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Newbury Operatic Society - HMS Pinafore and The Zoo

13th to 17th April 2004.

From the Newbury Weekly News.

Dared to be different

Newbury Operatic Society: The Zoo and HMS Pinafore, at The Corn Exchange, from Tuesday, April 13 to Saturday, April 17

Newbury Operatic Society's choice of The Zoo (music by Sullivan, words by Bolton Rowe) was a shrewd move.

The fact that it is rarely performed means increased ticket sales and provides something new for performers.

The result was thoroughly enjoyable, colourful and well choreographed by director Jeannette Maskell.

Most of the audience were unfamiliar with the story so words were more important than usual and the opening chorus failed here, though they soon improved with good crisp singing.

Full marks go to Chris Austin (suicide-bent Aesculapius) for clarity of diction, to Rosy Alder (Laetitia) for her lovely soprano voice and acting skill, to Mike Cound just right as Thomas Brown (aka the Duke of Islington) and to Roger Sinclair, Laetitia's crusty deep-voiced father.

It is rare to find an excellent singer whose acting skills match her vocal ability. Sam Spaak (Eliza) is such a one.

Never less than superb, the audience loved her.

HMS Pinafore started well with a lively men's chorus. Buttercup (Sam Murray's) delightfully musical contralto gave warmth to the role although too frequently the necessary accent slipped.

What a fine voice Andy Spaak (lovelorn tar Ralph Rackstraw) has. This was not quite the role for him, however, and though no one can deny the quality of his singing, his acting lacked the required expression.

Jane Robinson played captain's daughter Josephine with the right mix of haughtiness and yearning, her small but true soprano sympathetically accompanied by Michael Evans' orchestra.

Mike Cound's strong voice combined with humour well as Captain Corcoran and Iain Whittaker's Sir Joseph Porter had a pleasing pernicketiness.

Jeremy Mann ranks with the finest Dick Deadeyes I have seen, as he leered along the ladies' chorus, and his duet with Corcoran was G and S at its best.

Much work must have been necessary to perform The Zoo and I felt that Pinafore suffered a little as a result. Although there was good cohesive singing from both choruses, their movement and placings often appeared untidy.

Michael Evans and his orchestra were so excellent that one hardly noticed they were there. Very few orchestras at amateur productions cope so well with the absence of a pit.

Congratulations to them and to NOS for having the courage to try something new and providing yet another most entertaining evening.