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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!