THE combination of the colourful world of the Middle East of a few centuries ago, a story that could have come out of the Arabian Nights and the music of Borodin is certain to provide the material for a successful musical show. Last week all these elements were combined when Witham Amateur Operatic Society performed Kismet at the Public Hall.
The opening was colourful but it did not really come to life until the appearance of Natalie Cudlip who played the part of Marsinah, the sparkling daughter of the Public Poet. It has been a pleasure to see her grow from a star in the youth group, the Witham Operatic Work¬shop, to a fully fledged star in the adult company. Howard Brooks, the Public Poet, brought back memories of John Hansen as he dominated the stage with lively style. His over-acting was typical of the original production. When he was with Lalume he was at his best.
Lavinia Farmer who was the choreographer added a great deal to the show. Dancing was a feature throughout and the young ladies were always flowing and colourful.
Richard Cowen, a forceful Wazir of Police, finally murdered by the poet, was a good match for Tom Whelan, the Master Brigand. Geoff Coverdale was at ease as the poet Omar Khayyam. Darren White was an elegant Caliph and acted as a good foil for the vital and sweet singing Natalie Cudlip. We look forward to hearing her for many years to come. Lalume, played by Pat McLeod, was the real scene stealer. She made the most of all her lines, in most cases she made more than was written. The innuendo was a delight to enjoy. She managed to get laughs where there could have only been chuckles. This was a star performance.
Brian Brown's musical direction was always well controlled and Eddie McKay's direction of her large cast always kept a colourful sight before our eyes.
We can now look forward to the autumn production of Calamity Jane.
WITHAM A.O.S. - KISMET
PERFORMANCE OF 27th April 1999
Good sets; well lit; gorgeous costumes, and lots of colour upon which to feast ones eyes; a good orchestra expertly playing the adapted music of Borodin; and a company that can sing and move well. Given the plot, all this should add up to impact, and under Edwina MacKays direction this certainly was the case, but only in parts.
There was a curiously 'laid back' and leisurely feel about some parts of the show, and in particular the opening sequences and the elevation of the glib Poet to prime beggar. He might be a Poet, but he does live off his wits and Howard Brooks' interpretation as the personification of pleasant amiability, regardless of circumstance, seemed a little out of line. In contrast Pat McLeod's Lelume delivered every last ounce of comedy available, and at her first appearance, with the three princesses, everything seemed to spring to life.
Geoff Coverdale gave us a lively and devious Omar Khayyam. Richard Cowen's Wazir and Peter MacKay's Police Chief made a good pair. Marsinah was played by Natalie Cudlip, a promising young lady from WOW, the Company youth section. She gave us a good characterisation, but more projection was needed, both in dialogue and singing. Darren White, a tall young man, also from WOW, wasn't quite the imposing figure that he could have been, as the Caliph, but there is plenty of potential there, and a promising voice.
Chorus singing was up to scratch and movement patterns provided good atmosphere. On the whole the solo work was rather disappointing, though certainly in the case of Marsinah and the Caliph, the larger than usual orchestra, under M.D. Brian Brown, seemed to make no allowance for their pleasant, but as yet underpowered voices.
A thoroughly pleasant evening, but I have seen the Company do better.