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A really super production, it had pace, colour, humour and a wealth of excellent sounds from an enthusiastic cast.  I was very impressed and thoroughly enjoyed the evening.

The set was excellent, it was colourful and had varying levels which were used by the cast, to create interest and dimension.

Lighting was mostly good – although I was not a fan of the gobo’s that looked a little like cheesy wotsits floating around!!  The rain was effective, although I thought it started a little too early, as there had been no mention of rain, and nothing to indicate that was what it was.

Sound was very well-balanced, there were a couple of places where the orchestra outdid the cast, but on the whole the balance was excellent.  I compliment Graham Thomson on keeping the reins on his enthusiastic orchestra members, who created a lush sound that was incredibly uplifting.  The use of three percussionists giving different elements gave the show a wonderful sound and feel – I loved it!

The overture was rousing, and I liked the assimilation of the waves, although I felt they were not quite tight enough or together enough, as there were spaces which showed the people underneath – which rather spoiled the effect.  

The whole production was light-hearted, bright and pacey, John Hebden always seems to get a different take on this type of show, which engages the cast, some of it was a little cheesey, but it didn’t matter as the cast had bought into it and obviously enjoyed what they did, which of course always translates to the audience. I was very pleased to see that even the men’s chorus were unusually animated – they really gave their all.

Musically everything seemed to come together and there were no weak links.  There was an occasional blip, but nothing to detract from the overall feeling that here was a production that worked on all levels, and gave the audience an excellent evening’s entertainment.  

The choreography was nicely handled by the cast, who seemed to move with freedom and used their characters within the movement, I thought they all accomplished the numbers well.

Tom Handley was a suitably swash-buckling Pirate King, his whole persona was totally what you’d expect and very full-on – I enjoyed his portrayal very much, he moved around the stage and swung on ropes as if he’d been doing it for years, and his costume suited his devil-may-care character!  Musically he gave strength and meaning to the numbers.

A new addition to HLOS was Andrew Whelan as Frederic – a good find, who has a lovely voice that translated well to the part.  His tone was really lovely and he turned in a good performance showing the uncertainties of his position, and his growing relationship with Mabel.

David Crew was a wonderful Major General - he has such a commanding presence, and his patter song was excellent.  I also liked the Major General’s sortie into ballet – it was very funny and accomplished well – nice arabesque David!  His uniform gave him the imposing figure he needed against the motley crew of Pirates, and his charming daughters.

Colette Eagles was Ruth. Frederic’s nursemaid, who harboured thoughts of becoming his wife, until he discovered the joys of younger ladies.  Colette acted the part really well, and held her own in some tricky musical numbers.  I loved the transformation into black-clad siren in Act Two – a very good contrast and made the character even stronger.

The daughters were a good match for each other, very charming, bright and sparkling.  Gill Pigram as Edith created a nice character and showed us once again that her voice is improving all the time, she was a good contrast to Claire Millins as Kate, who also created a strong character – the expressions passed between these two ladies particularly were very good and very telling.  

Penny Pomroy was a light and happy Isabel, and the other daughters were a merry and expressive bunch, lovely colourful costumes, I liked Christy’s bloomers, and Georgina Dalton was particularly sparkling too.

Izzy Bates was an entirely charming Mabel, she sang it beautifully, and the feel of the piece showed off her style of voice well.  I enjoyed her performance very much, and the relationship between her and Frederic was tangible.  There was some humour and comedy there as well as emotion, I thought her pointed glances at Frederic’s rear were great fun, and echoed by the other daughters!  

Jonathan Field was a quietly amusing Sergeant of Police, in the manner of Colombo!! I liked his characterisation, and he led his police troop exceedingly well.  They got some really good sounds and looks, which contrasted with the pirates – it was nicely done as the men had to double up, so were required to be more inventive perhaps than normal!

Matt Clothier was a very full on character as Samuel, it suited the part I liked Roy Woodward’s character, a real comic.

The pit singers were integrated well into the sound of the ensemble, just adding a bit of weight to the sound, but not appearing to be coming from a different place (as sometimes happens).

Because of the way the show is written Act One was much more lively and engaging than Act Two, but nothing can take away from the fact that this was a very polished and slick show, with a fantastic sound from the orchestra and cast – I was mightily impressed and went away feeling the buzz created by the show.

Just a small observation, I would have loved to see a repeat of some of the finale from Act One as the finale for Act Two after the bows – it would have just created the ultimate high at the end of the show – but that’s possibly just me wanting to hear such a stirring rendition again!

Harpenden Light Opera Society


review date: 12th October 2012

at Harpenden Public Halls

Director: John Hebden

Choreographer: Chris Cumming MD: Graham Thomson


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