Review of The Dowager's Oyster
"A sure fire operatic success"

by David Rumelle for remotegoat on 23/11/16

The description of a Jazz operetta-does this gem of a piece - a slight dis-service - as it is in fact a wonderful pastiche/comic operetta -- and draws on the very best from our musical heritage.

Brilliantly crafted /scored and orchestrated-albeit with a small band- one longs to hear this score played even bigger-as it fully deserves it.

Louis Mander has created an 'homage to Sondheim's - Little Night Music, The Boyfriend", Mozart - and numerous other milestones of opera musical theatre-and even Wilde's Importance of Being Earnest" has a passing gesture to it's most famous line. Jack Cherry’s direction and Libretto is sharp, witty and clear and the production flows at a cracking pace.

But what makes this production and concept so unique is that the cast play it for truth and reality and are never tempted to send up the material and play for cheap laughs-and thereby lies it's success. The audience goes along with the plot and believes wholeheartedly in it -simply because it is played with utmost sincerity-and some of the best singing and characterisation-one could possibly hope for.

A high class performance from Katie Morel Orchard as Cynthia gives a firm backbone to the piece-and her truthful portrayal (in the vein of Sandy Wilson's Polly Browne) gives much strength to the proceedings.
Equally matched in pathos, comedy and earnest portrayal is Caroline Kennedy as Genevieve-her crystal clear Soprano range is a joy to the ear-particularly in the ensemble. Equally matched is Joanna Gamble as Marta Grinzig- providing the piece with a strong gravitas throughout, ably accompanied by Richard Naxton-as Husband Karl.
As Dr Gibaud-David Jones drives the second half through to perfection (and a special mention to the scene stealing cameo role of Sergeant Lefevre – “silently enabled” by Gena G.Gloreo.

The undoubted highlight of the piece is the beautifully portrayed and sung relationship of Freddy Marriott (Anthony Harris) and Christophe (Gregoire Mour) - their act 2 duet is electric beautifully sung and acted and their onstage chemistry is mesmerising.

However-the piece is brilliantly held together by the Dowager herself- Dr Evadne Hinge- with all the panache and brilliance of her theatrical heritage. Her performance is equal to that of Edith Evans, Hermione Gingold and Angela Lansbury – and she has lost none of her operatic timbre. She gives a performance and characterisation that makes this amazing piece a joy to behold-and her delivery of both dialogue and song is a master class in comedy timing.
In short-this production by Belsize opera is surely set to be a long running success in future productions and the applause and laughter from it’s first night audience bore testament to it’s quality.

Catch it while you can - it's a joy to behold!

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