WHAT a way to celebrate 50 years – a journey through every show performed since the beginning.
Southwick Opera’s cast of more than 40 managed just that with Golden Memories, featuring something from every single one of the 66 operas and musicals the company has put on at the Barn Theatre.
Admittedly, there wasn’t even a full song in some cases, but there was at the very least a little taste of everything, quite a challenge set by director Simon Gray.
The result was a superb evening of music with a bit of comedy thrown in, and a nice bit of audience interaction as he broke away from the keyboard to fill us in with a bit of the history.
Southwick Opera has staged some ambitious productions of many of the world’s best-loved operas, plus other musical shows and operetta. Some of the largest referred to were Titanic in 2010 and Aida in 1984, when there were more performers than audience, according to Mr Gray.
His chatty style worked well, providing just enough background information without dominating the evening.
The first half included four medleys, two of them dedicated to musicals. Another was devoted to Gilbert and Sullivan, as the company as performed 11 out of their 13 extant Savoy Operas, while the fourth focused on Verdi.
The second half was presented in the style of a cocktail party, which worked extremely well, with various ‘guests’ taking it in turn to stand up and sing.
The company is blessed with some fine singers and as many as possible were given solo numbers. One or two stalwarts inevitably featured strongly, like the impressive Karen Orchin, Yvonne Fair and Tony Adams.
Tenor Gavin Sayers played a bigger part than expected, having agreed to stand in for Stephen Caira yesterday when he pulled out due to illness. It meant the Brindisi duet from La Traviata was sung in Italian while the chorus sung in English, because the Italian version was the only one Gavin knew. Really, I don’t think we would have noticed had Simon Gray not pointed it out.
The way all the musicals were strung together worked tremendously well and the simple backdrop of two doric columns with the traditional theatre masks in between was ideal. Here’s to the next 50 years!