FOR amateurs to approach the hallowed portals of the opera house is a slightly presumptuous business. And although Pink Champagne has been scaled clown from Johann Strauss’s Die Fledermaus it still calls for singing and orchestral work of a very high order. So, if Witham Musical and Amateur Operatic Society's contribution to Braintree Arts Festival might not altogether satisfy the musical purist it nevertheless provided some spectacular entertainment.
In his new appointment as musical director David Fletcher had certainly been thrown in at the deep end for his orchestra needed considerably more practice together to do full justice to the score.
Doris Griffiths’ production was smooth and had several ingenious little touches while Cynthia Stead’s dancers coped as well as they could with the cramped conditions of the stage and some uninspired accompaniment on the first night.
The members of the chorus, alas, are little more than wallpaper in this show. They were, however, always well turned out, most enthusiastic and sang lustily. Their contribution to the delightful Brother Mine concerted number was a high-spot of the production.
Pat Harris, as Rosalinda, sang the difficult music with confidence and showed us a prima donna of charm and beauty while the clear voice of young Jacky Wood served her well as Adele, the Cinderella at the ball.
Tim Sheppard gave a polished performance as a wayward Gabriel Eisenstein whose handsome face and figure seemed to have suffered little from nights of drinking and dissipation. Nicholas Clough was a rather benign villain and had too few opportunities to show off his very fine singing voice but Alan Merrill got right into the skin of the blundering, conceited and unfortunate Alfred.
Rita Page’s stylised handling of the very odd Prince Orlovsky displayed a touch of genius, Edward Maltby was a gruff, amusing Frank and Peter Sparkhall mimed delightfully as the chief warder bemused with drink. Helene Jones, Ann Quarrie and Avril Milne made a trio of pretty and tuneful charmers, Patsy Doy was a light-of-foot Mitzi and Ewart Cornﬁeld was an entirely credible lawyer of the period.
Richard Enfield kept popping up in various guises throughout the evening and Jo Wood established a character in the short time it took to sing a couple of bars of music.
If present restrictions are likely to make teetotallers of us all, there was, perhaps, some vicarious pleasure to be had by watching the alcoholic enjoyment on stage this week at Witham’s Public Hall.
MOST of the fizz seems to have gone out of the Pink Champagne currently being served at the Public Hall in Witham by the Musical and Amateur Operatic Society.
lf you are going to present a frothy, light romantic piece of nonsense then it must be done supremely well. At Witham it is not. The choreography is pedestrian, the music frankly beyond the capabilities of the orchestra (it was a harrowing experience listening to them mangle Strauss’ beautiful melodies) although they did manage to play together towards the end of the evening. The singing of the chorus was always good, however, and several of the principal singers had a good try at injecting some life into the thing. .
Why the tatty stock scenery, ineffectually lit, was greeted by rapturous little bursts of applause from the first night audience I cannot imagine. The costumes, too, were far from interesting. All in all the "show was as flat the champagne must be when the average ignorant English drinker has poured the precious liquid into his usual po-like receptacle.