"Bless the Bride," b A. P. Herbert and Vivian Ellis. Witham Operatic Society.
This delightful light opera, launched for a week's run at the Public Hall, Witham last night, is distinguished from other contemporary "musicals" in that it owes nothing either to Vienna or our Transatlantic cousins. It is thoroughly English in its gentle spirit, satire and sentiment and even when we go abroad in search of the vanished bride it is always through rather amazed English eyes that we see the French at work and play. .
The production by 'Gilbert Sutcliffe does full justice to the spirit evoked bv A. P. Herbert's words and lyrics. It moves at a commendably smart pace: and it is quite remarkable how Mr. Sutcliffe keeps his large company moving on the small stage, Lavish and colourful costumes add to the general interest and the singing is generally very good and so are the various dancing displays arranged by Iris Muirhead.
June Gisby, in the role of Lucy Veracity Willow, sings and acts very prettily - her "love's awakening" act under the sudden onslaught of actor Pierre Fontaine is very well done. David Walker, as her French lover. Pierre, could do his assault on charming Lucy with a little more Gallic grace, and his French seems based on Stratford-at-Bow rather than the Seine.
As to that doubtful character, Suzanne, done effectively by Helen Masding, she spoke French so fast that we were quite flabbergasted, which perhaps was the author's intention.
George Fl1nt did what he could with the somewhat ungrateful role of the Honourable Thomas Trout and Kathleen Richards with Donald Walford as Lucy's father and mother, acted as props of the family with becoming dignity. Of the grandparents, Anne Booth appeared the more convincing. H.L. Neale made his part look trifle too doddery.
Maureen Turner made an excellent impression in her brief appearance as Alice Charity and Diane Lawson, as the faithful Nanny, sang her pathetic parting song with becoming sentiment.
When the scene is moved to France several more characters make their contribution to good effect and it only remains to mention Jack Wilsher, as Cousin George, and Harold Masding as the Archdeacon.
In the orchestra, several players seemed to lose their way repeatedly and it was fortunate that stalwarts such as the double bass and percussion kept their heads.
IT takes courage for an amateur operatic society to tackle a light opera such as A. P. Herbert‘s "Bless the Bride" with the well-loved music by Vivian Ellis, but Witham Musical and 'Amateur Operatic Society are courageous. The result of hard and enthusiastic work is to be seen this week at the Public Hall where packed houses are according an enthusiastic reception to an excellent production.
The Witham Society always set their sights very high and, with an unbroken run of successes going back to 1922, their confidence in their own ability is more than justified.
To appreciate, to the full the triumph which the Society achieves this year you have to know a little of the back-stage difficulties with which they are faced. Although the production consists of only two acts, there are no fewer than 10 changes of scenery, some of them quite considerable. With limited space both on and off the stage, the result could be complete and utter chaos. At the final dress rehearsal on Sunday at times it looked as though chaos might succeed.
But on the first night most of these difficulties had been sorted out and the audience, a full house by the way, were able to sit back and enjoy the delightful singing of Vivian Ellis' well-known songs.
The night undoubtedly belonged to the two principals, one a new comer and one a well-known performer on the Witham stage. First the old favourite, June Gisby in the role of Lucy Veracity Willow. Miss Gisby has a delightful voice and, what is more, her diction is near perfect. Sitting right at the back of the hall, one could hear every word quite distinctly, a rare achievement for modem singers.
The other triumph was by David Walker, making his debut on the Witham stage, in the part of Pierre Fontaine. He threw himself wholeheartedly into the character of the dashing, young Frenchman and he really brought the character to life. His actions, his broken accent, combined to give one the impression they were really listening to a Frenchman, but above all he really can sing, a lovely rich voice which completely captivated the audience.
Compared with these two the remainder of the cast pale into almost insignificance but we had delightful contributions from another established Witham favourite, Diane Lawson, as Nanny, from the Society's president. H. L. Neal, as the Grandfather, and from George Flint as the Honourable Thomas Trout. Helen Masding, as Suzanne Valdis, brought a touch of vivacity to the proceedings and showed that she to has a delightful voice.
I particularly liked the contribution from Harold Masding as M. Robert, Maître d’hôtel. As usual the chorus worked very hard indeed and the singing added much to the enjoyment of the evening.
A very big thank you 'should be said to the back-stage workers for the way they' tackled their mammoth task efficiently and quietly: The Stage lighting was effective, particularly during the “dream scene” in Act I. This was an innovation for Witham which drew a gasp of admiration from the packed house.
SHOULD BE PROUD
Gilbert Sutcliffe is the producer and once more can feel proud of the results of his labour. Kenneth Ferris is the musical director and under his baton, the orchestra performs most creditably, and the dances are arranged by Iris Muirhead.
One final word of praise for Gerry Booth who, as stage manager, will be one of: those who will surely breathe a sigh of relief when the curtain falls for the last time on Saturday evening,
IT takes courage for an amateur operatic society to tackle a light opera such as A. P_ Herbert's, “Bless the Bride" with the well-loved music by Vivian Ellis, but Witham Musical and Amateur Operatic Society are nothing if they are not courageous.
The result of much hard and enthusiastic work is to be seen this week at the Public Hall, where packed houses are according an enthusiastic reception to a fine production.
To appreciate the triumph which the Society achieves one must know" a little of the back stage difficulties. Although the productions has only two acts, there are no fewer than ten changes of scenery, some quite considerable. With limited space both on and off the stage the result could be utter chaos. But by the first night most of these difficulties had been sorted out.
The night undoubtedly belonged to the two principals, one a newcomer. First the old favourite, June Gisby, as Lady Veracity Willow. She has a deljghtful voice and sitting at the' back of the hall one could' hear every word distinctly. The other triumph was by David Walker, making his debut at Witham, in the part of Pierre Fontaine. As the dashing young Frenchman he really brought the character to life. In addition there were delightful contributions from Diane Lawson, the Society's President H. L. Neal, George Flint. Helen Masding and Harold Masding.
As usual the chorus worked hard indeed, and there should be a big thank YOU to the back stage workers.
Gilbert Sutcliffe is producer. Gerry Booth stage manager, Kenneth Ferris the musical director and the dances were arranged by Iris Muirhead.