THE MERRY WIDOW / PATIENCE

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THE MERRY WIDOW / PATIENCE

Postby Barry » Sat Mar 05, 2011 11:16 pm

The Merry Widow - Opera North - the Lowry - 2nd March 2011
Patience - Sale G&S - The Garrick - 5th March 2011

Two almost contempory operettas/musical comedies in one week but two very very different approaches, and whilst I enjoyed them both, it's not hard to tell which one I enjoyed the most. I saw the Widow in the autumn and I enjoyed it's freshness and witty melancholy even more this time. With no references to previous productions or styles, this was it's own beautiful creation, with stylish ingenious sets, stunningly lit, and staged with real flair and some no small boldness, and all topped with Wyn's unique way with such music, and some truly glorious singing (though the Lowry for all its' bravura does have some dead spots - perfect place for ballet but in some parts voices just get swallowed up). Fresh as a daisy and Lehar would have loved it.
Patience however, and I did enjoy it tremendously, was something very different. For such societies, it is not just about what happens on stage. It is about the involvement, it is about the camaraderie, it is about the raffle, it is about egos being stroked, it is about raising money, it is about the community, it is about personalities the audience know, it is about having a moment of glory, it is about having a good time, and it is about a safe, cosy past. It is not about imaginative stagings, nor is it really about looking at the material and seeing what, at it's core, it is about and seeing if it can say new and relevent can be said. The staging and choreography was as you would expect, and nothing done with any aspect of design, and I fear, well I know from overhearing some of the elderley audience, that they would resent any fancy staging. they get what they want, or rather they get what they know -which in a way is sad as Gilbert was such an innovator and would be horrified that his theatrically innovative works are constantly staged with such lack of imagination - an imagination costs nothing. But really some things should change and evolve....painted cloths just make my heart sink these days, as does the dreaded semi circular chorus groupings, and really with todays lighting no-one needs to wear so much pancake make up, and those dreaded white and dark lines to signify aging, but it all adds a weight of importance for the performer I think. I am critical I admit, but you can still respect the spirit of Gilbert with a bit more flair. You don't have to go the Ken Russell/Princess Ida approach, but the Jonathan Miller Mikado and ENO Patience and even the Papp Pirates should have been a lesson to all. I do think these societies have a duty to introduce these splendid pieces to young audiences, and it says that something that I was practically the youngest there. They could and should be made exciting. However I did have a good time, particularly watching Patience herself and my chum Alison being magnificent as Lady Jane.
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