19 – 24 October 2015
Stage Director – Belinda Ogle-Skan
Musical Director – David Manifold
Chorus Mistress – Stephanie Walsh
Rosalinda Eisenstein – Ailsa Kennedy Ballard
Gabriel Eisenstein – Bob Hills
Adele – Stephanie Walsh
Dr Falke – Rob Burbidge
Alfred – Samuel Taunton
Frank – Keith Swinford
Prince Orlofsky – Karen Dacre
Ida – Grace Hawker
Dr Blint – Richard Schofield
Frosch – Selwyn Morgan
Mitzi – Catherine Welch
Ivan – Richard Schofield
Footman – Peter Bartlett
Prison Warder 1 – Richard Coole
Prison Warder 2 – Lance Trodd
Kate Crow, Teri Dale, Anthony Dale, Katherine Dipple, Cat Edmond, Jennifer Gaden, Clinta Hull, Mike Ide, John Leicester, Rose Leicester, Marta Leskard, Ruth Ludlam, Sue Roffe, Liz Souter, Karen Spriggs, Olivia White.
This Operetta, a story of dalliances, philandering, hidden identity and revenge, with music by Johann Strauss, was a challenging show to choose and particularly for a directorial debut. It is performed infrequently and although has lovely music, much of it, although recognised when you hear it, is not generally well known by cast, musicians or audience. It is written in three Acts with a significant scene change for each. It had been decided to have the interval after the first Act, with a shorter break between Acts 2 & 3. The sets for each were very different.
The first act was set in the apartment of Gabriel Eisenstein, it had wallpaper flats with drapes down the flats and French windows to one side, with suitable furniture to add atmosphere to the room, and it had a set of steps leading to other parts of the apartment. The second Act is set later that evening at a Ball at Prince Olofsky’s Villa. It was much simpler, with screens, which had cut out sections and furniture, which gave the impression of being in a garden or on a terrace. The third Act is set in the Office of the Prison Governor and had large brown flats with a bare table and chairs. Between Acts 2 and 3 the curtains needed to be drawn as it was a major set change, but it was covered amusingly by two of the party guests clearing the bottles and glasses from the tables, which remained on stage from the ball.
The lighting had been well designed giving pleasing effects in all scenes especially at the Ball. The cyclorama at the back was used to good effect, with colour washes helping create the ambience of the scenes. The microphones were well cued and well balanced, giving a natural sound, with all effects being appropriate and well cued. The costumes were mostly appropriate and well worn. The hairstyles and costumes for the ball were suitably grand and decorative, apart from that worn by Prince Orlofsky, which was ill fitting and did not live up to the image of someone with the great wealth that is spoken of. Also Rosalinda’s mask in Act 2 was disappointing, it was too small, making it difficult to believe that her husband did not recognise her.
The most well known pieces from the Operetta come from Act 2 including ‘The Laughing Song’, ‘The Tick-Tock Polka’ and ‘Champagne’. The orchestra on this occasion seemed under rehearsed and disappointed me. Musical Director David Manifold appeared to struggle to keep everyone together. There were some good solo performances from cast members particularly the central characters of Rosalinda and Gabriel, Adele, Dr Falke, Alfred and Prince Orlofsky. There was good characterisation and musicality and, for the most part good diction. However, in some of the chorus numbers the diction was not clear and the audience could not hear the words. Getting the words across to the audience is so important in any show but particularly something not so well known, ‘What a Feast’ was particularly indistinct.
The Principals had created strong characters in this increasingly silly and convoluted plot. Rosalind, the wife, who entertains her ex-lover, singing teacher, Alfred, is discovered with her by the prison governor, who has called to escort her husband to prison, and later is disguised as an Hungarian Countess, was very adaptable and obviously enjoyed each transformation in character. Alfred, the singing teacher, who agrees to go to prison in the guise of the husband, to save the lady’s reputation, was very flamboyant and affected. Gabriel Eisenstein, the husband, played the philanderer, first trying to seduce Adele, his wife’s maid, and then the Hungarian Countess. He played Dr Blind, a supposed lawyer who is trying to release Alfred from prison, extremely well. Adele, the maid, who has aspirations to be on the stage, showed good character changes within her role. Doctor Falke, Eisenstein’s friend, whose plans to seek revenge for having been previously abandoned dressed as a bat, was always in control and developed the story well. Frank, the prison governor was amiable and provided much amusement when drunk. Prince Orlofsky had an air of someone who is in authority and was relishing the mayhem being created at the ball. Ida, Adele’s sister was believable as a fun loving, young member of the ballet company. The other minor roles were well presented, but I must mention Frosh whose drunken antics had the audience roaring with laughter. The chorus worked well with the principals, supporting the action and reacting well as the story unfolded.
Director Belinda Ogle-Skan had worked hard to scale this production down to the limited space of the Barn Theatre stage and it was interesting to see something different to the normal G&S fare of COS in their Autumn production. She had made good use of the limited space. There were some very good chorus groupings particularly in Prince Orlofsky’s song in Act 2. The audience clearly enjoyed the evening and went home smiling after the high comedy of Act 3. Well done everyone for rising to the challenge.