Posts Tagged ‘John Savournin’

Review – Mirror, Mirror – Charles Court Opera at King’s Head Theater

December 16, 2015

With the wealth of musical talent at their disposal, Charles Court Opera has the ability to make a panto that’s far above the average. They also have a much more diverse audience – with their focus on smaller venues, rather than coming up with ultra family friendly fare suitable for the kiddies, they can have some fun with lots of clever songs and jokes that aim for a higher bar and still have one sold-out night after another. Their confidence and style was perfectly captured in Snow White’s first appearance : silhouetted, stilleto-eted, loudly fêted. Okay, John Savournin was in flats, but still: here was a fabulous dame worth cheering for, all six foot three of her.

As Snow White, Mirror Mirror took quite a few diversions from the typical story: Snowy isn’t a virginal lass abused by the evil queen and saved by the huntsman; no, she’s a sexy widow (of Barry White, natch) who’s buried herself in domestic service (to dwarves) to escape her loneliness. Then along comes a prince with a fortune (Amy J Payne), and suddenly Queenie (Nicola Jolley) and Snow are in competition….

The jokes came thick and plentifully. Actually some of them would have used that line as a lead in to a gag: God knows, “My perfume? It’s called ‘Come to me’,” and its punchline were probably both old as the hills and entirely unsuitable for a family audience: it nearly unseated the prince and I can’t bear to repeat it. More clever (but not as hysterics inducing) was a bit at the beginning where Mrs. White is bleeped as she introduces the dwarves, then is obliged to tell us that due to the fear of being sued, most of them will need to be known my humorous approximations of the more famous monikers given to them by a certain Hollywood animation giant. This all leads into a great schtick in which Matthew Kellet comes on as each of the dwarves, wearing an only-slightly modified costume for each. (Ultimately this is a set up for a great sight gag at the end. These are some clever people. I won’t tell you what it is so you can enjoy it.)

To shake up the story a bit, Savournin has given the queen several more opportunities to interfere in Snowy’s househould, including spell casting (to the dismay of the prince’s valet, Andrea Tweedale, whose superb singing voice made me wish she’d been given a bigger part), a fatality-inducing DIY episode (never did Disney have the queen depicted as a plumber), and then finally, well, something with an apple, but the entire plot was being deconstructed into something about lost love and would Snow ever get over Barry.

It was all extremely ludicrous and even better because of the fabulous song craft, which skewered, “My Heart Goes Boom,” “Candle in the Wind,” and “You Make Me Feel (like a natural woman)” sung in such a deep voice I was starting to cry. And there were horrible puns, a candy toss, a sploosh scene, and enough political jokes to keep us on our toes. Could there be a more perfect panto? I’d buy tickets for next year’s today if they were on sale now.

(This review is for a performance that took place on Saturday, December 12, 2015. It continues through January 9th.)

Review- Ruddigore- Charles Court Opera at King’s Head Theatre

February 22, 2015

I wasn’t familiar with Ruddigore, which is apparently one of the least performed operettas in the Gilbert and Sullivan repertoire, but I’m enthusiastically aware of Charles Court Opera since I saw their hysterical reworking of Patience this past summer. I’ve believed for years that, in the right hands, Gilbert and Sullivan positively shines; but it takes a lot of work to blow off the dust and get to the diamonds of comedy and song-craft beneath. Sasha Regan has been doing it for years with her all male shows: Charles Court’s decision to people Patience with Goths showed similar anti-fustiness tendencies. So they set Ruddigore as a Hammer Horror style fright show? Bring it!

Initially, it’s a little hard to stomach the pastel costumes of the professional bridesmaids, Ruth (Susanna Buckle) and Zorah (Andrea Tweedale), but their singing is lovely. However, as the story begins to unfold, I had more than a bit of a whiff of Patience – we once again had “lovesick maidens” being thwarted by a comically disinterested heroine – only this time, Rose Maybud (Rebecca Moon) can’t fall in love because nobody can meet her standards of etiquette. Despite having nearly the same mentality as Patience, she is actually a comic heroine drawn in fantastically broad strokes – an instant classic. Carrying around her little book of advice and referring to it in every situation – she’s a character I’ll remember for ages. But it still seems like G&S were running short of ideas at this point in their careers, because when she has her first duet with the man she loves (“I know a youth”) the structure seemed almost exactly lifted from Patience’s “Prithee, pretty maiden.” But, again, Rose and “Robin” (Matthew Kellet) are lovely singers and fun to watch, so it was a pleasure even if it didn’t feel fresh.
RUDDIGORE Guiltily Mad - Sir Despard (John Savournin) Photo Bill Knight
Fortunately, the plot, which had been starting to flounder, picks up mightily with the introduction of sailor Richard Dauntless (Philip Lee), who not only gets to talk in a broad Cornish accent but dances a hornpipe AND gets to flirt with all of the ladies. Shortly after he appears, we move on to the real fun, which is the story of the bad baronets of Ruddigore. To my pleasure, this meant the return to the stage of John Savournin, who’d nearly killed me with laughter as the dame of Charles Court’s panto. And, to make it better, he had a starring role in the second half, as a dead Count Ruddigore – I don’t want to spoil any surprises, but with a face as mobile as his, he was born to the role. Not to mention he does have such a buttery voice (if you can say buttery when talking about a deep baritone). The Ruddigore element is where the Hammer Horror staging really came to the fore – we had cheesy capes, Wascally Wabbit stalkings, and lots of screams. And, of course, it was shot through with the natural comedy of Gilbert and Sullivan’s lyrics and all of their joyous music (including, I was told, a song that is normally cut). This performance proved to me, once again, that Gilbert and Sullivan is alive and well and sparkling on the London stages, as eternally relevant as Shakespeare but with a lot more room for run. And – three times a charm – I’m now fully sold on Charles Court Opera and will henceforth be putting all of their performances in my calendar.

(This review is for the opening night performance that took place on Thursday, February 19, 2015. It continues through March 14th.)