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Comedy and Crime: Spring Revue

24 March 2017

Spring Revue

Hounslow Light Opera Company

 

St Stephen’s Church, Hounslow, 24th March

(Touring to St Mary’s Church, Hampton, 25th March)

 

Review by Eleanor Lewis

Had I been a primary school teacher I might have leapt to my feet, (as they are wont to do with depressing regularity), exclaiming “Lovely! I could hear every word!”.  Patronising perhaps, but not meant in that way, because when you’re singing the closely packed lyrics of WS Gilbert and the cutting rhymes of Fred Ebb, they deserve to be heard and HLOC did full justice to music and lyrics in their spring concert, appropriately titled Spring Song Singers. 

This was a neatly designed concert beginning with a gentle fifteen-minute comedy about the difficulties of corralling a large group of people and getting them to do what you want whilst they lose their specs, fail to find parking spaces and get an attack of the hiccups.  In this case the group being a choir arriving in the church hall for a rehearsal.  Carefully directed by Laurie Coombs and performed with attention to detail, every member of the ensemble had a character and played it convincingly to good effect.

The opening comedy piece led naturally into the performance of a selection of songs with a crime related theme.  Musical Director Lee Dewsnap – evidently a man to keep hold of – had successfully provided arrangements for HLOC’s Mikado in the autumn using only a Yamaha EL-900 organ.  Having seen said Mikado, this reviewer can state without hesitation that it certainly didn’t sound like he had only an electric keyboard.  For the spring offering, Mr Dewsnap was equipped with a piano in the first section of the performance and the keyboard in the second.  He made full use of every musical skill available to him in this group, the result being well-paced singing, nicely matched voices and, my personal favourite, clear diction.  A rousing and entertaining close to the first part of the evening.

Simon Bishop’s lighting at St Stephen’s on Friday gave provided the clarity and softness appropriate to the church setting.

 

 

Trial by Jury was performed in Act Two.  Costumed in modern dress, Gilbert and Sullivan’s second operetta in which a woman attempts to sue her fiancé for breach of promise was performed largely in two lines at the front of the church.  Directed this time by Elizabeth Malone, once again, the ensemble was strong, each member having a character and playing it well: expressive faces, meaningful glances and sensibly used small props such as notebooks and phone.  Wherever you looked there was something going on.  However, the church in which we sat on Friday night, which worked well for the comedy and singing in the first half was a little less effective in the second half.  It would have been good to raise – somehow – the back row of jurors as they were hardly visible to the audience sitting, as they were, on a flat floor rather than the slight incline there would have been in a theatre.  This did not detract much from the overall performance but it was a shame not to see who was providing it.  The entire concert moved on Saturday to a different venue where this may not have been an issue.

Tony Cotterill, playing the feckless defendant, gave a reliably strong performance and Johanna Chambers with a lovely clear-as-a-bell voice played his not entirely helpless jilted fiancée with great skill. The Judge, Paul Huggins and the Usher, Kurt Walton though both doing their best, may have done better in each other’s roles, Kurt Walton’s voice being a little stronger.

Like many community groups, HLOC needs more men.  Men have always been reluctant to join amateur drama or operatic societies, which is odd as there is, after all, a wide and varied selection of women in these groups, but hey I am not privy to the workings of the male mind (and let’s all be grateful for that).  It does make casting difficult though.  I sat recently through dinner while a female friend went to fairly elaborate lengths trying to bribe her non-performing husband to take a small part in an upcoming musical because it was probable there wouldn’t be enough men to cast.  To date she’s still working on him.

HLOC on the basis of this latest concert, looks like a society that is playing to its strengths, moving forward and gaining confidence.  An audience member behind me, at the end of the evening said “well, that was well worth travelling fifteen miles out of my way for!” Recommendation in itself I think.

Eleanor Lewis

24th March 2017

Photography by John Malone

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From → musicals, Opera, Reviews

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