MD: Ken Matthews
Assistant MD: Philip Hall
Directors: Jennifer Moss & Richard Straw
Choreographer: Glynda Blackburn
It is always a please to receive an invitation from St Andrew’s Operatic Society and this year was no different and to make it more interesting on arrival I was informed that it was to review a double bill, firstly Trial by Jury an operetta parody written in 1868 with music by Arthur Sullivan and libretto by W.S. Gilbert This comic opera in one act tells the story of a breach of promise of marriage in which the Judge and legal system are the subject of light-hearted satire, as with most Gilbert and Sullivan operas the plot of Trial and Jury is ludicrous, but the characters behave as if the events were perfectly reasonable. This was followed by The Zoo again a one act comic opera which premiered on 5 June 1875 at St James Theatre written by Arthur Sullivan and libretto by B.C. Stephenson it tells the farcical story concerning two pairs of lovers, Thomas Brown in reality the Duke of Islington who frequents the zoo to woo Eliza the girl who works in the refreshment stall and tries to impress her by over eating the food he buy’s at her stall. The second couple, a young chemist named Carboy who believes that he has poisoned his beloved Laetita by mixing up her mother’s prescription, convinced that he has poisoned his beloved he tries to hang himself with farcical consequences. Under the Direction of Jennifer Moss and Richard Straw these talented directors certainly provided an amazing evening of entertainment and they certainly know how to enable the cast to showcase their superb skills and voices and I particularly enjoyed the way they intertwined both operas to make this a seamless opera, great direction and planning and the set looked great. The choreography created by Glynda Blackburn which supported the opera’s was well translated in terms of the characterisations and vision and suited both operas in terms of its style and performance. Music was in the capable hands of Ken Mathews as Musical Director, Philip Hall as Assistant Musical Director and Pam Bell as Accompanist, the nineteen piece orchestra played beautifully and was an integral part and fundamental to the whole performance as is the traditional playing of the National Anthem at the start of the performance with audience participation it creates the atmosphere and quality of the performance. The costumes looked extremely authentic and added to the overall effect as was the lighting, I must also mention the programme which I though was very good I loved the art work on the front cover.
Trial by Jury is a charming gem in the G and S cannon and St Andrew Operatic Society pulled out all the stops to showcase this wonderful production delivered with great panache, the opening scene was full of energy and I enjoyed the musical number “Hark The Hour Of Ten is Sounding” delivered by the chorus, this was followed by Michael Beck as the Usher delivering his musical number “Now Jurymen Hear My Advice” which was delightfully delivered. Simon McLoughlin delivered a sterling performance as the Learned Judge I enjoyed his musical performance with the chorus “All Hail Great Judge” and When I Good Friends, Was Call’d To The Bar” great interpretation of the character and strong vocals, Laura McLoughlin delivered an exceptional and believable performance as the plaintiff great characterisation and I enjoyed her musical number “Comes The Broken Flower” performed with her bridesmaids who certainly brightened the stage played by Glynda Blackburn as Happy Bridesmaid, Terri Dunne as Bored Bridesmaid Zoe Hull as Bad Bridesmaid and Kim Storey as Cheeky Bridesmaid. Ann Phillips excelled as the defendant again lovely stage presence and vocals I enjoyed her interpretation of “Oh Gentlemen, Listen, I Pray” with the bridesmaids, and finally in the principal line up was Richard Straw as the policeman.
Following the interval the curtains opened with a new set as the ladies and gentlemen of the public made their way to the Zoo, their opening number “The British Public” was well received and set the scene for this less known comic opera. Aesculaplus Carboy played by Steven Aitchison took central stage as he contemplates taking his own life, he delivered his character with passion and confidence together with hilarity and wit as expected with any G &S opera. I particularly enjoyed his musical number “I Loved Her Fondly” supported by the chorus. His beloved Laetita Grinder was equally played by Zoe Hull Zoe had excellent stage presence and looked equally at home on the stage alongside Steven; she delivered her musical number well especially “Laetita’s Song”. Anna Maria McCloskey played Laetita mother Mrs Grinder, Anna Maria has excellent stage presence she throws herself into any character she portrays and her facial expressions are marvellous to watch, I particularly enjoyed her musical number “Where Is My Daughter”. Richard Straw played the lovesick nobleman besotted with Eliza Smith played by Jennifer Moss, these two performers were well matched in terms of the acting and vocal ability and complimented each other on stage, I enjoyed Jennifer’s musical number “”I’m A Simple Little Child” and Richards number “”Ho Guards Minions”. As always in fine voice and acting ability were the ladies and Gentlemen of the jury and the members of the public played by Susan and Nick Antcliff, Fiona Burdon, Joan Cook, Andrew and Jill Cunningham, Janet Cunningham, Elizabeth Dunne, Lizi Goodhall (Tour Guide), Colin Irvine (Zoo Manager), Vera Jackson, Yvonne Richardson, Marie Smith, Bernadette Trotter, Marie-Claire Young, David Dunbar, Alec Slaughter, Eric Stephenson, David Watson and Howard Weathers.
St Andrew Operatic Society certainly know how to get the balance correct between farce and high comedy, there performance ensured a most enjoyable evening and it was so encouraging to see that Gilbert and Sullivan operettas are still very much alive and appealing to sell out audience, thank you all involved for such a scintillating performance.