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The Merry Widdow

Date

13th March 2014

Society

Astwood Bank Operatic Society

Venue

Palace Theatre

Type of Production

Musical

Director

Steve Skinner

Musical Director

Ton Porter

Report

Author: Ian G Cox

This is a musical extravaganza with a feast of memorable pieces that audiences have enjoyed for many years. No lavish set for this company as the scenery was minimalist and simple but in every respect absolutely right. Appropriately perhaps Franz Lehár's operetta, somewhat of a financial tale, reflects the fiscal anxieties of a small European state whose entire GDP has ended up in a flighty young widow's jewellery drawer.

Njegus (Dennis Crowe) was comic and novel. Valencienne,( Jo Hargreaves) and Camille ( Alan Hastings) both gave very assured performances none more so than in ‘ A Highly Respectable Wife’ . St Brioche (Iain Waddell) and Cascada (Tony Vater) both played their respective roles with conviction, along with Baron Zeta (Stewart Vick), though the production benefited hugely from a commanding excellent performance from Count Danilo (Mike Faulkner) whose experience and excellent stagecraft was superb. ‘His duets with Anna (Eleanor Pebedy) were thoroughly enjoyable including ‘Driving in the Park with You’ and ‘The Waltz Scene’. Both were ably supported by the Ladies and Grisettes in ‘You’ll Find Me at Maxim’s’ and by the whole ensemble in a delightful rendition of ‘Vilia’

Some on stage at times were less sure footed than others though the big chorus numbers from the full ensemble did full justice to this magical and magnificent Franz Lehar extravaganza. It would have been very easy to dismiss the minimalist somewhat ‘home made’ scenery approach to a work normally associated with lavish sets.  Maxim’s for example a ‘Blackpool Illumination’ type name board illustrating the scene and a marquee with a park bench. Far from it though and the cleverly designed set was as an ideal combination of scenery for this production and proved highly effective.

Extremely high quality costumes of great colour variation and excellent style enhanced the whole production and the finale pieces involving everyone on stage produced strong waltz time singing which almost certainly left the audience humming those wonderful tunes all the way home.