every word was audible. Of course, we never find out who her son is, but it's either Marco (Laurie Slavin) or Giuseppe (Alexander Levine), both of whom sang their respective solos and duets smoothly (TAPOSE was neatly at the top of Laurie's range; the orchestra let him down a little, but he sang it finely). Their wife-selection antics almost got the better of them when they picked out the wrong girls, even after three tries through the music, but Gilbert provided them an opportunity to change, and the rest of the show was run as written with Marco taking Gianetta (Maddy Kearns) and Giuseppe taking Tessa (Emma Rogers). All four did a superb job of the Regular Royal Queen, and also (with the chorus) the Cachucha. Precise movements and working well together.

Snarky asides make for a fun show, as long as you don't mind repairing the fourth wall after each performance. Snarky non-asides do too, and sometimes you can even pretend you still have a fourth wall. Casilda wants a pony, not a salute; and she also remarks upon the reason for her family's impecunious state - namely, rental of one (1) cardboard gondola, which they carried on and then abandoned at the Ducal Palace. It's the little moments that enhance a good show to being excellent. Loved the show, and loved the cabaret tonight as well (though that last is shared with the members of Grosvenor LOG; more about their Patience shortly).

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