Pirates of Penzance
W. S. GILBERT would have liked Witham Operatic Society's presentation of The Pirates of Penzance. His all-important words were clearly spoken and sung and if the singing, generally, was not particularly distinguished, Derek Collins' direction was superlative and, to my mind, closely approached D'Oyly Carte standard. The splendid work of the large chorus will be remembered for a long time. Only in the undue exuberance of the pirates while Ruth was singing her first difficult, explanatory song did it fall slightly from grace, Thereafter it was quite exemplary and inspired.
The girls were delightful in their Victorian costumes and reacted to every twist and turn of the story with eager vivacity. The men, whether villainous pirates or. virtuous policemen were right on top of the job. The dance of the pirates and the policemen's chorus were fine applause-pulling examples of their virtuosity and I can now reveal that the comic copper with the two left feet who nearly stopped the show on the first night was none other than Mr Geoffrey Coverdale, last year's president of the society.
The principals gave ample support. Tony Woods made a magnificently bucolic, tow-headed, flat-footed Sergeant of Police. Anton Archer, although stiffly statuesque as Frederic, sang with a clear tenor voice of rare quality. Pauline Hanford, charming as ever in the lead, did not quite fully explore the grand opera prima donna possibilities of the part. The Pirate King was suitably vociferous in the hands of David Fletcher and he was ably assisted by Ewart Cornfield as a Benn Gunn like Samuel. Rita Page firmly established as this company's principal contralto, justified her position with a convincing picture of Ruth and Pat Harris, as Edith, not only sang sweetly but performed some delicious miming with the mountainous Sergeant.
We expected an outstanding performance from the producer, Derek Collins, in the part of Major-General Stanley and we were not disappointed. The Ruined Chapel by Moonlight was a fine piece of stagecraft but I would have liked the moon to have risen a little more so that we could have seen more clearly the expressions on the faces of this very intelligent chorus.
Both as chorus-master and musical director, Jack Wilsher was highly successful although his orchestra at times was lacking in tone.
WHEN the curtain came down at the end of Witham Operatic Society's presentation of The Pirates of Penzance, the first word that sprang to my mind was "superb."
Although I attended the first of five performances to be given in the Public Hall, there were no first night jitters I could detect, and the show got into top gear right from the start. Only the hyper-critical could fault this production in any department. Everything was fresh, musical and delightfully executed.
The Penzance set was colourful and as bright as a new pin. The quality and variation of "tone” of singers and orchestra sounded well and was, in my opinion, the highlight of the evening, particularly when one considers the acoustical limitations of the hall.
Outstanding amongst the principals was Derek Collins, who sang and acted so perfectly that he was indeed the "very model of a model major general." The leading pirates, David Fletcher and Ewart Cornfield, contrasted in voice and stature, while Anton Archer seemed to give of his best when engaged in duets.
Tony Woods was a mighty fine policeman. Rita Page played and sang the difficult role of Ruth, the pirate maid of all work, with considerable understanding. Stanley's daughters looked well and sang sweetly. Pauline Han-
ford and Pat Collins in particular getting some well deserved applause. Chorus members were beautifully attired and sang with gusto. I admired the confidence with which chorus and principals, collaborated to effect smooth exits and entrances.
Congratulations to all concerned, especially Derek Collins who produced the show, and Jack Wilsher, the musical director. The Society's Golden Jubilee production of "Oklahoma," next May ... is something to look forward to.
SUPERB! The Witham Musical 'and Amateur Opera tic Society's production of "The Pirates. of Penzance," which played at the Public Hall, Witham, last week, was the best amateur Gilbert and Sullivan opera I have ever seen. The chorus work was magnificent. No static semi-circles or creaky time-keeping - the choreography was quite outstanding. The whole company generated an infectious enthusiasm which carried it through splendidly until the final curtain.
David Fletcher made a virile, dashing, handsome Pirate King-and sang very well. Anton Archer was an excellent pirate apprentice. Tony Woods was a very amusing sergeant of police and justifiably brought the house down with his famous "police-man's lot" song. He was backed by the most amusing chorus of policemen I have ever seen, extracted every ounce of humour from the lines but never went too far or on for too long. It was a marvellously controlled group.
Pauline Hanford was a very attractive daughter, Mabel, and had quite the most difficult singing role. She may be excused for being occasionally a little shrill. Rita Page was excellent as the down-trodden Ruth, the pirate maid-of-all-work.
But the most outstanding performance of all came from the producer and director, Derek Collins, who played Major General Stanley. It is not often I am privileged to see a performance as invigorating and so full of fun and invention as this.
If you can manage to get tickets, go and see this show which will make you realise that it is, after all, rather good to be alive.