The Merry Widow, Norwich Playhouse

CHRISTOPHER SMITH A full-house added a buzz to Lehar's melodies in waltz time in this Phoenix Opera performance of the much loved operetta.After all the rigmarole of setting up the situation about a Ruritanian state on the edge of financial ruin, Christopher Speake's production became much livelier in the second act.

CHRISTOPHER SMITH

A full-house added a buzz to Lehar's melodies in waltz time in this Phoenix Opera performance of the much loved operetta.

After all the rigmarole of setting up the situation about a Ruritanian state on the edge of financial ruin, Christopher Speake's production became much livelier in the second act.

That was when the company freely admitted that the plot was really an excuse for creaking jokes, sentimental romance and irresistible tunes.


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The set, by Norman Manners and Colin Thackery, was far prettier, and the wide spaces of the stage were put to good use – not just by the chorus, but by a quintet of dancers.

They were choreographed by Heather Millan and colourfully dressed in flowered skirts and wearing Balkan caps.

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The chorus was far more active too, not simply standing in formal semi-circles as it sang, but putting a lot of energy into routines that left reality behind for the sake of a touch of fantasy.

Pip Jenkinson was the seductress Anna, and Christopher Speake her unwilling suitor Danilo.

As the ambassador who schemes always go awry, Alan Weyman created a complex caricature. It was impressive and comical, though not unlike a role he played only recently on another Norwich stage.

Under musical director David Kett, an orchestra of two violins and a flute added character to keyboard harmonies with the indispensable double bass contributing a firm foundation to the mini-ensemble.

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