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Settle Opera Review

THE LIKES OF US: SETTLE AMATEUR OPERATIC SOCIETY

VICTORIA HALL: 26/10/16

The world in 1965 was a very different place, but fortunately the theatre backers of the time knew their audiences well enough to know that the turkey they were being offered wouldn’t fly, advising the duo of young hopeful writers to consign it to oblivion. Unfortunately the fact that Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber went on to create some of the world’s most popular, commercial musicals has meant that this excruciatingly poor and incomplete piece has been revived for use by amateur groups. With no sense of dramatic tension in the storyline – as all the action happens off-stage and is filled in by narration –  a sub-plot which exists only as an excuse for a couple of saccharine- coated songs and woefully two dimensional caricatures instead of characters there is very little with which the audience can empathise.  To say that this was a brave choice by the Settle Amateur Operatic Society is an understatement and it is very much to their credit that they managed to produce a show which, while still episodic and extremely derivative of far better musicals of the period, actually did manage to entertain the majority of the audience. This Herculean effort was down to the determined work of the production team who tried hard to introduce a sense of pace into the turgid script by the inventive use of every entrance in the building and the inclusion of audience participation. The script called for little by way of acting from the majority of the cast – unsurprisingly as the first mass public airing was a radio broadcast in 2005 – but was extremely demanding in terms of musicality. The tunes bore the complexity and key changes which were to become the hallmark of later Lloyd-Webber hits as well as many having the tongue-twisting Tim Rice lyrics associated with numbers in later shows. In this respect the production was faultless with the Orchestra producing an outstanding performance, including some lovely solo playing, and all the principal characters singing beautifully. The choral numbers too were lively, enjoyable and well staged and even though the “mob” lacked any sense of menace in “We’ll Get Him” it was clear that in Beth Lane the group have acquired a new “character lead” performer.  As the auctioneer Steven Lawson was clearly in his element performing comedy with aplomb, a talent he obviously shares with his daughter Amy whose duet with Gabriel Williams was by far the best thing in the show.  The cast clearly enjoyed themselves throughout and obviously have worked extremely hard to pump life into what is essentially little more than an unfinished remnant of a show, however no matter how hard they try there comes a time when you have to realise that despite the fine feathers created by their efforts a turkey is still a turkey and not a parrot and furthermore this parrot most definitely is dead.

Gill O’Donnell

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