THE colourful tableau vivant revealed this week at Witham’s Public Hall when the curtain comes up on Princess Ida gives promise of an entertaining evening of spectacle and song which is completely fulfilled. Witham Operatic Society have loosened their purse strings sufficiently to provide lavish costumes and scenery which are a joy to the eye in these days of threatened austerity. The chorus and small parts department of this company are crammed full of performers worthy of more prominent roles, so possibly director Derek Collins had little difficulty in casting the piece to perfection.
It takes three acts for the princess to ﬁnd out that there is no future in making men redundant and each act is full of surprises The splendid female chorus first appear as handsomely dressed ladies of a medieval court, then as pretty girl graduates and then, horror of horrors, as timid Amazonian warriors in costumes which do nothing for their ﬁgures. And they do it all delightfully.
Patsy Doy plays Ida with fine authority. Rita Page, though lacking the avoirdupois required for one of Gilbert's heavy matrons, brings plenty of comedy to the scheming and philosophical Lady Blanche. Pat Harris gives a most sparkling and brilliant performance as lady Psyche and, for full measure, we have the roguish Janet Collins as Melissa, delightfully supported by Helene Jones (Sacharissa), Judy Henderson (Ada) and pretty little Lydia Clough, who does sufﬁcient to ensure that soon she will leave the prompt corner of the stage where for so long they have made Lydia languish.
Nicholas Clough is an admirable King Hildebrand, full of dignity and with impeccable diction. Ewart Cornfield's King Gama is in direct line with the ‘greats’ and Malcolm Watson, as Hilarion, is a most acceptable tenor lead. I particularly liked Simon Mitchell’s lively Cyril - nice one, Simon — and the sturdy Florian of Howard Brooks. The armourplated sons of King Gama were fearfully and wonderfully portrayed in all their grotesque glory by Tony Wood (Arac), Brian Henderson (Guron) and Edward Maltby (Scynthius) and the rest of the men moved around in a fascinating manner on Mr Collins’ chessboard. The singing throughout was applause worthy and musical director Ken Ferris‘s artistic discipline was at all times apparent.
I wonder why I ever said that Princess Ida was in the second division?
PRINCESS IDA, never top of the pops at the Savoy Theatre, and suffering banishment for long periods over the years, comes out of retirement with a big bang at Witham Public Hall all this week. For Witham Musical and Operatic Society have dressed the show regardless of expense, filled the many parts with excellent singers, and producer Derek Collins and musical director Ken Ferris have handled their tasks with rare skill.
So we find a Wagnerian heroine in Patsy Doy, a Lytton-like King Gama in Ewart Cornfield and a most impressive Hildebrand in Nicholas Clough. There are three lively and amusing giant-killers in Malcolm Watson (Hilarion), Simon Mitchell (Cyril), and Howard Brooks (Florian), a show stopping vocalist in Pat Harris (Lady Psyche) and an ancestor of the Tin Man in Tony Wood (Arac)
There are hosts of sweet girl graduates, highly coloured soldiers and courtiers straight out of the toyshop. The singing, generally, is outstanding.
This is not just a musical show it is “grand opera”