Lust The Musical

Date 29th September 2021
Society Billericay Operatic Society
Venue Brentwood Theatre
Type of Production Musical
Director Wayne Carpenter
Musical Director Nik Graham
Choreographer Jane Granby

Report

Author: Zahna Hull

This is my first visit to see Billericay Operatic Society, my first visit to the Brentwood Theatre and the first time I get to see Lust the Musical. My interest had definitely been raised with the excellent social media presence of the group and the introduction to some of the characters I might see.

The programme looks professional and reflects the social media presentations.

The society’s chairman, Wayne Carpenter gives an excellent introduction to the play that I will plagiarise here. Set in the realm of Charles II, after the puritan period imposed by Oliver Cromwell, Lust, is written by the Heather Brothers and is based on a play named ‘The Country Wife’ written by William Wycherley in 1675. It tells the story of Horner, a notorious London Libertine, as he attempts to charm his way into the affections and boudoirs of the ladies of society. Men were afraid of their wives having extramarital affairs and being ‘cuckolded’. In Lust the Musical, Horner, with the help of his friend, the surgeon, and the narrator of the show ‘Quack’ comes up with a plan to fool the men of London to spend more time with their wives, who are willing participants. In contrast to the lust and greed represented in the plot there is the love that blossoms between Alithea, and Harcourt.

The production by Billericay Operatic Society was compelling and colourful. The basic set was all that was needed as the large cast filled the stage with sound and movement. The set opened up either side to represent various rooms and in the second act we saw an impressive four poster bed which was the centre of some ‘interesting’ scenes.

The music was great but I was disappointed that the musicians could not be seen for the curtain call. There were a couple of sound issues, when we could hear backstage noise or when the pick-ups on the mics were slow but overall sound was good and the voices of the performers was amplified well. Choreography was excellent. The whole stage was used well and even though entrances and exits to the stage seemed difficult due to the constraints of the theatre there was no distraction from the plot.

Quack, the narrator, is a fabulous performer. The tone of his voice and his stage presence helped the audience comfortably sink into the story. The whole ensemble sang well and I noticed the excellent arrangements and incidentals that added to the enjoyment. This was continued throughout the show. The costumes were wonderful. The attention to detail was fabulous and the complimentary colours used with corresponding characters was a lovely touch. The vibrant colours used for the more colourful characters was also a great idea. I loved Sparkish’s make-up and pink costume, it reflected his dandy ostentatious character.

Horner (Ross Rogers) was the libertine who was attractive to and attracted to the women of London. He reminded me of Pierce Brosnan in Mamma Mia in that he didn’t have the greatest voice but he had an attractive manner and held the show together well. There were some other cast members that stood out. Pinchwife (Peter Brown) was strong. His character was well rounded and his acting was as good as his singing. His relationship with his sister Alithea, his wife Margery, Horner and Sparkish was integral to the story so his excellent diction was essential. He also had a comedic quality and his timing was good too. Margery Pinchwife (Anna Dunn) was a country girl with a rosy and innocent personality. She had a very squeaky spoken voice but good acting, pitch and diction. The London men were a colourful bunch of characters; Sir Jasper and Rudge played by James Richardson and Stuart Parnaby were two who stand out as particularly gullible to Horner’s activities. Both acted and sang well. Dorilant, played by Gerard Jones, was husband to Mistress Squeamish, I really enjoyed his performance. He was very funny and was oblivious to the deceit around him. My eye was drawn to him on stage as it was to Sparkish, played by Matthew Carpenter, both had good stage presence and mannerisms that added to the comedy, the drama and the fun.

The three wives who succumb to Horner were strong too, Gail Carpenter, Ellie Wilkinson and Fiona Whittaker each think that Horner has deceived London Society just for them and this leads to farcical antics in Horner’s bedroom. Each of these ladies had unique character traits, clear voices, good tone. I particularly enjoyed Lady Fidget’s (Gail’s) scenes with Horner; she shone for me when her ‘ladylike’ ways were replaced with her passionate abandonment for Horner.

In contrast to all this was the pure love between Harcourt (Thomas Carpenter) and Alithea (Lindsay Oliver) Alithea was the sensible alternative to Margery’s flightiness and naivety. Alithea, although set to marry Sparkish (with a dowry) had fallen for Harcourt. Thomas was a good person to play Harcourt. He was gentle and serious, making the love seem believable amongst all the Lust around them.  Lindsay Oliver had a good stage presence too. Lindsay and Thomas had voices that sounded good together.

Sparkish hilariously brushed off the whole debacle by exclaiming that he was only marrying Alithea for the money anyway.  

Overall, I had a very enjoyable evening watching Lust the Musical. The company seem like a friendly group who obviously love what they’re doing and work hard. It was such a shame that they had to cancel their performance so close to opening last year but I can honestly say I am pleased that it’s the first musical I have seen since lockdown has ended and I look forward to seeing your next production.