Blancheblanche marvin's london theatreviews

recommended by Peter Brook
**** = stand if necessary
*** = sit in front stalls
** = sit in back stalls
* = have a drink!
from OPERA NORTH lyrics/music GEORGE and IRA GERSHWIN book GEORGE KAUFMAN and MORRIS RYSKIND conductor WYN DAVIES director CAROLINE GAWN décor TIM HOPKINS costumes GABRIELLE DALTON lights WOLFGANG GOBBEL dance CAROLINE POPE first leader DAVID GREED with STEPHEN BEARD throttlebottom, JENI BERN trixie, PETER BODENHAM chief justice, RICHARD BURKHARD sam/fruger, SARAH JILLIAN COX emily, WILLIAM DAZELEY wintergreen, ROB EDWARDS fulton, REBECCA MOON mary turner, GRAHAM HOWES senator lyons, MARTIN HYDER gilhooley/guide, RICHARD MORRIS senator carver, CLAIRE PASCOE maid, NICHOLAS SHARRATT lippman, HEATHER SHIPP Diana devereaux, RICHARD SUART French ambassador/general snookfield
Of thee I sing to Opera North for presenting Of Thee I Sing and Let ‘Em Eat Cake in sequence plus addressing a recognition to George Gershwin which the USA has neglected. But that is the essence of Opera North …its ingenious and highly intelligent programming…its fabulous orchestra that is so sensitive to the singers…its conductors like Wyn Davies who are so alive, pacey, and joyous while dramatically cogent…and its varied talent of the singers whose voices are a boon to opera and who can act seriously or comically in addition to dancing. There is also the choreographer and director filled with joie de vivre where the attack on the mockery is so precise and never over or under done. What an opera company, what a team, Leeds has produced!! And what a treat to see them at the Sadlers Wells which bubbles with endless energy that goes on and on with surprise after surprise along with the dynamic works of such distinct rarity! Of Thee I Sing itself is almost a wisp of a satire in which an American presidential candidate named John P Wintergreen jazzes up his nomination by running a nation- wide beauty contest, promising the winner to be his bride. He marries the homemaker/home-baker of corn muffins, Mary Turner, instead of a Southern belle, the winner with an iron hand in a velvet glove, Diane Devereaux. She is not to be crossed…. invoking the aid of the French ambassador who declares war on her behalf. There is the lampooning of a vice–president, Throttlebottom, whom no one wants, recognises or remembers. The fun of the lyrics is bumptious…’the illegitimate daughter, of the illegitimate son, of the illegitimate nephew, of Napoleon.’ The music may not have songs to take home, but, oh my, how they bounce to tapping feet in the show! What buoyancy in songs like Of Thee I Sing. The skill of the score plus the enthusiasm they evoke from the singers and chorus make it a classic of human delight. How feel-good can you get!! Its sequel Let ’ Em Eat Cake though mistimed originally with a theme of a president leaving office and setting up a revolution to become dictator was not exactly humorous in 1933 with the rise of Hitler and the entrenched depression. However, with the exit of Bush and his corrupted election, what could be timelier. It’s not being produced in the USA but by Opera North! Let ’ Em Eat Cake’s parody, being a continuation of Of Thee I Sing, is still not savage satire but rather cuckoo-land comedy. Wintergreen, the noodlehead president from Of Thee I Sing, is voted out of office and his down-to-earth wife, Mary Turner, turns to the business of selling blue shirts. They are inspired to start a revolution since Mussolini had black shirts, Hitler had brown, so why not the USA with blue shirts. The Supreme Court judges challenge the League of Nations to a baseball game with the loser paying off the war debt and the vice president Throttlebottom being guillotined. The book is not as light-footed as Of Thee I Sing and the music is more serious, more sophisticated for the mostly contrapuntal choral numbers which bring it closer to opera. Scored brilliantly but not nearly as jaunty or ear-catching as the songs in Of Thee I Sing, it is still a novice piece one will not see again very easily nor find another operetta that captures the swing rhythms of the dance-bands. The company are exciting in putting life and pizzazz into the operettas. Richard Stuart as the French ambassador gives a comic performance equal to none and he can sing. Steven Beard as Throttlebottom almost steals the show but more or less runs parallel to Stuart in comic audacity. William Dazeley is a shining star...a richly toned baritone singing and acting with a casual sureness of touch as Wintergreen. Heather Shipp’s Diane Devereaux looks like a gorgeous hussy, is a soprano supreme with a sense of timing and spoofing that delivers the goods. Rebecca Moon, as Mary Turner, sings like an angel, dances a light-fantastic, while keeping her cool as an actress. Caroline Gawn’s direction is remarkable in its balance of comedy with the joy of the music joined by her choreographer Caroline Pope who has these singers on their toes. The set, lights, and costumes are all first-rate and keep these shows running so smoothly, colourfully, and fluidly with scenic changes at the drop of a hat. This is best of British export!!!!
February 18-21/09