THE fantasy of the Arabian Nights is being relived at the Public Hall in Witham all this week.
The Witham Amateur Operatic Society are presenting a lavish spectacle of colour and music in their production of Kismet. It is a simple love story in which the course of true love is thwarted by a wicked Wazir. As with all fairy stories good triumphs in the end and the Wazir dies only to reappear for the curtain call as a ﬁgure from the depths of hell.
The music for the show is arranged from themes by Borodin. The orchestra, under the direction of Brian Brown, gave a controlled yet lively accompaniment to the singers.
The opening scene moves rather slowly and lacks dramatic impact but the sure hand of Derek Collins is to be seen in the skilful handling of the crowd movement and the introduction of a couple of spinning dervishes.
Nicholas Clough made an excellent Wazir taking a delight in killing even his own father. He was cuckolded by his delightful wife played by Patsy Doy. She extracted every ounce of humour from her many double entendres.
Howard Brooks played Hajj, a poor poet with a delightful daughter and a fortuitous gift for foretelling the future. As the central character, his performance added a great deal to the show and kept it ﬂowing at a lively pace. The heroine, Marsinah, was sung by Helene Jones who has a lyrical, easy, conﬁdent voice; she was at her exciting best when singing And This is My Beloved
The second act opens with real punch and gives the caliph, played by Stewart Adkins, the opportunity to show off his voice. He made a good young hero, especially when singing Stranger in Paradise. Geoff Coverdale was the court poet Omar Khayyam and Bill Bennion the brigand chieftain.
The choreography, by Cathy Swann was a feature of the show. It was especially pleasing to see two athletic young men bring in elements of modern dancing. Tony Court as the chief policeman was the evil shadow of his master the Wazir and with his policemen, who seemed to have wandered in from Penzance, brought a touch of slapstick humour whenever they appeared on stage.
With colourful costumes, lively singing and interesting music, the society will be sure to repeat its usual success.
“WITHAM Amateur Operatic Society proudly present Kismet,” it says on the front of the programme for their production at the town’s Public Hall. And they have every right to use that word “proudly”. The performers, musicians, costumes, and scenery in the show equalled anything you‘re ever likely to see by forking out inordinate sums to see a professional company.
Kismet, produced here by Derek Collins, is the Borodin-based musical set in and around the Baghdad of yore. lt’s the tale of a happy-go-lucky poet called Hajj, who cheerfully accepts his lot as, in the space of a few days, fate changes him from poor man to beggar man to rich man to cheat.
Hajj, played with beaming smiles and obvious enjoyment by Howard Brooks, has a daughter, Marsinah (Helene Jones), who captures the heart of local royalty in the shape of Stewart Atkins‘ Caliph. The only trouble is, the wicked Wazir of Police, the bent chief cop, has money problems which will only be solved if he can get the Caliph to marry three sulky, po-faced and rather ferocious princesses of Ababu. And the Wazir has Marsinah in his harem.
There are some lovely performances in all of this; the Wazir‘s henchmen are a sort of Middle Eastern Keystone Cops with a Windsor Davies figure in charge. Stewart Atkins, sounding very like Howard Keel in his younger days, fills the stage every time he opens his mouth to sing . . . and Helene Jones simply warbles like a bird.
Colourful costumes, witty choreography, stunning scenery (how did they change it so quickly and quietly?), clever props, and a company that makes a glorious noise in the chorus numbers. There are a few seats left on Friday night, and one or two on Saturday.