1977 Utopia Ltd

BWT Preview

Unlimited enjoyment

Utopia Limited was a late arrival on the Savoy opera scene and, truth to tell, it has never caught up in popularity with the earlier successes. But it contains some of W. S. Gilbert's wittiest satire and if Sullivan was in reminiscent mood when he wrote the music, that is no bad thing.
So Witham Operatic Society's production at the Public Hall next week isot to be missed. Set somewhere in the sunshine of the Southern Pacific, it's a spectacular show and calls for a huge cast of principals.
Derek Collins produces and performs. Pat Harris and Antony Gordon make a welcome return to the Witham stage and most of the guys and dolls from the recently successful Guys and Dolls will be on view. It opens next Monday.


Gazette Review


THREE cheers for Witham Operatic Society for unearthing that museum piece Utopia Limited, which nobody ever seems to perform. Written near the end of the Gilbert and Sullivan partnership, the inspiration is mainly retrospect, but there are many flashes of genius to delight us. They concerted singing is notable, the luscious South Sea maidens of the chorus alone are worth the price of admission and musical director Ken Ferris has chosen his orchestra well.

The six gentlemen who come to civilise a semi barbarous kingdom are led by Anthony Gordon (Capt Fitzbattleaxe) and Nicholas Clough (A Company Promoter), who are both in excellent voice. They find King Paramount in the person of producer Derek Collins, who sings and trips the light fantastic in a very professional manner. His daughter, Princess Zara, is played by Hilary Brunning, a leading lady of quality and the mature charms of Lady Sophy are comfortably handled by Pat Harris.

Grab the opportunity of seeing this unusual show at Witham's Public Hall this week; It only comes round every 50 years or so!


BWT Review


QUEEN Victoria was not amused when she heard that W. S. Gilbert had been poking fun at the Court of St James in his latest opera, Utopia Limited. It was understood that no member of her entourage should go and see the offensive thing - more than once. And few of us have ever had the opportunity of seeing it at all, so perhaps a Queen's displeasure has cursed it all those years.

So full marks to Witham Operatic Society for bravely presenting this neglected work and to Derek Collins for directing it so well. His production had charm and vitality. To compensate for the fading talents of the great partnership he tarted up the stage picture with lashings of pretty girls in the scanty attire of modern South Sea Islanders. But when they tried to ape their Western sisters at a ceremonial Drawing Room the comic possibilities were not fully realised. No doubt they will be before the week is out.


Sullivan's genuine breaks through ever and anon with something new and refreshing. His music was well handled by the vocalists, especially in the grand unaccompanied chorus, Eagle High. And it Gilbert got a bit verbose at times his longwinded libretto was always clearly spoken and sung.

Outstanding in the lengthy cast of well-dressed principals was Nicholas Clough as the man who could make the Joint Stock Company Act of 1862 interesting in song. There was Anthony Gordon (Captain Fitzbattleaxe), Hilary Brunning {Princess Zara). Pat Harris (Lady Sophy), Helene Jones (Nekaya) and Janet Collins (Kalyba) all at the top of their form. And the producer himself provided a plump and pleasing King Paramount as a pivot for all the action.

The chorus work, as ever, was exciting and well contrived. Smaller parts such as Ewart CornīŦeld's Ali Baba-like Tarara, the Public Exploder, were confidently performed while the eccentric King's Guards were a joy.

The orchestra, in the charge of Ken Ferris, accompanied smoothly and although Witham set themselves a difficult task there is no doubt that they succeeded splendidly.

Gilbert Sutcliffe