THE Yeomen of the Guard is a piece of rich tapestry and it contains some of Sullivan's best music. As Witham Operatic Society re-create it this week it is a feast for the eye. If they are not quite so successful as far as the ear is concerned, it must be remembered that at times it approaches grand opera and is a severe challenge both to amateur vocalists and a hastily assembled orchestra.
But most of it is well within the power of this noted society and there are very many delightful moments. Particularly during the fine singing of newcomers Rosemary Mayes (Dame Carruthers) and Anthony Gordon (Colonel Fairfax) who are a decided acquisition to the company.
Ken RoIf’s production is nicely paced and he contrives that the often crowded stage invariably makes a most agreeable picture. Tim Sheppard’s Jack Point is an accurate and sympathetic study which would shine in any company while Edward MaItby’s disagreeable Shadbolt is another little gem of characterisation.
Praise, too, for Jacky Wood’s blonde and spritely Phoebe and for Pat Harris in the prima donna role of Elsie Maynard. These two, together with Rosemary Mayes, contribute a most delicious little trio in the finale in which their voices blend to perfection.
And then, of course, there are the heavy guns of David Fletcher (Sergeant Meryll) and Don Walford with Ewart Cornﬁeld (Leading Yeoman) all in full voice. Sven Turner lends his mellow tenor to the thankless part of Leonard, Patsy Doy is the GoTo of the evening so that she can join tunefully in “Strange Adventure . . .” and Tony Wood is a sonorous Lieutenant of the Tower.
The fine dresses of the chorus are matched by the lady attendants in the front of the house who are dressed in period costume too and, as ever, a visit to Witham’s Fublic Hall in operatic week is certainly something of an occasion.
SOME strong character playing and good use of the stage are the chief elements in Ken Rolf’s production of “Yeomen of the Guard” for the Witham Musical and Amateur 0peratic Society at the Witham Public Hall this week.
Anthony Gordon made a splendid heroic Colonel Fairfax and Tim Sheppard a sad and moving Jack Point. The Head Jailer and Assistant Tormentor, Wilfred Shadbolt, was given a delicious performance by Edward Maltby. Jacky Wood is a player to watch. She has a sweet voice and brought charm and vivaciousness to her role as Phoebe although why she is saddled with the awful Wilfred by W. S. Gilbert I‘ll never know.
The chorus is good and effective and always seems to be aware of the patterns the producer was striving for. The lighting adds to the overall impression of the shifting moods of this unusually dramatic and operatic Gilbert and Sullivan work.
The musical director is Wally Assheton-Taylor. Unfortunately he seems to be directing an orchestra which does little more than sight read the music. A stage production of this calibre needs an orchestra which has had more time for rehearsal.
IT WAS rather inconsiderate of Messrs Gilbert and Sullivan to dream up such a sad ending to The Yeoman Of The Guard. It would be marvellous to go home in high spirits after the display of gaiety and colour given in Witham this week.
Witham Musical and Amateur Operatic Society members tackle the unlikely tale with their characteristic verve under the baton of musical director Wally Assheton-Taylor.
Handsome Colonel Fairfax (Anthony Gordon) condemned unfairly to death, decides to cheat his accuser who stands to take over his estates if he dies unmarried. This he does by going through a marriage service in prison with a girl he has never seen, promising she will be widowed within the hour.
But when an escape plot succeeds, pretty Elsie finds herself still tied to a man she does not love, to the dismay of her jester sweetheart Point - a bitter-sweet performance from expressive Tim Sheppard. The magnificent voice of Pat Harris lends itself well to Elsie, the strolling singer, looking like a wistful gipsy.
Elsie and Fairfax find love and happiness, but beautiful Phoebe, played cheekily and tenderly by Jacky Wood, and poor Point get a raw deal from Gilbert and Sullivan. Wilfred Shadbolt, surly forelock-tugging head jailor gets marvellous treatment from actor Edward Maltby, who snarls and woos' with great zest.
The leading players are capably supported by a responsive chorus and colourful yeomen, backed by a three-dimensional set of an incredibly realistic Tower of London. Perhaps the only loose end that can't be blamed on the composers is that the society has insisted on calling the show The Yeomen (not Yeoman)* of the Guard on its programmes and tickets.
* Perhaps this remark gives some clue to Liz Mullen’s familiarity with G & S.