Belle or The Ballad of Doctor Crippen

Date 12th May 2016
Society Caprian Theatre Company
Venue Gateshead Little Theatre
Type of Production Musical
Director Tom Stafford
Musical Director Enid Stafford
Choreographer Joan Oldfield

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Author: Foster Johnson

One has to admire societies who are prepared to take a chance and stage productions that many others may not and consider to be “left field”, especially when they are successful. Such was the case with the Caprians’ production of “Belle or The Ballad of Doctor Crippen” a Music Hall Musical which recounts the death of Belle Elmore/Cora Crippen the wife of the infamous dentist doctor Hawley Harvey Crippen.

To quote the show synopsis it is not a dark story but a hilarious romp through an actual event in British history. Well with this production it certainly lived up to its billing and delivered on all counts.

Under the assured touch of Director Tom Stafford, Musical Director Enid Stafford and Choreographer Joan Oldfield the multi talented cast of 15 treated the audience to a fine night’s entertainment producing a final product that had a wonderful feel and pace to it with quality singing, and excellent acting and comedic scenes backed up with interpretive choreography. This was supplemented with simple but effective staging and lighting to fit the mood of the production and costumes that were relevant to the period in which the show was set.

The production features six leading roles some of whom played multi facet and different characters throughout the course of its run and there was not a weak link to be seen.

Andrew Howe as Hawley Crippen portrayed the infamous doctor with gravitas and stature and finely conveyed how his convoluted home/love life led him to dispose of his wife. Kim Robinson (Belle/Madam Petrazzini) was her usual ebullient self and commanded the stage whenever she entered Lindsay Kellegher (Ethel Le Neve) shone in the role of Crippen’s Secretary and lover and as usual gave a delightful performance, whilst Susan Pennington as Jenny Pearl was ideally cast in the role of a Music Hall Artiste.

It was also nice to see the continuing development of Sam Monkhouse who played the three roles of George Lasher, Inspector Walter Dew and Captain Henry Kendall all with different voice characterisations. He is certainly one for the future. Last but by no means Kevin Riley. What a brilliant character actor he is and a master of timing and comedy Not only did he play the roles of Mighty Mick, Sergeant Mitchell, Edward Marshall Hall but the roles of Steward, Pharmacist as a Pantomime Dame, Radio Operator all with different accents, and as the programme said many others. There were 36 musical/part musical numbers in the show all delivered in fine style but the pick of them for me were Pills, Pills, Pills performed by the Dame and The Dit Dit Song performed by The Company as a whole with associated  choreography which represented the radio transmission which led to Crippen’s capture.