Previous Productions

Listed below are the previous productions of the society since 2000.

Those from 2004 include video clips and photographs taken from the productions.

2001 - Iolanthe

Iolanthe
or
The Peer and the Peri

Directed by: Liz McKenzie
Conducted by: Melanie Gilbert

A semi-staged production

Iolanthe - Poster

Iolanthe 2002
designed by Viv Morgan

2002 - The Yeomen of the Guard


The Yeomen of the Guard

or
The Merryman and his Maid

Directed by: Jean Keighley
Conducted by: Melanie Gilbert

Yeomen of the Guard on parade Phoebe flirts with Shadbolt

The Yeomen of the Guard - Poster

The Yeomen of the Guard 2002
designed by Viv Morgan

2003 - Patience


Patience

- the Makeover
or
Bowenthorne’s Pride

Directed by: Nic Wilson
Conducted by: Melanie Gilbert

Bowenthorne and his adoring fans Titchmarsh rejects the ladies adulation

A revised and updated version of Patience, written by Liz McKenzie and Nic Wilson, which transposed the adulation for 19th century Aesthetic poets to 21st century worship of celebrity, and in particular, the (then) current vogue for television "makeover" programmes.

Patience - Poster

The Patience 2003 poster
designed by Viv Morgan

Patience - Review

Derbyshire Times - Thursday, June 12, 2003

STYLE CHALLENGE

Gay Bolton
Reproduced by permission of the Derbyshire Times

It's become the fashion to give classic works a modern look

What better way to attract new spectators than set an old-fashioned 19th century comedy about competitive poets in the world of rival television makeover kings?

Matlock Gilbert and Sullivan Society's updated version of Patience painted on the colour with a wide brush - from starstruck groupies in bright outfits to the hilarious song and dance act of Max Taylor as Handy Andy Duke and Sue Kinsella as makeover applicant Tara.

I thought the company missed a golden opportunity not to include Trinny and Susannah as makeover hopefuls - but you can't win em all.

The men's chorus, wearing overalls and hard hats came on stage wielding steel frames and built a plant stand.

One of them, Nic Wilson, who produced the show, entertained with the G & S standard 'patter song' including everyone from Jonah Lomu to lan Hislop while references to the National Lottery, Tony Blair, B & Q and Ikea littered the script.

It was only Christine Gilman as Patience who didn't have a new look. Her mop cap and dress were 1880s fashion, although this Patience was cook rather than milkmaid.

Eric Morgan, as the flowery dreamer Lawrence Bowenthorne had the best line : "Come On In, The Wardobe's Lovely!" and lan Clulow as rival Archibald Titchmarsh amused everyone as the bighead with a line in naff verse.

The staging was simple but its different levels proved a stumbling block for one of the elder actresses who fell at Bakewell's Medway Centre on Thursday. In true showbiz tradition, she got back on her feet and carried on.

While the company took liberties with the libretto, the music stayed true to the original and a pat on the back to musical director Melanie Gilbert for informative notes in the programme.

Highlights included ensemble piece I Heard The Soft Note, the solo by Ann Hawkswood of Sad Is That Woman's Lot and Christine Gilman's Love Is A Plaintive Song.

All in all it was a terrific creation from a sound force.

2004 - The Mikado


The Mikado

or
The Titipu Club

Directed by: Nic Wilson
Conducted by: Melanie Gilbert

Ko-Ko's snicker snee Katisha claims the hand of Nanki Poo

A modern day production relocated from 19th century Japan to a seedy nightclub.

This production was the first time the Society used a small orchestra (The Titipu Club Pitband) to accompany the performance.

The Mikado - Poster

The Mikado 2004
designed by Nic Wilson

The Mikado - Review

Derbyshire Times - Thursday, June 17, 2004

Society scores a triumph as The Mikado adopts a gangster-style theme

Break with tradition is key to success...

Ian Dempsey
Reproduced by permission of the Derbyshire Times

There was all to play for as Matlock Gilbert & Sullivan Society staged The Mikado on the eve of the European soccer championships.

It marked the society's first away fixture since being founded in 1992 - all their previous productions having taken place in Matlock.

But this time they decided to uproot and travel along the A6 to the neighbouring town of Bakewell.

And there was another new development as the society took to the stage at the Medway Centre - for the first time they were accompanied by a live band under the baton of musical director Melanie Gilbert.

Seedy nightclub

In addition to this, producer Nic Wilson dispensed with the traditional Oriental style of The Mikado and set the action in a seedy nightclub, complete with gangsters.

The society must have wondered whether all these changes would produce the right result.

But they needn't have worried ... so many people turned up they had to delay the kick-off for at least five minutes while extra seating was found to accommodate everyone.

Writing in the programme, society chairman Jos Lowe explained the reasons behind the move out of Matlock: "The facilities at the Medway Centre are so ideal that we could not resist. More convenient accommodation, better stage access and lighting, immeasurably better acoustics- and much more comfort for our audience, both in the foyers and seating."

In keeping with the gangster theme,the costumes were mainly black and white, and there were shades of famous movies such as The Godfather, Bugsy Malone, Guys and Dolls and The Blues Brothers. Even the 101 Dalmatians proved a valuable source of inspiration with Liz McKenzie playing the lovelorn Katisha in the guise of Cruella de Vil - a role she revelled in.

Nic Wilson played Ko-Ko, the Lord High Executioner, with great comic flair and enjoyed some memorable exchanges with Katisha. He also found an excellent foil in Ian Clulow as Pooh-Bah, the club 'fixer', bore and Lord High Everything Else!

Nic's Little List song of "people we can do without" gave scope for much amusement. Football featured in the shape of England captain David Beckham (that was before his costly penalty miss against France) but it wasn't him, it was Posh who got her marching orders. Others included candidates in the TV show I'm a Celebrity: Get Me Out of Here, various political cronies and tabloid journalists - thankfully, this did not include members of the provinicial press!

David Pope was a swaggering presence as The Mikado, the nightclub owner. His character was very much in The Godfather mode - definitely not a man to be trifled with.

Max Taylor as The Mikado's son, Nanki-Poo, and his beloved Yum-Yum (Sue Sloan) skilfully captured the contrasting emotions as their fortunes swung from one extreme to another.

The youngest member of the cast, 16-year-old Hannah Boron, sparkled as Yum-Yum's younger sister Peep-Bo and delivered some amusing lines with aplomb.

As Yum-Yum prepared to marry Nanki-Poo, who was under sentence of death by decapitation, she reminded her that her enjoyment would soon be "cut short".

Susan Devaney, playing Yum-Yum's older sister Pitti-Sing, provided rousing support, along with Ken Watson as head barman Pish-Tush and Calum Kinsella as assistant barman Go-To.

The presence of a small orchestra added greatly to the atmosphere, creating just the right ambience.

Matlock G&S Society's first away fixture was acclaimed a resounding success by the capacity audience.

They couldn't have wished for a better result...

2005 - The Zoo & HMS Pinafore


The Zoo

Staging devised by Jos Lowe
Directed by: Nic Wilson
Conducted by: Melanie Gilbert
Orchestral arrangement: MaxTaylor

Thomas Brown's true identity is revealed Aesculapius Carboy is relieved that he hasn't poisoned his love, Laetitia


HMS Pinafore

or
The Lass who loved a Sailor

Directed by: Nic Wilson
Conducted by: Melanie Gilbert

Buttercup sells her wares to the sailors Ralph Rackstraw, the Bosun and Carpenter attempt to sing Sir Joseph's song

The Zoo & HMS Pinafore - Poster

The Zoo & HMS Pinafore Poster 2005
designed by Nic Wilson

The Zoo & HMS Pinafore - Review

Derbyshire Times - Thursday, June 16, 2006

Double delight in the heat of the night

Gay Bolton
Reproduced by permission of the Derbyshire Times

Want to conjure up a heatwave? Just stage HMS Pinafore in flaming June.

Nearly 130 years ago Gilbert and Sullivan's new comic opera almost bombed because searing heat put off the audiences and those that did support it were unenthusiastic.

Two centuries later. Mother Nature turns up the heat again but this time it's a much rosier picture for Matlock Gilbert and Sullivan Society.

Despite scorching temperatures for the launch of the show in Bakewell's Medway Centre on Thursday, the enthusiasm of the cast swept over the spectators like a tidal wave.

After nearly three hours under spotlights, the ladies' chorus in buttoned-up full-length dresses, wide-brimmed hats and woolly tights looked as fresh and fragrant as the first minute they stepped out as did bowler-hatted producer Nic Wilson trussed up in a tight three-piece suit.

This production saw Matlock G&S return to a more traditional approach to their chosen art, rather than the liberties they took with their two previous shows, The Mikado and Patience. But they didn't stick to the script rigidly. The setting was relocated from dockside to boating lake and Nic Wilson's hilarious portrayal of first lord of the admiralty Sir Joseph Porter set him up as a pompous Northerner with a touch the Irish. During one scene, Nic clambered onto a small stage which was a masterstroke in depicting his character as a testy little man with a big ego.

Magnificent Max Taylor has a voice that could launch a thousand ships and was the best able seaman Ralph Rackstraw I have seen to date. His stage presence was as commanding as his voice.

Wendy Costigan's singing was a delight and her confidence grew as the show progressed, making her an eminently likeable and lovable Josephine, daughter of Captain Corcoran who was played with aplomb by Eric Morgan.

Liz McKenzie, in her first contralto role, rose to the challenge of performing Buttercup's songs such as Sir, You Are Sad and A Many Years Ago. As well as putting her own stamp on the character with an uppercrust accent and slimline figure, Liz held the audience in the palm of her hand in the scene where Buttercup reveals her secret.

Staged as part of the Matlock Live festival, HMS Pinafore was part of a double-bill celebrating British patriotism. The opening show was a rarely performed little number called The Zoo on which composer Arthur Sullivan collaborated with writer Bolton Rowe.

The Zoo is a strange tale of suicide attempts, gluttony and a master of disguise.

It highlights England in a bygone era where afternoons were spent looking at animals in cages and taking afternoon tea, served by a glamorous maid in long black dress, white apron and hat.

Vivienne Morgan gave a delightful performance as the refreshment stallholder, Eliza Smith. Once again. Max Taylor took the honours as her high-bom suitor Thomas, as well as being responsible for the orchestral arrangements of the piece.

Despite the signs for bears, racoons and elephants, there wasn't an animal in sight. From my vantage point at the side ot the back row. I thought the only danger lurked in the orchestra pit where the volume of the music came perilously close to drowning out the soloists.

For the main production of HMS Pinafore I transferred to ground level and took a seat in the centre of the audience where the balance of singers and musicians sounded much better.

2006 - The Pirates of Penzance (July) & Trial by Jury (December)


The Pirates of Penzance

or
The Slave of Duty

Directed by: Max Taylor
Conducted by: Melanie Gilbert

Major General Stanley's dream Mabel advises the police of their duty

Relocated from the 1870's to the 1950's, this production was notable for its use of an all female police force.


Trial by Jury

Directed by: Liz McKenzie
Conducted by: Melanie Gilbert

This semi-staged production was performed as the first of half of Gilbertian Goodies & Seasonal Songs - our concert at Christmas.

The Pirates of Penzance - Poster

Pirates of Penzance Poster 2007
designed by Nic Wilson

The Pirates of Penzance - Review

Derbyshire Times - Thursday, July 6, 2006

Pirate Kings

Gay Bolton
Reproduced by permission of the Derbyshire Times

Carnival day in Bakewell rounded off with a rollicking good show in front of a surprisingly large audience.

On one of the hottest days of the year and less than an hour after England crashed out of the World Cup, I expected most people to be drowning their sorrows in pubs or at home.

But the Medway Centre was positively buzzing with joie de vivre as performers washed away any post-match blues in a lively production of The Pirates of Penzance.

While our nation's footballers may not be the best on the planet, Matlock Gilbert and Sullivan Society set out to show why England is the envy of the world when it comes to putting on a first-rate production.

Top-notch singing and comedy was delivered in bucketloads in a show which fizzed along at a rate of knots.

First-time director Max Taylor had promised a few surprises and he didn't disappoint. Several of the pirates looked like quintessential Englishmen in straw boaters - one even had a riding hat and a hobby horse named Fury - while the Major General's daughter wore 50s-style polka dot dresses and accessories.

Max, playing the role of Major General, had adapted the traditional "patter song" to include a reference to Bakewell pudding and Delia. The nearest it came to football was a mention of Wembley, which was a little bit of a let-down given the dramatic events of the night but perhaps timing was against a last-minute rewrite of the song on Saturday

Susan Devaney and Liz McKenzie provided the comic piece de resistance as the singing detectives, proving mistresses in the art of sleuth defence in their buttoned-up macs and delivering police speak together in a robotic monotone.

And the classic With Cat-Like Tread was sung heartily, rather than softly, by the pirates, under the leadership of a bearded Eric Morgan as the Pirate King.

Nic Wilson was outstanding in his role as leading man and apprentice pirate Frederic. His diction was crystal clear, his delivery engaging and his outfit lived up to an "effective but alarming costume" resembling a cross-between Just William and a boyish-looking Scout master.

Nic's duets with Lesley Kraushaar, who played leading lady Mabel and reached sky-scraping high notes with apparent ease, and Carole Pilkington, who played Ruth, were among the show's highlights.

Under the baton of musical director Melanie Gilbert, the orchestra pitched its playing just perfectly and the simple staging allowed the large cast to ebb and flow effortlessly.

Last week's three-night run of Pirates even stole a march on the rest of the world the International Festival of Gilbert and Sullivan lands at Buxton later this month.

2007 - Ruddigore


Ruddigore

or
The Witch's Curse

Directed by: Max Taylor
Conducted by: Melanie Gilbert

The bridesmaids try to persuade one of the village beaus to woo Rose Maybud Sir Despard Murgatroyd

The tale of the Bad Baronets of Ruddigore with living pictures.

Ruddigore - Poster

Ruddigore Poster 2007
designed by Nic Wilson

Ruddigore - Review

Derbyshire Times - Thursday, June 14, 2007

Raising the roof!

Gay Bolton
Reproduced by permission of the Derbyshire Times

Top-class singing, spirited dancing, comic characterisation and impressive costumes - Matlock Gilbert and Sullivan Society's production of Ruddigore brought the house down quite literally.

Flimsy artwork's ruddy poor show saw house rooftops brought down by the swirling dresses of peachy bridesmaids rushing around the stage during the opening minutes of launch night.

But the cheap-looking cardboard scenery propped up against the backdrop was the only weakest link in a show which highlighted the strengths of this small, but enthusiastic company.

A society as small as Matlock's is fortunate in having principals who wouldn't look out of place on a larger stage than that of the Medway Centre, Bakewell, where the show ran last week.

They brought an air of professionalism to the tale about a witch's curse, bad baronets and desperate bridesmaids.

Lesley Kraushaar as Rose Maybud, a maiden whose constant companion was her book of etiquette, has a voice to die for. Her impressive singing shone out alongside that of counterpart Nic Wilson in their signature duet "I Know A Youth". The tip-toeing style of the music, played by a nine-strong orchestra under the baton of Melanie Gilbert, was complemented by the lead pair's acting which embodied the essence of a shy couple attracted to each other.

This was one of Nic's finest performances - and one where he was required to play two different characters; the first as a modest farmer labouring under a false identity and the second where he revealed his true colours as a baronet, scowling and creeping around the stage with all the menace of a pantomime villain.

Show producer Max Taylor brought maximum comedy to his role as humble mariner Richard Dauntless, skipping around the stage with a posse of bridesmaids, heading up a hornpipe dance and then collapsing on a bench looking worn out by his exertions.

Larger-than-life characterisations require actors of a big stature and the towering presence of Bernard Gardner as the wicked baronet Sir Despard proved a trump card in the production.

Chris Kraushaar as baronet Sir Roderick showed off a fine singing voice in "When The Night Wind Howls" while "There Grew A Little Flower" sung with Liz McKenzie (who played Dame Hannah) was one of the best in the show.

Producer Max added a few neat touches to the original script, substituted Bakewell for Birmingham and making reference to the Peak District.

For the last word on these polished performers, it's over to Wendy Costigan's killer line in her role as Mad Margaret: "They sing choruses in public — that's mad enough."

2008 - The Sorcerer


The Sorcerer

or
The Village of Ploverleigh

Directed by: Nic Wilson
Conducted by: Melanie Gilbert
Orchestral arrangement and original music: Max Taylor

Lady Sangazure & Aline John Wellington Wells

A production updated to the 1930s, including "restored" musical numbers - Lady Sangazure's song in Act I (with original music by Max Taylor) and the placement of the original opening of Act II as an interlude between the quintet ("I rejoice that it's decided",) and the duet ("Oh, I have wrought much evil with my spell").

The Sorcerer - Poster

The Sorcerer - Poster 2008
designed by Nic Wilson

The Sorcerer - Review

Derbyshire Times - Thursday, June 19, 2008

Pioneer patient lan takes centre stage

Gay Bolton
Reproduced by permission of the Derbyshire Times

Brave performance by MS sufferer wins plaudits in magical performance of G&S classic The Sorcerer

By the time you read this, Multiple Sclerosis sufferer lan Clulow will have started a revolutionary medical procedure aimed at transforming his life for the better. He has put himself forward for a stem cell transplant which, if successful, could bring relief to thousands of sufferers who share his walking and sight difficulties. But there was no trace of pre-hospital nerves when lan bravely stepped onto the stage for Matlock Gilbert and Sullivan Society's opening night of "The Sorcerer" on Thursday.

Few performers have displayed such stoicism as lan who took measured steps across the stage at Bakewell's Medway Centre, his face displaying no hint of discomfort. In the role of Dr Daly, lan delivered his opening song, Time Was When Love And I Were Well Acquainted, with confidence and clarity and an instrumental solo on recorder was testament to the hours of practice which he had put in.

lan was also part of a quintet which aired a song about nursing, tending and mending, particularly poignant given that his friends in the society are launching a £24,000 appeal to fund his treatment which is not available on the NHS.

The Sorcerer, which ran for three nights last week, provided plenty of light relief for the audience as well as giving some of the society's younger members a chance to shine. Playing Constance, the teenager with an eye for middle-aged men, Hannah Boron showed she had the singing qualities and acting ability to be a leading lady of the future, while ten-year-old Elizabeth Blades as the sorcerer's apprentice, Hercules, had an engagingly mischievous smile as she faced the audience having dripped love potion into the teacups of her fellow characters.

Nic Wilson and Lesley Kraushaar as principal couple Alexis and Aline amused with lovey-dovey expressions like "exquisite rapture" and "unmingled joy." He had some of the finest lines in the show such as the tongue-twister "lucid lake of liquid love" and "steep the village up to its lips in love" while she had some of the prettiest songs which were delivered with confidence and charm.

The flirting factor stepped up a gear during an hilarious scene between Aline's mother Lady Sangazure and The Sorcerer, John Wellington Wells, characterised by Liz McKenzie and Max Taylor. Their "love me/hate me" duet had been cleverly rewritten so Max could sing: "Hate Me, I sing in Chesterfield a lot!" It wasn't the only change to the script which Max unveiled. In an earlier incantantion, his Prophetic Tables spiel had been updated to include references to "change in Prime Minister and a rise in petrol," which drew a chuckle from the audience.

And the hours of work Max had put into reworking the musical script for a smaller group than an orchestra paid off with some delightful accompaniment from a nine-strong ensemble, conducted by Melanie Gilbert.

But it was as The Sorcerer brewing up his magic "love at first sight" potion that proved to be Max's finest moment in the spotlight. He looked like a man possessed as be huddled over a kettle reciting incantantions and summoning up eerie spirit-like voices which sang from behind a gauze screen at the side of the stage. The exploding kettle scene was sheer magic as it shot out stars and a jet of steam high into the air. But if you don't want to know how they did it, stop reading now....

According to its enterprising creator David 'Mac' McKenzie it was a fire extinguisher triggered by a foot pump!

2009 - Iolanthe


Iolanthe

or
The Peer and the Peri

Directed by: Nic Wilson
Conducted by: Melanie Gilbert

Phyllis looks on as Strephen talks to his 'mother' KoKo Award logo' Iolanthe confronts the Lord Chancellor

Our 2009 production - a contemporary outlook on this G&S Classic and winner of the Ko-Ko Video Award 2010 for the Most Novel Presentation at the International Gilbert & Sullivan Festival at Buxton.

Having been sent into exile for marrying a "mortal", Iolanthe is reprieved by the Fairy Queen. However, when she reveals that she has a son, Strephon, who wants to marry a “Ward of Court”, Phyllis, it sets them on a collision course with the Lord Chancellor and the House of Lords as the “Fairy Ring” Women’s Institute implement their own form of Parliamentary reform.

Iolanthe - Poster

Iolanthe 2009
images designed by Anne Turner

Iolanthe - Review

Derbyshire Times - Thursday, June 18, 2009

Peerless performance is a vote winner...

Gay Bolton
Reproduced by permission of the Derbyshire Times

Fairies and peers - the former a make-belief which you outgrow in adulthood, the latter you may believe have outlived their usefulness in today's society.

The coupling of fairy kingdom and political chamber provides the foundations for one of Gilbert and Sullivan's strangest creations, Iolanthe.

But can a work first performed 127 years ago when Whigs stalked the corridors of power and the Labour Party had yet to be born have any relevance to today's society?

Step forward Matlock Gilbert and Sullivan Society which, with a wave of its magic wand, managed to conjure up a work that was topical while staying true to the roots of the comic opera.

This vote-winning production at Bakewell's Medway Centre last week took liberties with the libretto, poked fun at politicians past and present and ran fairy rings around any other amateur version of Iolanthe that I'd previously watched.

Priceless scenes saw Susan Devaney as the Fairy Queen transform from a soft and gentle chief to a tough-talking Margaret Thatcher-esque leader as she delivered a manifesto of no expenses, lower pensions and congestion charges.

Chris Kraushaar as Lord Mountararat resembled Labour's answer to Boris Johnson, a dodgy blond wig and slightly crumpled suit captured the Mayor of London to a tee.

A masterstroke saw the fairies transformed into militant members of the WI, a good move because dressing ladies of a certain age in floaty chiffon and glitter looks wrong, even at panto time.

These 'fairies' wore pearls, carried handbags containing guidebooks on Derbyshire tourist attractions and were dressed in the most sensible of outfits.

But the fairy image wasn't eradicated completely. Young Elizabeth Blades was the epitome of pretty fairy with attitude, beautiful costume and glitter in her hair, and cheeky with it, poking her tongue out at figures of authority.

Elizabeth's grandfather Max Taylor is always a powerful force on stage and his characterisation of the Tory grandee Lord Tolloller was no exception. From leading his party in a forceful Tarantara chant to their Labour opponents (the outstanding scene of the show) to his verbal jousting with his opposition equal, this was one of Max's finest performances with the society. And his orchestration of a piece, dropped from the original production of Iolanthe, but inserted into a different part of Matlock G&S's production, fitted so well into the show that you couldn't spot the join.

Forbidden

While satirising the country's law-makers, describing politicians as 'leaving their brains at the door', Iolanthe is also a tale of forbidden love between half-man, half mortal Strephon and the ward of court Phyllis.

These substantial roles were played by show director Nic Wilson and Lesley Kraushaar whose voices blended beautifully in some of the show's trademark ballads.

Nic brought fresh spirit to his characterisation of Strephon and even slipped in an update or two - substituting the word Socialists for the original Radicals and sporting a tie in the colour of a Lib-Dem representative instead of a Whig.

Dressed like a Sloane Ranger, Lesley packed plenty of emotion into her role, swtiching between love and flirtatiousness, happiness and anger.

Society newcomer Simon Reynolds, who played the Lord Chancellor, coped well with his baptism of fire. He brought plenty of comedy to his role, dancing around with tremendous energy or being involved in a frantic chase around stiff-upper-lipped peers.

Simon rose to the challenge of the notoriously difficult 'patter' song with spot-on timing and faultless delivery, although, through no fault of his own, the volume of the musical accompaniment made it hard for spectators to hear every word of this.

Simon's partner Emma Waterhouse played the title role of Iolanthe. A good singing voice was matched by quality acting in a small, but perfectly formed, first appearance with the society.

And like all good fairy stories, Emma's lolanthe was even the subject of magic -being transformed in just seconds from downhearted dowdy mum in full-length wax jacket and wellies to radiant hippy chick in floral dress and sandals.

This production featured a number of performers from Chesterfield G&S Society including Anne Turner who sang the part of fairy Fleta beautifully and David Stokes who towered over the fairies as the comical police officer Sgt Willis.

Accompanying music was stunning, but it was in the lengthy overture that the nine players in the orchestra, conducted by Melanie Gilbert, really got to show off their talents.

The biggest challenge now facing Matlock Gilbert and Sullivan Society is how to top this peerless reinvention of Iolanthe.

2010 - The Gondoliers


The Gondoliers

or
The King of Barataria

Directed by: Nic Wilson
Conducted by: Melanie Gilbert

Guiseppe introduces himself to the ladies The Duke of Plaza 'demanding' an audience with the king

Marco & Giuseppe Palmieri are looking forward to honeymooning with their new brides, Tessa & Giannetta. However, the Grand Inquisitor has other plans for them when he reveals that one them was kidnapped at birth and is now the King of Barataria.

The 2010 production of The Gondoliers coincided with the honeymoon days of the Lib-Con Coalition. So in true Gilbertian style, Marco and Giuseppe were able to model their roles as joint rulers of Barataria on Messrs. Cameron & Clegg, who had recently done something similar by pairing up to run the State “as one individual”. This contemporary political spin was complemented by setting the opening scenes on the Saga Venetia, a cruise liner, anchored off Venice.

The Gondoliers - Poster

Gondoliers 2010
designed by Nic Wilson

The Gondoliers - Reviews

Derbyshire Times - Thursday, June 17, 2010

Vote-winning venture

Gay Bolton
Reproduced by permission of the Derbyshire Times

Novel spin on G&S classic

WANNA know what's going to happen on the political stage? Then join Matlock Gilbert and Sullivan's party of supporters.

For after last year's production of lolanthe hinted at MPs' expenses scandal, this year's adaptation of The Gondoliers incorporated a ruling coalition.

In his programme notes for The Gondoliers, producer Nic Wilson wrote: "Though almost certainly the most jolly of the G&S canon, it is probably seen as one of the least satirical.

"However we did not reckon on the assistance of the British electorate whose own choices have led to our present coalition government. In fact, with the illness and injury we have experienced, we've even had late thoughts of asking David Cameron and Nick Clegg to play the brothers, Marco and Giuseppe - they already seem to be acting well in the role of ruling the State as 'one individual'.

Nic, who played Marco in last week's production, and Max Taylor, in the role of Giuseppe, had worked hard on their show of solidarity with the cheesy grins, dramatic waves and extravagant displays of bonhomie that we have grown accustomed to from government chiefs.

Even the libretto emphasised the political connection, with the song There lived a King containing the lines "Now that's a sight, you couldn't beat, two party leader in each street."

Supporters

But in their first appearance in The Gondoliers, Nic and Max looked more like England football supporters decked in red and white garlands to depict the roses referred to in the List and Learn song - a nice touch in the week that our boys were playing their first World Cup match in South Africa.

Even those who weren't huge fans of G&S could find plenty of entertainment in this clever adaptation.

Gondolas of Venice were replaced with a cruise liner entitled Saga Venetia on which the gondolieri were ship's officers, one passenger asked whether she was going to see the tulips and the ducal party was piped aboard by kazoo player Andrew Moore.

Andrew was one of handful of performers imported from Chesterfield G&S Society and handled the role of ship's steward and king-in-waiting Luiz skilfully and confidently.

His opposite number Anne Turner gave a magnificent performance as queen-in-waiting Casilda with some of the production's best singing.

Chris Kraushaar brought the house down as the colourful Duke of Plaza Toro with daft dancing and garish clothes. In act one he pranced
around the ship's deck with a knotted handkerchief on his head, clashing holiday shirt and shorts combo and socks with sandals on. Act two saw a sober suited appearance in which the duke became King of Bling with six big jewelled rings on his fingers and an equal number of medals on his chest.

Chris's wife Lesley Kraushaar teamed up with Liz McKenzie to give well-sung and assured performances as the sisters Gianetta and Tessa, who capture the hearts of Marco and Giuseppe.

And Susan Devaney was equally as good in her role as the condescending Duchess of Plaza Toro whose withering looks and harsh words to her husband were priceless.

In smaller but vital roles, David Stokes and Carole Pilkington flourished as the Grand Inquisitor and king's foster mother.

Of the supporting cast, Helen Booker brought polished singing to the role of Fiametta which stands her in good stead should she cast her net for a principal part in the future.

Orchestra

The Gondolier has some of the most recognisable songs and delightful music of G&S, which were sensitively and skilfully accompanied and
performed by a seven-piece orchestra, under the baton of musical director Melanie Gilbert.

The only disappointment I had with the show was the stage setting for act two. After the first-class depiction of the ship's sundeck in act one, the depiction of the palace of Barataria was a let down.

The Gondoliers ran at the Medway Centre, Bakewell, on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

NODA - June, 2010

Joyce Handbury

In this small venue the performing space was on the same level as that of the audience and the front of the 'stage' was just a yard from where I sat, with the orchestra just off to the right. My first thought was this is going to be rather over-powering and if I put my foot out I’ll be sure to trip someone up! However my fears were soon allayed as in fact I really felt part of the action and it wasn’t over-powering at all and to see everyone’s facial expressions was indeed a bonus! Of course, for this to be so you have to have a great cast and supporting chorus (as there is nowhere for anyone to hide) and this was certainly the case.

The first act of this production was set on a cruise-liner, the Saga Venetia, anchored off Venice. It was a simple set with a minimum of props but that was all that was needed as the fine singing and acting made up for this. The Duke of Plaza Toro was magnificently played by Chris Kraushaar (loved his handkerchief sun-hat), his wife by Susan Devaney whose interpretation of a song is faultless and Casilda their daughter by Anne Turner whose singing is a sheer delight. Andrew Moore as Luis, the ship’s steward, made the most of the comedy and his duet with Casilda was lovely. Nic Wilson and Max Taylor were absolutely superb as Marco and Giuseppe Palmieri the ship’s officers. They were a quality double act with excellent comic timing and are exceedingly strong vocally. Gianetta and Tessa, sisters taking a holiday cruise, were exquisitively portrayed by Lesley Kraushaar and Liz McKenzie and David Stokes had great presence as Don Alhambra. For the cast to be so close to the audience they have to be very secure and confident in their own abilities and indeed they were, it was terrific. Congratulations to Nic Wilson the Producer and Melanie Gilbert the Musical Director and to all concerned, for producing a most entertaining show with such limited resources. Superb!

2011 - The Yeomen of the Guard


The Yeomen of the Guard

or
The Merry Man & his Maid

Directed by: Nic Wilson
Conducted by: Melanie Gilbert

What a tale of Cock & Bull Dark Danger hangs upon the Deed

Sentenced to death for Sorcery, Col. Thomas Fairfax is determined to thwart the plans of his cousin by marrying before his execution. Fate casts a travelling player, Elsie Maynard in the role of bride, but she is already engaged to marry Jack Point.

So when Fairfax escapes, what are they to do?

The 2011 production of The Yeomen of the Guard marked a change from our usual practice of giving a contemporary spin to the works of G&S, and was performed in more traditional style.

The Yeomen of the Guard - Poster

The Yeomen of the Guard 2011
designed by Nic Wilson

The Yeomen of the Guard - Review

See also the NODA Review

Derbyshire Times - Thursday, June 23, 2011

Tower and the glory

Gay Bolton
Reproduced by permission of the Derbyshire Times

SURPRISE is always a keynote of productions by Matlock Gilbert & Sullivan Society.

Interpretations have taken classic G&S works into the competitive world of interior designers, boarded a cruise ship and ventured into a nightclub.

The biggest surprise in last week's production of "The Yeomen of the Guard" was that the company played it in traditional fashion.

But the cast couldn't resist putting its own stamp on the work. As the powerful and beautifully-lit finale of act one ended, two chorus members grumbled that they'd been robbed of their chance to watch an execution with one saying that they should go to the market because the meat would be dead there!

Musical director Melanie Gilbert had trained her crew of singers well. Stand-out number was "Strange Adventure", beautifully sung without musical accompaniment by Max Taylor in the lead role of Colonel Fairfax, David Stokes (Sgt. Meryll), Liz McKenzie (Dame Carruthers) and Wendy Costigan (Kate).

Through no fault of their own, not all of the singers fared well during the opening performance in Bakewell's Medway Centre on Thursday. The sound balance between the singers and the nine-piece orchestra weighed in the orchestra's favour, particularly for a couple of the female performers during act one.

Characterisations were as colourful as the costumes worn by the Beefeater tower guards. Nic Wilson, the show's director, put his heart and soul into depicting jester Jack Point - I could have sworn there were tears in his eyes in the finale when Jack realised he'd lost his love to another man.

Leading lady Lesley Kraushaar was perfect for the role of strolling singer Elsie Maynard, with a beautiful performance of the solo "Tis Done, I am a Bride" and as part of four singers in "When a Wooer Goes A-Wooing", accompanied by Max Taylor, Nic Wilson and sweet-voiced Helen Booker (playing Phoebe).

Lesley's husband, Chris, brought his flair for comedy to the role of jailer and wannabe jester, Wilfred Shadbolt, and Richard Simmonds gave a convincing and commanding performance as Sir Richard Cholmondley, lieutenant of the tower.

Set around the Tower of London at the time of Henry VIII, this was a fitting production in the run-up to royal celebrations next year when
there will be another surprise for loyal supporters of the Matlock society.

For the first time in its 20-year history, the company will be departing from Gilbert and Sullivan to present "Merrie England", a celebration of one Elizabethan era in the diamond jubilee of another.

2012 - Merrie England


Merrie England

by
Basil Hood & Edward German

newly adapted & orchestrated by
Max Taylor

Directed by: Nic Wilson
Conducted by: Melanie Gilbert

Essex presents Queen Elizabeth with Raleigh's love letter to Bessie Throckmorton Long Tom, Big Ben & Walter Wilkins celebrate

Our celebration of one Elizabethan era in the Jubilee of another as we present a newly adapted version of this old favourite. Also seen at the Pavilion Arts Centre, Buxton as part of the International Gilbert & Sullivan Festival 2012.

Set in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I and alluding to England’s fabled past, this operetta tells of the rivalry of the Earl of Essex with Sir Walter Raleigh for the affections of the Queen.

Perhaps a lost letter, found in the forest, from his rival to Bess Throckmorton, can help the Earl find favour.

Merrie England - Poster

Merrie England
designed by Nic Wilson

Merrie England - Reviews

The review of our performances of Merrie England at the Buxton International G&S Festival 2012: Matlock brings Tudor England to Life at Buxton International G&S Festival

Also:

Derbyshire Times - Monday, June 18, 2012

Court in the Act

Gay Bolton
Reproduced by permission of the Derbyshire Times

'A bit of a do to celebrate the Queen’s birthday,' proved to be a jewel in the crown of productions by Matlock Gilbert and Sullivan Society.

Master of ceremonies David 'Mac' McKenzie may have downplayed the introduction to Merrie England on Saturday but there was nothing understated about the presentation at Bakewell’s Medway Centre.

From the regal and uplifting overture played by the eight musicians, under the baton of musical director Melanie Gilbert, to the pomp and pageantry of Queen Elizabeth I’s grand entrance, this production was a right royal triumph.

Well-delivered pieces such as Who Were The Yeomen? and When Cupid First This Old World Trod, O Peaceful England and O Who Shall Say courted favour with the large audience.

Jewel-rich costumes were fit for a Queen’s entertainers and a colourful kaleidoscope of movement and dance made the best use of the small performance space.

Max Taylor and Lesley Kraushaar did a first-rate job in their respective roles of Sir Walter Raleigh and royal maid of honour Bessie Throckmorton as did the show’s producer Nic Wilson in playing the scheming Earl of Essex.

Liz McKenzie’s performance as Queen Elizabeth I shone as brightly as the jewels on her gem-encrusted crown. She held the poker-faced, slightly detached and disinterested look right through to the final bow, only cracking her composure into a radiant smile after the rest of the cast had departed.

Chris Kraushaar played up the comedy element of the opera, as Shakespearean actor Walter Wilkins, giving a splendid alphabetical rendition of his take on Romeo and Juliet.

Resplendent in scarlet robe, Helen Booker painted the town red at the May Queen ordering her followers to embark on a witch-hunt. Target of the chase was Jill All-Alone, played by Wendy Costigan who came close to being upstaged by a twitching, blinking, meowing toy cat.

This new adaptation of Merrie England was a labour of love by Max Taylor who had shortened Basil Hood and Edward German’s lengthy creation. Max’s work found favour with those familiar with the piece; one spectator who had performed in full-length productions said that the shortened version had not lost its impact.

Just a minor gripe with the accompanying music, which was a tad too loud for a couple of the solos performed by Wendy Costigan and Lesley Kraushaar. But overall, this production crowned two decades of Matlock G&S Society’s reign.

Merrie England will be staged by the society again on Sunday, July 29, at the Pavilion Theatre Buxton, as part of town’s International G&S Festival.

NODA - Thursday, June 14, 2012

Joyce Handbury

What better way to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee than with a performance of Merrie England the plot of which gives a fictional glimpse into the time of the first Queen Elizabeth but many of the characters and relationships are based on real people.

The story tells of the rivalry between The Earl of Essex and Sir Walter Raleigh for the affections of the Queen but unbeknown to Essex, Sir Walter secretly loves her Maid of Honour Bessie Throckmorton. The action takes place around 1589 on May Day and the May Queen decides that a witch hunt would be a suitable addition to the celebrations.

The original piece by composer Edward German and librettist Basil Hood was deemed to be too long and with twenty five principals and a full orchestra Max Taylor set about the task of making it more relevant and more accessible for a small society to perform and decided on a chamber-like approach to the sound with just eight musicians.

Max also took on the role of Sir Walter Raleigh and what an outstanding performance he gave as did Lesley Kraushaar as Bessie Throckmorton and Nic Wilson as the Earl of Essex all three were excellent in their respective roles. The May Queen was splendidly played by Helen Booker and the love of her life Walter Wilkins, a Shakespearean actor, was gloriously portrayed by Chris Kraushaar who squeezed every ounce of comedy out of the role and his A - Z rendition of Romeo and Juliet was superb. Queen Elizabeth was majestically played by Liz McKenzie and I loved Wendy Costigan as Jill-all-alone her delivery was gentle and so natural and her voice suited the part perfectly and sitting in her arms was an all-moving, all-purring white cat - a definite scene stealer! David Stokes as Long Tom and Richard Simmonds as Big Ben gave fine performances as the Royal Foresters. Not to be outdone the excellent singing and acting of the Townsfolk of Windsor added that extra dimension to the whole performance as did the first rate orchestra.

The costumes were truly magnificent and the finale to the reprise of ‘Long Live Elizabeth’ was a rousing end to what had been a superb show and all performed in the smallest of spaces and when the Queen made her final entrance in all her regal splendour it was really quite moving. Congratulations to all and especially to Nic, Melanie and Max and the icing on the cake is that the society are honoured to have been asked to perform it (twice) at the International G&S Festival at Buxton at the end of July as part of their opening weekend celebration of the Jubilee.

2013 - Patience


Patience

or
Bunthorne's Bride

with additional music by Max Taylor

Directed by: Nic Wilson & Angela Robinson
Conducted by: Melanie Gilbert

Grosvenor's magnetic attraction The Home Guard on patrol

Originally written as a satire on the Aesthetic & Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood Movements of the 19th century, Matlock G&S Society celebrated their 21st Anniversary with a new version of this classic operetta giving it a 1940s wartime "makeover", with some new words & music.

Whilst furious at the attention that famous actor Reginald Bunthorne is receiving from the ladies of the village, the hapless “Home Guard Platoon” can only look on in despair. However, Bunthorne only has eyes for Patience, a land army girl.

Does the arrival of Archibald Grosvenor, a rival to Bunthorne, simplify or complicate the proceedings?

Patience - Poster

Patience 2013
designed by Nic Wilson

Patience - Reviews

Derbyshire Times - Saturday, June 22, 2013

BAKEWELL: Matlock G&S Society’s winning production of Patience

Gay Bolton
Reproduced by permission of the Derbyshire Times

The longest day was a fitting time to check out Matlock Gilbert and Sullivan Society’s 21st anniversary show.

Like the film which drew its title from the longest day of the year, the society has also used the Second World War as the basis on which to build this week’s production of Patience.

Posters proclaiming Dig On For Victory, Pay No Heed To Rumours and Careless Talk Costs Lives adorn screens surrounding the stage at the Medway Centre in Bakewell, sandbags are piled up on the floor and bunting is festooned across the front of one of the performance platforms.

Act one ends in dramatic fashion with an air raid siren and Susan Devaney as the comical warden Jane barking at the audience to ‘Put those lights out’ before searchlights rake the stage. Act two opens with musical director Melanie Gilbert making her way to the conductor’s podium as the all-clear siren fades into the distance.

Orchestra members capture the spirit of the show by playing the theme tune from Dad’s Army and wartime songs such as Run Rabbit Run and White Cliffs of Dover.

The nice but dim Patience of the title is a Land Girl, rather than a milkmaid, and is beautifully sung by Helen Booker whose pretty, lilting voice skips along the top notes with consummate ease.

Helen shines in a number of songs including the duet Long Years Ago, Fourteen Maybe, which she sings with society chairman Liz McKenzie in the role of Lady Angela.

Set in a time of matinee idols, this production transforms the protagonists Bunthorne and Grosvenor into film stars and includes contemporary references to Leslie Howard and Noel Coward.

Patience opens with a parade of the female chorus advancing to one of the comic operetta’s stand-out songs Twenty Lovesick Maidens We. With ranks depleted to 13, they make the song their own by singing about ladies rather than maidens on account of their varying ages.

However, the winning ensemble is the motley crew which makes up the Home Guard, led by producer Nic Wilson doing his best Captain Mainwaring impression in the role of Col. Calverley. The volunteer soldiers march on carrying rifles, apart from one who bears a pitchfork with rubber balls protecting his allies from a two-pronged attack.

Much of the comedy revolves around the volunteer soldiers’ battle to win back their lady loves from the matinee idols. A particularly impressive scene involves the Home Guard circling their targets who are oblivious to their campaign because their heads are turned by a dashing film star.

Simon Brister and Jim Fearn as the heart-throb actors give outstanding performances which play a big part in the success of the show.

Deliberate over-the-top, flamboyant acting by Simon provides much mirth and he delivered his tricky patter song perfectly at the performance last night (Friday, June 21).

Jim’s experience in larger theatres shines through his powerfully sung pieces and well-projected characterisation of the uber-vain Grosvenor.

Patience has its last performance at the Medway Centre tonight (Saturday, June 22). To quote a line from Bunthorne: "If you are fond of touch-and-go jocularity - this is the shop for it."

NODA - June 2013

Joyce Handbury

It was very apparent from the programme front, the 2nd World War posters and sandbags that festooned the performance area that this was not going to be the traditional format for this production - as was also the case when the group performed Patience ten years previously. Then the theme was modelled on the TV programme 'Changing Rooms', but this time it was to be based on 'Dad’s Army'.

Instead of being a milkmaid, Patience, played by Helen Booker, was now a Land Army Girl. Helen has a lovely singing voice and her delightful facial expressions enabled her to capture every aspect of the characters innocence and naivety.
The Twenty Lovesick Maidens - well, thirteen actually - have now become 'lovesick ladies' and what a captivating ensemble they were. They are all in love with Reginald Bunthorpe, who is now not a poet but a flamboyant film star, who is in love with Patience. Simon Brister gave a perfect portrayal of Reginald with his over-the-top posturing and theatrical exuberance, a great performance.

The childhood love of Patience, Archibald Grosvenor a pompous, egotistical film star, was superbly played by Jim Fearn. His charismatic stage presence and his powerful singing voice were sublime.

Nic Wilson was first-rate as Colonel Calverley, now a wannabe 'Captain Mainwaring', and his dragoons, now the Home Guard, were a real miscellany of characters and their antics were so funny; I loved the ‘cricket balls’ on the end of a pitch fork that one of them carried instead of a gun.

Liz Mckenzie was elegant and graceful as Angela and Susan Deveney as Warden Jane, brought out the comedic aspects of the role splendidly.

Offering good support was David Stokes as Major Murgatroyd, Chris Hannant as the Duke of Dunstable, Katie Henwood as Saphir and the young Lizzy Blades as Ella. What a truly lovely, sweet singing voice Lizzy has.

Additional words were by Nic Wilson, the producer, and Angela Robinson. The additional music arrangements by Max Taylor of such tunes as the theme tune from Dad’s Army, White Cliffs of Dover and Run Rabbit Run added that extra special touch to the evening.

The orchestra under the direction of Melanie Gilbert was terrific as was the singing of the solos, duets, ensembles and chorus pieces. Nice costumes, effective lighting and sound all added to make this an enjoyable evening.

The performance was dedicated to Christine Gilman, a founder member of the Society, who played the role of Patience ten years ago.

2014 - Haddon Hall


Haddon Hall

by
Sir Arthur Sullivan & Sydney Grundy

original adaptation by David Eden & Martin Yates
with further adaptation and orchestration by Max Taylor

Directed by: Max Taylor
assisted by Angela Robinson & Nic Wilson
Conducted by: Melanie Gilbert

Dorothy Vernon & John Manners The McCrankie & Rupert Vernobn

A retelling of the Derbyshire legend of the elopement Dorothy Vernon with John Manners - originally reputed to have taken place during the mid-16th century, the operatic version of this tale is reset the in the 17th century, during the Protectorate of Oliver Cromwell.

In view of interest generated by the performances of this rarely seen piece, a DVD of this production is available. If you are interested in obtaining copy of the DVD, please indicate your interest by using the Contact Us link.

Haddon Hall - DVD

Lady Sangazure & Aline John Wellington Wells

A DVD of our 2014 performance of Haddon Hall by Sir Arthur Sullivan & Sydney Grundy is available for purchase @ £17 and can be purchased using the Paypal link below. [Please indicate which display format you require: PAL (European) or NTSC (North American)]

If you wish to pay by cheque, please send your request using the Contact Us/Haddon Hall DVD page.


Screen Format: PAL or NTSC?



Haddon Hall - Poster

Haddon Hall 2014
designed by Nic Wilson

Haddon Hall - Reviews

Derbyshire Times - Saturday, June 14, 2014

Haddon Hall triumph for Matlock G&S Society

Gay Bolton
Reproduced by permission of the Derbyshire Times

Light opera Haddon Hall is bound to be a big draw for Derbyshire residents - not least because it hasn’t been performed around these parts for many a year.

Sadly it’s not being staged at the stately home but down the road at the Medway Centre, Bakewell, where Matlock Gilbert and Sullivan Society have constructed a scaled-down version.

Healthy numbers of viewers have been turning up to the production over the past couple of nights - and there’s one last chance to see it this evening, Saturday, June 14, at 7.30pm.

Set in the 17th century, the opera reflects a period when King Charles II fled to France and Parliamentarians seized the estates of Royalists. Against this backdrop is played out the story of Dorothy Vernon, whose father wants her to marry his cousin, a Puritan, to ensure that Haddon Hall stays in the family. But Dorothy is in love with John Manners, a Cavalier, and elopes with him to France.

Even if you don’t know the opera, and I doubt many do, it’s well worth checking out as the songs and music are some of the most beautiful you’ll hear when performed in such fine fashion.

Highlights of the chorus numbers are the exquisitely performed madrigal When the Budding Bloom of May and The Bonny Bridegroom Cometh.

Leading lady Helen Booker, in the role of Dorothy Vernon, gives superb performances of difficult solos, particularly the recitative Why Weep and Wait? and her tender approach is not only sympathetic to the character but evokes sympathy in the viewer.

True to his character, Andrew Moore plays John Manners in cavalier fashion, turning up at Haddon Hall with a barrow-load of wares and making an aside to the audience 'premature Tesco'. His character is very much the hero, sweeping his love off in the middle of the night as a storm rages which is signified by dramatic lighting effects of forked lightning and raindrops. Andrew looks as though he’s bursting with pride at the end as the eloped couple return with two little daughters in tow, played by his own children Elissa and Lucia Moore.

Producer Max Taylor, who has edited the script so well that it’s impossible to detect where it changes from the original, takes on dual performance duties - as the master of Haddon Hall Sir George and as his manservant Oswald.

The society’s chairman Liz McKenzie, playing Lady Vernon, flowers in her signature song Queen of the Garden, while Susan Devaney brings delightful characterisation, singing and a comic touch to the role of her maid Dorcas.

Comedy is well played in the second scene by Nic Wilson as cousin Rupert, leader of the hypocritical Puritans who have put a stop to plays in theatres, banned dancing and imposed all sorts of other sanctions designed to stop other people having fun. He's aided and abetted by Chris Hannant as The McCrankie, who arrives on stage in full Scottish regalia, brandishing bagpipes and with a dodgy accent in tow. Ken Watson, Angela Robinson, Neil Jury and David Stokes add to the motley crew of Puritans.

The music is as dramatic as the action and is skilfully performed by an eight-piece ensemble,conducted by musical director Melanie Gilbert.

There was just one point in the production last night that I thought could have been improved and that was an overly long pause between acts two and three which affected the momentum.

Still it’s a good show which is well worth a look.

NODA - June 2014

Joyce Handbury

I feel that I must give a very short outline of the piece because it is so rarely performed and consequently very few people are aware of it at all. Haddon Hall is a light opera with music by Arthur Sullivan and libretto by Sydney Grundy (a collaboration that followed the disbanding of the partnership of Gilbert & Sullivan but only resulted in this one opera). It is a dramatisation of the sixteenth century legend surrounding the elopement of Dorothy Vernon with John Manners, son of Thomas Manners the 1st. Earl of Rutland but Grundy resets it in the seventeenth century adding the conflict between the Cavaliers and the Roundheads as a backdrop to the storyline.

Sir George Vernon, a royalist, fears that because King Charles II has fled to France and the Parliamentarians are seizing Royalist estates, to safeguard the future of Haddon Hall he wants his daughter to marry his cousin Rupert Vernon, a Puritan. Dorothy is in love with John Manners, an active Cavalier, and elopes with him to France. Rupert acquires a writ and gains possession of Haddon Hall but when King Charles returns to the throne, John Manners returns with a warrant from the King restoring the Hall to George Vernon. He brings forward his bride Dorothy and their two children, who begs for forgiveness from her father, and so it all ends happily!

Max Taylor, the director, has reworked the script and produced a score from a 1992 adaptation by David Eden and Martin Yates. It has taken him every spare minute for a year to do this and to further adapt it for a small society and an extremely small performance area. Indeed, a true labour of love!

In front of a simplistic set depicting the stone walls of Haddon Hall, the shows opens with a very happy and lively number with nice choreography including an innovative routine using ribbons. Max, as well as directing and borne out of necessity, takes on the two roles of Sir George Vernon and Oswald, a friend of John Manners. He does great justice to both characters his powerful singing voice coming to the fore when he vents his anger on his daughter Dorothy, and the little comic nuances he adds to Oswald's character were lovely. Liz McKenzie was truly elegant as befits the role of Lady Vernon and Susan Devaney brought delightful humour to the role of Dorcas, her maid. Helen Booker was superb as Dorothy Vernon coping effortlessly with the difficult solos and Andrew Moore was great as John Manners who first appears as a Pedlar (referring to himself as a 'premature Tesco') later returning as himself, a Cavalier, accompanied by Dorothy and his daughters who, incidentally, were so scrumptiously played by his own daughters, Elissa and Lucia Moore. How proud he must have been! Nic Wilson was brilliant as Rupert, his facial expressions and his mastery at 'telling a story' are truly outstanding and as for his merry band of Puritans - Neil Jury, Angela Robinson, David Stokes and Ken Watson - well, they were just so funny! Down from Scotland is a Puritan from the Isle of Rum, supposedly to help support Rupert. Chris Hannant as The McCrankie, in full Scottish regalia, complete with bagpipes gave a very commendable performance.

The singing from all the soloists, small groups and the full chorus was excellent and I certainly agree with Musical Director, Melanie Gilbert, when she states that "the music is beautiful and complex as ever and the elopement/storm scene in Act 2 is a masterpiece of dramatic and descriptive music". However, that being so, you still need an adept and accomplished orchestra to achieve the desired effect and this it most certainly did - it was a joy to listen to the wonderful music being so beautifully played. I thoroughly enjoyed this piece especially as it had such a local connection. This society does so well to produce excellent shows with such limited facilities. Congratulations to everyone involved and oh, I almost forgot to mention the lovely costumes, some good lighting effects and a fabulous, big black wig!!

2015 - The Mikado


The Mikado

or
The Town of Titipu

Directed by: Angela Robinson
Conducted by: Melanie Gilbert

A traditionally staged production with a few twists along the way.

The Mikado - Poster

The Mikado 2015
designed by Nic Wilson

The Mikado - Reviews

Derbyshire Times - Saturday, June 13, 2015

Matlock G&S Society’s production of The Mikado

Gay Bolton
Reproduced by permission of the Derbyshire Times

How do you solve the problem of a shortage of young men and women?

A bit of imagination goes a long way as shown in Matlock Gilbert and Sullivan Society’s production of The Mikado this week.

With the young males in the pub and the girls at Lady Manners School disco, director Angela Robinson has roped in society veterans masquerading as dinner ladies, bridge players and stooges planted in the audience to compensate.

This simple solution works a treat - the spectators at Bakewell’s Medway Centre love it and the cast play along with it. Chorus member Liz McKenzie sticks rubber gloves into the sash of her kimono, Chris Kraushaar is a beat or so behind his fellow noblemen’s opening routine and Richard Simmonds in the role of The Mikado reads part of his script from the back of a fan.

Facebook and X-Factor get a couple of name checks while Ko-Ko’s not so little list references the Peak Park Planning Board, conservation officers and plans for a supermarket in Bakewell.

Pooh-Bah is elevated to the newly created role of High Sheriff of High Peak to add to his extensive credits.

And this must be the first time selfies have appeared in a G&S production as Yum-Yum and Peep-Bo capture the preparations for the former’s wedding.

Real-life schoolgirls Lizzy Blades and Liddy Buswell are shunning the disco to play the roles of Yum-Yum and Peep-Bo, aided by the slightly older Susan Devaney as Pitti-Sing - all performing a delightful rendition of Three Little Maids.

This is Lizzy’s first lead role with the company and she shines in her characterisation of the comically vain bride-to-be with a golden singing voice.

Her opposite number Andrew Moore brings the likeability factor and good singing to the part of Nanki-Poo, son of The Mikado who masquerades as a wandering minstrel.

Nic Wilson displays his trademark superlative performance skills in characterising Ko-Ko, playing him as a Yorkshireman and milking as much comedy out of the role as he can.

He’s aided and abetted by Max Taylor as the scheming Pooh-Bah who appoints himself boss of everything and raises a chuckle with his “despicable me” line.

Cathreen Henwood plays the formidable old maid Katisha, with a head-dress that looks like a cross between a jazzed-up TV aerial and an insect’s antennae which she trains on the poor subjects who dare to cross her.

There’s some glorious singing, particularly the madrigal Brightly Dawns Our Wedding Day which was beautifully sung at the production last night (Friday, June 12).

The nine-strong orchestra provide sensitive accompaniment and musical director Melanie Gilbert has a rare spoken line to deliver as part of this ingenious production.

NODA - June 2015

Joyce Handbury

Supposedly, as a Banner hoisted at the back of the stage informed us, the staging of The Mikado was to have been held outdoors in The Bath Gardens but because of the inclement weather the company had to return to the Medway Centre. Unfortunately, some of the cast had decided to stop off at the pub and some of the young girls had decided to go to a school disco.

We were told about all this by the Producer, Angela Robinson, who then proceeded to notice people in the audience from earlier productions and invited them to come on down and help out so that the ‘show could go on’ which of course they duly did and played along by adding certain items to their costume or being a little uncertain of what everyone else was doing and later, The Mikado, even read from the back of his fan. The producer kept interrupting at various times to tell us of further problems etc. - it was a very creative and imaginative approach.

Andrew Moore was ideal as Nanki Poo his natural acting skills and good singing voice were very much in evidence. Two of the 'Three Little Maids' playing Yum-Yum and Peep-Bo had decided not to go to the 'School Disco', (although in real-life they are schoolgirls) and I’m so glad they didn’t! Yum-Yum was delightfully played by Lizzy Blades in her first lead role with the company. She has such a sweet voice and her singing of 'The Sun Whose Rays are all Ablaze' was most impressive. Lizzy was well supported by the two other maids, Liddy Buswell as Peep-Bo, a lovely singer and a very natural actress and Susan Devaney (no longer a schoolgirl I suspect), was fine as Pitti Sing. They made a charming trio and the singing of “Three Little Maids” was lovely and they even managed to take a few 'selfies'! Nic Wilson was excellent in the role of Ko-Ko. His comic timing and facial expressions are superb and the amusing and updating of 'I’ve Got a Little List' included X-Factor, Ipads, the Peak Planning Board and a proposed supermaket in Bakewell was brilliantly delivered as was the rendition of 'Willow, tit-willow'. Max Taylor, as the corrupt and arrogant Pooh Bah who holds every official title going including that of High Sheriff of High Peak, was appropriately splendidly pompous, and his singing was oustanding. Cathreen Henwood was an effective Katisha and though her singing voice is not particularly strong she excelled in her portrayal of the varying aspects of the character and what an incredible head-dress! Chris Hannant gives a creditable performance as Pish Push as does Richard Simmonds as The Mikado.

Throughout, the singing from the principals and the chorus was sublime and together with a first-rate orchestra it resulted in a most entertaining, enjoyable and cleverly conceived production and as the Three Little Maids said, "Everything is a source of fun" and indeed, this show was just that!

2016 - The Pirates of Penzance

The Pirates of Penzance 2016
designed by Nic Wilson

Pirates of Penzance - Reviews

Derbyshire Times - Friday, June 10, 2016

Matlock G&S Society riding high in The Pirates of Penzance

Gay Bolton
Reproduced by permission of the Derbyshire Times

Beg, steal or borrow a ticket to the rollicking romp that is Matlock Gilbert and Sullivan Society’s take on The Pirates of Penzance.

Updated for a modern-day audience, the production refers to Trident missiles in the Major General’s patter song, highlights the thin blue line of the police force and throws in a couple of Christmas cracker jokes.

The show at Bakewell’s Medway Centre opens with a motley crew of men wearing everything from chef’s whites to policeman’s uniform, football scarf to T-shirts stamped with Jolly Roger Re-enactment Society. They dive into the dressing-up box to emerge in pirate costume and engage in duels with swords and cutlasses.

Thoroughly modern maidens are represented as a group on a glamping holiday, all walking boots and waterproofs save for the leading lady who makes a spectacular entrance in skimpy shorts and super-high platform shoes. Her attempts to hook up with the pirates’ apprentice are thwarted in vain by the mature maidens who want the dashing young blade for themselves and form a human barrier.

Andrew Moore revels in the role of apprentice Frederic, who has served his indentures and is ready for life as a fully-fledged pirate until Cupid’s arrow strikes. His singing is sublime as is his characterisation, particularly in the scene where he’s trying to woo the ladies by stripping off his coat and unbuttoning his frilly shirt.

Lizzy Blades makes a very able Mabel, initially playing it coy then developing into a coquettish charmer who not only gets her man but also one of the best songs. Her beautiful voice really enhances signature number Poor Wand’ring One and she hits those high notes and trills with ease.

Pirates’ maid Ruth is given a Cornish accent by Angela Robinson, winning sympathy from the audience as she battles against the odds for young master Frederic’s heart.

Nic Wilson makes the role of Major General Stanley his own, throwing some fresh lines into the character’s trademark patter song and looking like an army chief newly returned from a tropical mission which was apt for the humid temperature outside last night (Thursday).

David Stokes and Liddy Buswell add to the comedy as the sergeants in an under-resourced police force, directing the flow of performers around the stage like traffic and wielding modern-day weaponry to bring the Pirate King to his knees.

Stalwart performer Max Taylor throws himself into the character of Pirate King with gusto - the first time he has played the part in many years of shows.

The eight-strong orchestra, led by musical director Melanie Gilbert, provide sensitive accompaniment to some of the best-loved songs in the G&S repertoire.

The Pirates of Penzance is directed by Nick Wilson, assisted by Liz McKenzie, and continues its successful voyage at the Medway Centre until Saturday, June 11.

NODA - June 2016

Joyce Handbury

In this small venue there isn’t room for much in the way of 'sets' but two 'trucks' were used to great effect. In Act 1 they had lovely painted sea scenes on them and for Act 2 churches with the addition of a back projection of a church window and a moon. In this contemporary interpretation we meet a pirate re-enactment group who appear in modern garb and from a dressing-up box proceed to change into pirate attire. A few jokes are interspersed alongside the playful sword fighting and of course out come the mobile phones for the taking of 'selfies' even getting an audience member to participate. It isn't long before a walking group of 'modern maidens' arrive on the scene dressed in appropriate hiking gear with the exception of three young ladies less suitably attired for hiking especially the leading lady who was wearing the shortest of shorts and extremely high wedged shoes.

Max Taylor was commanding and convincing as the Pirate King. He has great stage presence and his excellent singing enhanced a most dynamic performance and Ken Watson was first-rate as Samuel, his Lieutenant (loved the parrot). Andrew Moore was so impressive as Frederic, his superb singing, his naturalness, his total commitment to the role were all delivered superbly. Lizzy Blades was delightful as Mabel, vocally outstanding, she hit those high notes effortlessly and I was so pleased when she removed her shoes before chasing Frederic around the 'stage'. Her sisters, Edith, Kate and Isabel were impressively played by Lesley Kraushaar, Susan Devaney and Rachel Callen. Nic Wilson was terrific as Major-General Stanley appearing initially in an immaculate safari outfit. His impeccable rendition of the signature patter song 'I am the very model of a modern Major-General', with updated references, was flawlessly enunciated. Angela Robinson really immersed herself into the character of Ruth, the piratical maid of all work. Her Cornish accent, her facial expressions, her desperate attempts to gain the affection of Frederick all made for a spirited performance. A rather depleted police force consisted of a Senior and Junior Sergeant. David Stokes was splendid as the Senior Sergeant, armed and flourishing up to date weaponry, he boldly led the motley crowd of 'assistants' (armed with drills, hammers etc.) around the stage in pursuit of the Pirate King. I thought Liddy Buswell was excellent as the Junior Sergeant she has such a lovely singing voice and a very natural stage presence and together they certainly notched up the comedy. The singing of all the soloists and chorus members was superb as was the eight piece orchestra.

I must just mention 'Wally' the ever present and unobtrusive photographer, unassumingly and astutely played, sadly, by an anonymous person [Pauline Revill]! It was obvious that everyone on the ‘stage’ was totally immersed in this production and thoroughly enjoying themselves. It was fun- packed, light hearted and a hugely enjoyable modern slant on this very popular Gilbert and Sullivan show. Congratulations to all involved.

2017 - Trial by Jury & HMS Pinafore

Trial by Jury & HMS Pinafore
designed by Nic Wilson