Company

Date 19th July 2012
Society Bath Light Operatic Group
Venue The Wroughton Theatre, Bath
Type of Production Musical
Director Tristan Carter
Musical Director Mark Bradbury
Choreographer Annette Wilsher

Report

Author: Graeme Savage

For a company which seems sometimes reluctant to break away from the restraints of the big, classic musicals, this is perhaps surprisingly BLOG’s 2nd Sondheim production in only 3 years. If the results are always as smart as Tristan Carter’s bold and brash production, maybe they should be a little more adventurous in the future!

Andrew English gave us a more sympathetic and understated Bobby than is usually the case, and this made him a much more likeable character than usual. If at times this deprived some of the earlier vignettes of a touch of conflict, as Bobby become more of a neutral observer of squabbles than the catalyst for conflict, this was still an impressive performance, building up to a superb finale of ‘Being Alive’. 

In a company which is more of a list of cameos than a cast list, the warring couples had been very well-matched in their casting. Alex Pugh’s Amy almost stole the show for me with an excellent rendition of ‘Not Getting Married’ – probably the first time I’ve been able to hear and understand every word, with strong support from her put-upon husband-to-be Paul (Raymond Morrison),  and Emma Boden’s clear soprano. Petra Schofield and David Key-Pugh made the delightful Southern couple Peter & Susan the most endearing of Bobby’s friends, the non-New York outsiders seemingly the only ones emboldened rather than destroyed by Bobby’s friendship. Anna Penwarden made the most of her relatively short stage time, as the ditzy girlfriend April.

The simple set of moveable boxes and one striking staircase gave the actors plenty of space, and like Sondheim’s lyrics and music, nowhere to hide, as the focus was tightly on their characters. It also allowed scope for some neat choreography from Annette Wilsher (and presumably Duncan Mitchell’s own disco routine!), which was confidently performed by the whole company. Some of the scene changes were a little fussier than they seemed to need to be. However, Luke Emmett’s beautiful lighting design emphasised the central New York setting, and 70’s feel perfectly. 

In his first show with the company, musical director Mark Bradbury showed an excellent understanding of the complex Sondheim score, bringing some strong harmonies from the cast and keeping his small orchestra well controlled. At times, the overall sound balance felt a little too much, obscuring some of the words in the first half chorus numbers (‘Have I Got A Girl For You’ in particular), but this seemed to be an issue with the overall balance, rather than competition between singers and orchestra, and was a lot less noticeable in the second act.

Congratulations to BLOG for a brave choice, which on this showing seems to have been totally justified, and hopefully will lead to more productions on this scale in the future.