19 November 2016

Aussies can can

The Merry Widow of Bluegum Creek had me thinking of the difference between musicals and opera. I looked it up, and the distinctions were pretty indeterminate: opera is more centred on music, trained voices, traditional; musicals include more dance and acting and use popular musical styles and are always in the language of the audience. All pretty indefinite: I expect some operas were using popular music and stories and singing styles of their days. Given the popularity of the original Merry Widow (Vienna, 1905, as Die lustige Witwe), I expect the distinctions remain unclear. This take of the MW was performed by the Queanbeyan Players at TheQ with a recent Australianised libretto. It's 1901, Australia is just federated and the first Australian Embassy opens in Paris. The newly widowed wife of a mega-rich grazier/industrialist is expected. The PM has instructed that this widow must not marry a Frenchman because the wealth must stay in Australia. An old boyfriend of the widow works in the Embassy and likes the high life: bawdy bars, Maxim's, chorus girls and the like. I won't give away the rest of the story but it's light and fun and includes the can can. Louise Keast was Anna Gladstone, the widow, and she did a fabulous job, with an excellent soprano and some wide-eyed, playful acting. Likewise a string of others with some very impressive voices. It's a big operation, including a small orchestra in the pits and a big cast on stage (professional musicals are seldom so generous: they have to pay). There were various comedy parts (if rather droll) and they went down well. The chorus singing was very good. The feature singers were very impressive. I particularly liked Michelin and the Viscount and Danny and Lady Valerie. In one joke, Michelin knew all the backstreets and Anna offered to fund the publication of a guide when he wrote it. The embassy wives and staff were humourous (not least in a final can can dance); the two real dancers did a nice job; the orchestra too, accompanied and overtured with responsiveness and skill. The music is unchanged from the popular operetta original; just the story and characters and lyrics are changed. This was a fun night with a Aussie theme but opera voices. Well done all.

The Queanbeyan Players presented The Merry Widow of Bluegum Creek at TheQ. Key performers were Louise Keast (Ann Gladstone, the widow), Charles Hudson (ex-boyfriend Danny Macquarie), Robert Grice (Ambassador), Stephanie McAlister (Valerie, the Ambasssador's wife), Matt Greenwood (Michelin) and Kenneth Goodge (the Viscount). Key roles were Peter Smith (director and the Marquis of Cascada), Jennifer Groom (musical director) and Belinda Hassall (choreographer).

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