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."