|The Dowager's Oyster - photo Robert Workman|
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on Aug 27 2016
A new 1920's era operetta has promise but lacks the right edge
|Claire Barnett Jones, Jane Wilkinson, Henry Neill|
The Dowager's Oyster - photo Robert Workman
The operetta is based on a story story by the composer. Set in the 1920's in England, France and Morocco, the piece is perhaps best thought of as a cross between an Agatha Christie whodunnit and Sandy Wilson's Valmouth. A cast of seven colourful characters assemble and six of them are suspected of the murder of the Dowager Lady Tindale (Melanie Lodge) disliked by many, with Dr Gibaud (Julian Debreuil) using his 'little grey cells' to detect the murderer.
It was an entertaining concept and the cast worked hard in their singing and dancing to create the right atmosphere. But they were rather let down by the material which needed to be far sharper and more memorable. The execution just wasn't as funny as it needed to be.
|Aidan Coburn, Tom Morss - The Dowager's Oyster - photo Robert Workman|
Louis Mander's music provided some beautifully atmospheric scene settings, his orchestrations for his small band were extremely effective. The instrumental music nicely transported us to the 1920s, to a grand resort in France and to Morocco. Unfortunately his vocal lines were rather unmemorable, almost deliberately so. Time and again we would have a delightful instrumental lead in, sometimes with dancing from the performers, yet the vocal lines had neither the character nor memorability which the songs needed. Many were point numbers, not germane to the plot but designed to add an incidental felicity or character detail, and as such need to be memorable. Having a song about a bumpy car ride is fine enough, but there were too many verses and the music was just not catch yenough (think of Lady Parvula's 'Just once more' or Cardinal Pirelli's 'The Cathedral of Clemenza' in Valmouth).
Jane Wilkinson made a delightful 'jolly hockey sticks' Cynthia, with the knack of making the character's extreme upset rather funny, whilst Melanie Lodge worked as best she could with her material as Cynthia's mother, the Dowager. Claire Barnett Jones and Henry Neill were strongly etched as the mismatched pairing of Marta and Karl Grinzig, whilst Aidan Coburn was delightfully fey as Cynthia's fiancee with Tom Morss as his boyfriend. Caroline Kennedy managed to make a nicely rounded character of the put upon maid Genevieve. Julian Debreuil, as Dr Gibaud, was unfortunately lumbered with a cod French accent which was, I presume, supposed to be funny
There is an interesting show in The Dowager's Oyster somewhere, but it needs a little polishing and revision. Wittier text and more memorable tunes in the vocal line please, after all there were plenty in the instrumental ensemble, and at a running time of under two hours including interval I think there was scope for more dialogue to establish a bit more character.
Elsewhere on this blog:
- From Bohemia to Portugal: Baritone Ricardo Panela in recital - concert review
- On Vimeo at last: My opera The Genesis of Frankenstein
- A glimpse of 17th century aristocratic music making: Carolyn Sampson & friends in Purcell on Wigmore Hall Live - CD review
- A very Anglican fervour: John Scott and the choir of St Thomas's Church, New York in Rachmaninov's Vespers - CD review
- Charming compilation: Cookery a la Carte - Book review
- Much that was superb, musically: Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin from Bolshoi Opera and Ballet of Belarus, at the Birgitta Festival in Tallinn - Opera review
- Mozartian music theatre: Requiem... and before at Birgitta Festival in Tallinn - Music theatre review
- Very funny indeed: Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro at Grimeborn Festival - Opera review
- Pilgrimage to Santiago: Gabriel Jackson's To the field of stars - CD review
- A day in Reykjavik: Ponce, Piazolla and Icelandic song at Harpa - concert review
- Beguiling charm: Sullivan's complete incidenal music to Macbeth and to The Tempest - CD review