This Operetta has proved to be a very popular choice for Preston Gilbert and Sullivan Society, judging by the full houses at The Playhouse this week. It was encouraging to see a wide range of ages in the audience and also to see many members from other societies supporting this genre. The specially invited orchestra, with Musical Director, Robin Stopford and Leader, Tracey Johnson captured the mood and atmosphere as they played the overture. The sound balance between orchestra and cast was first class throughout.
The curtain opened to reveal a brightly lit, colourful and dramatic set which provided the backdrop for the strong opening chorus of “ “Gentlemen of Japan”, in monochrome costumes and white make up with red fans to enhance the effect. We were instantly gripped and entertained and this continued until the final chorus. The experienced Lynne Nolan, Choreographer, had stamped her own style on the production and created innovative and imaginative movements bringing a freshness of approach to the whole piece. It was obvious that she had put both male and female chorus through their paces to create very good, slick and accurate movements, especially when using their fans.
Philip Walsh, Director had used all his vast experience of G & S to give us a polished and well- paced production. There were no weak links with all on stage playing their roles with skill and confidence. It was encouraging to see that previous newcomer to this genre, Daltrey Wrigley, was now Playing Nanki-Poo which is his first Principal Tenor role but it will certainly not be his last. He will be widely sought after by many companies, not only because of his lovely singing voice but also his understanding of the humour and exaggerations in G & S Operettas.
The experienced Robert Feeley was perfectly cast as Ko- Ko and he brought out all the little nuances of the character and showed lovely contrasting emotions. His sensitive performance of “ Tit Willow “ was one of the best I have ever seen.
Andrew Lyons as Poo- Bah commanded the stage at all times and delivered his lines with perfect comic timing again showing his considerable experience in the G & S Operettas.
The three wards of Ko- Ko, Yum-Yum, Peep-Bo and Pitti-Sing, Amy Louise Hardy, Keeley Lund and Debbie Brotherton harmonized beautifully and never faltered. I was not sure however about the choice of the modern looking wigs. The blonde and auburn wigs looked out of place and appeared very artificial.
Martin Cassell as Pish-Tush gave a splendid, measured performance and it was a pleasure to hear his lovely Baritone voice. Elaine McNicol as Katisha was outstanding. I have seen “The Mikado” many times and I have never seen this role bettered whilst Anthony Alman in the title role of The Mikado was an innovative interpretation which he played well.
Both male and female choruses were excellent, always in character. They looked splendid in their striking outfits they wore and make up by Bryony Forrest ensured the finished effect was just right. Costumes for all on stage were quite outstanding and all involved should be congratulated. This was a memorable night of Theatre and I look forward to the Company’s next production. Thank you so much for your very warm welcome to my wife and myself.