Music by Johann Strauss II, Libretto by Richard Genée and Carl Haffner
Secombe Theatre, Sutton
It is such a pity that wonderful operettas such ‘Die Fledermaus’ are not performed more often. When I started in this fantastic ‘game’ of ours, every musical society was an operatic society and had the breadth of vocalists to sustain such a production. Therefore, productions of Strauss, Romberg, Lehar and the like are becoming more and more a thing of the past. It is true that some of the libretti need updating and some of the plots preposterous (including Die Fledermaus) but the music is undoubtedly timeless. Additionally, societies no longer have a sufficiency of operatic style voices in their ranks, probably as a result of more modern pop style musicals being established in recent years and the glut of reality shows that now exist. I must point out that this isn’t the case with WLOS but more generally and it is a great shame really.
I enjoyed this WLOS production very much indeed. The principals were very strong, the costumes were lush, the sets extravagant looking and the relatively large orchestra played Strauss’s melodies and waltzes beautifully. There was a nice relaxed feel about the whole production, everybody was smiling and appeared to be having a jolly good time. Credit for this must go to Director Madeleine Middleton who appears to have a penchant for directing this style of production and to Holly Stout for preparing the cast royally and engaging / conducting a high class orchestra. Mithu Mukherjee as choreographer wasn’t particularly stretched in this operetta but when called upon the movements and waltzes where pleasant on the eye.
The initial scene, within David Croft’s impressive set, was sufficiently decadent to portray the social standing of the Eisenstein household – high society indeed. Nice bright lighting throughout gave the production its colour, especially at Orlovsky’s party. The costumes were of the correct period, colourful and totally appropriate for the age and status of the individual characters. The aforementioned party was the chance for the lady revellers to wear their pretty frocks and for the men to dust off the evening wear and join in a masked gathering. This show is big on props and I thought, both your wardrobe and props teams did a marvellous job.
This was a true ensemble production as your chorus backed up the principals tremendously but I have written a few individual notes on the main principals who all conducted themselves admirably;
Rosalinde – Friesia Schuil – Just lovely as our leading lady, possessing an excellent soprano voice and showing the necessary skills to stand up to her slippery husband
Eisenstein – Geoffrey Strum – Geoffrey showed great energy and enthusiasm in this plum role for a tenor in an operetta. His scenes with Falke and Rosalinde were always interesting and slick
Adele – Emma Newman-Young – Another great performance as the maid with an eternally sick elder relative. Pert, quirky, accessible – Emma was all of these
Dr Falke – David Ballard was calculating in his revenge of Eisentein. David was cunning and likeable in his portrayal of Falke whilst directing the outcome at every turn
Des Muller – Frank – Suitably convincing as the drunken gaoler, must have taken years of practice! Seriously though, Des performed well and never better than at the beginning of Act 3
Monica Valcarcel – Orlovsky – Sometimes male, more increasing female, Monica owned the part and expertly sang the beautiful ‘Chacun a son gout’
Alfred – Callum McFadyen – Callum was completely over the top (as it should be) and gave us many great comedic moments
Ida – Marion Hayter – Marion as Adele’s sister Ida added much charm to the proceedings and sang equally as well
Frosch – Al Clogston – More Igor than Frosch but Al seems to revel in these slightly angular characters
Dr Blind – Paul Sadler – Dr Blind is a character where you have to find a character (if you know what I mean) and which Paul did satisfactorily
Usually when I attend the shows in my region I have much to praise with the odd criticism here and there to counter balance. However on this occasion I haven’t made any negative notes at all, so well done WLOS.
The A4 souvenir programme had an excellent layout and there was plenty of interesting society reading and absorbing rehearsal photographs to be done. Short biogs and especially photographs are always very welcome as it shows the relevant experience and growth of performers. The NODA section was very welcome too.
London Area 3