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A complex yet amusing operetta is coming to town

By Alison Norton | Birmingham entertainment | Published:

I am always interested to see how plays or musicals fare when updated, set in a different period or take on the current trend of miscasting; swapping male and female roles over. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

The cast of The Gondoliers

I remember seeing a production of Romeo and Juliet set in the world of leather and bikers, which horrified me and yet, as West Side Story set in 1950’s New York, it works well. Similarly, the cast of the Cell Block Tango from Chicago the musical performed by six men rather than the six merry murderesses of the Cook County Jail, was intense but so entertaining.

But I wonder what Gilbert and Sullivan set in the 1920’s would be like? Well now is our chance to find out as Walsall Gilbert and Sullivan Society bring The Gondoliers in the age of flappers and pearls when they perform this favourite at Forest Arts Centre in Walsall from February 22-23.

Directors Pamela Robinson and Ann Simpson have added an interesting comical twist on this well-loved storyline, but without losing the marvellous G&S sense of humour.

The Gondoliers is an operetta with a somewhat complicated, yet amusing storyline, which sees the young bride of the heir to the throne of the fictional kingdom of Barataria arriving in Venice to join her husband. It turns out, however, that he cannot be identified, since he was entrusted to the care of a drunken gondolier who mixed up the prince with his own son.

To complicate matters even further, the King of Barataria has just been killed. The two young gondoliers must now jointly rule the kingdom until the nurse of the prince can be brought in to determine which of them is the rightful king.

And that’s not all, but I won’t spoil it for you!

The Gondoliers debuted at the Savoy Theatre, London in December 1889, running for 554 performances until June 1891 and was the twelfth collaboration between the two.

The score includes classic Gilbert and Sullivan favourites such as Take a Pair of Sparkling Eyes, When a Merry Maiden Marries, I Stole the Prince and Here is a Case Unprecedented and was the duo’s last great success.

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It remains a timeless classic and is still very popular with amateur groups, as are many other G&S operettas, known for their subtle wit and often political undertones.

l For tickets for The Gondoliers, priced at £12 each and £10 for concessions and the Saturday matinee performance, visit www.walsallgands.co.uk or call 07940311240. Evening performances are at 7.30pm.

A reasonably new group, Third from the Right Productions, will be presenting a concert on February 23, entitled Legends of Musicals Past and Present, at Amblecote Royal British Legion in Stourbridge.

Audiences can look forward to a selection of numbers by artists including Elvis, Buddy Holly, David Bowie, Queen, Barbra Streisand, Donna Summer, Abba, Billy Joel and many more.

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With over 30 songs, such as Always On My Mind, Tragedy, The Sound Of Silence, California Dreaming, The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore, Proud Mary, Dancing in the Street and medleys from Jersey Boys, The Carpenters and Queen, it promises to be a highly entertaining evening.

And a fish and chip supper is included too, all for just £12 each.

l For tickets call 07817680849 or visit www.tftlproductions.co.uk

There is just time to catch the final couple of performances of The Seagull, presented by the resident group at The Crescent Theatre in Birmingham.

Christopher Hampton’s translation of Chekhov’s comedy masterfully captures the romantic and artistic conflicts of a group of artists, intellectuals, and socialites summering in the house and gardens of Pyotr Sorin’s Russian country estate.

Then from February 9-16, the same group will present Di and Viv and Rose, by Amelia Bullmore.

Three young women, seemingly the most unlikely of friends, start life at a Northern university in 1983 sharing a house. This hilarious, joyously energetic yet heart-warming and thought-provoking play, traces their relationships over the following three decades as their lives take markedly different paths.

Definitely one for us girls!

Finally on February 16, the Wheeler Street Young Entertainers and Entrepreneurs in Action will present Mirrors and Makeup the Musical.

Before your very eyes, witness the highs and lows of a vocal talent competition and from a bird’s eye view, the lives of young people and their peer group hoping to join the music and entertainment industry.

Jam packed with fun and laughter, young love and despair are never too far away and it is not long before the reality of competitiveness, lifestyle, identity and ruthlessness plays itself out in their lives.

l For tickets for all three productions, visit www.crescent-theatre.co.uk or call 0121 643 5858, but be quick if you want to see The Seagull, because it ends tomorrow.

It feels like there are numerous classes for youngsters to learn theatre skills, but where do we adults go to learn stage craft formally rather than joining a musical theatre or drama group?

This month sees the launch of the Tamworth branch of Class Act Drama, a well-established company who provide 12 and 15 week acting foundation courses, at the Rawlett School Theatre.

Pop along to their open evening for a taster of the courses, provided by qualified industry professionals on February 14.

l For more information, visit www.classactdrama.wixsite.com or visit the group’s Facebook page.

Pantomime is still looming and there is just time to catch Dick Whittington.

The panto is presented by Burntwood Boys and Girls Brigade on February 8-9, who will be performing this family favourite at Burntwood Memorial Institute, at 7.30pm nightly and a 2pm Saturday matinee.

The group performed this pantomime last weekend too, and it was a great success!

l For tickets, priced at just £6.50 for adults and £5 for children and concessions, call 07976769760 or email karen.harvey@btinternet.com

Well that’s all for this week. Please send me all your news and remember to include good quality colour photos too to a.norton@expressandstar.co.uk, call me on 01902 319662 or follow me on Twitter @AlisonNorton

Break a leg!

Alison Norton

By Alison Norton
@AlisonNorton

Theatre critic and unofficial 'am dram queen' for the Express & Star and Shropshire Star

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