By George Dixon
“This production of The Yeomen of the Guard does not disappoint.”
There is much to love about any Gilbert and Sullivan production. Their collaboration began in 1871, producing a series of fourteen comic operettas. The Yeomen of the Guard is undoubtedly one of their more serious operas, but carries the unmistakable musical “patter singing” with satirical and witty lyrics. The storyline, with the complexities of Romantic Entanglements, is easy to follow.
The Gilbert and Sullivan Society of Victoria (GSSV) was founded in 1935. A strong tradition of sophisticated performances continues through its performing arm, Gilbert and Sullivan Opera Victoria (GSOV).
From an audience perspective, experiencing the marriage of GSOV and any G&S production is a wonderful treat, one that should not be missed. This production of The Yeomen of the Guard does not disappoint. It’s entertaining from the overture to the final curtain.
As with any live performance, one may find some slight aspects for refinement, most of which do not distract from the overall performance.
The direction from Ron Pidcock OAM masterfully utilises the entire stage, allowing the complete ensemble to be seen. The interchange between key characters and positioning for duets is a pure delight.
Trevor Henley, Musical Director/Conductor, maintains a strong command of the twenty-three-piece orchestra, that settles well into the musical rhythm and timing.
Jason Bovaird, Lighting Design, presented some very clever front-of-stage lighting and crossovers to follow the movements of duets, along with some typical old-style lighting, particularly “a man who would woo a fair maid” and “when a wooer goes a-wooing.” While at times, it was difficult to see the Yeomen’s faces due to shadowing.
Costume Team Manager Susan Marshall and her team provided a superb, diverse arrangement of costumes. The Guards’ uniforms are fantastic, along with the Jesters. The highlight costume is Elise Maynard’s magnificent wedding dress.
Hats off to the casting team, who have assembled a complementary cast of performers and singers. I’m always impressed by the diverse and supportive teamwork between senior and emerging performers.
While there are always main characters, The Yeomen of the Guard provides an interesting topsy-turvy showcase of various main characters, which concludes with a delightful and well-earned twist. As with the storyline, nothing is necessary as it seems. An excellent example of this is the development of Jack Point (the Jester), played by Daniel Felton, and Wilfred Shadbolt (Head Jailor and Assistant Tormentor), played by Andrew McGrail – where the one that is expected to be funny is overshadowed by the one that is serious.
Notable cast members such as Ian Lowe as Sir Richard Cholmondeley (Lieutenant of the Tower), gives a commanding impression as Cholmondele. With his rich bass-baritone voice Lowe provides a strong anchor for the ensemble. Despite the fact that that Cholmondeley’s presence is fleeting as a pivotal cameo, Lowe masterly owns the stage and naturally demands attention and respect. His professionalism is to be admired.
Brett O’Meara Colonel Fairfax (under sentence of death) gave a hearty rendition of Fairfax, with plenty of appeal and charm. O’Meara is well-cast physically, and vocally. The harmony performances with Phoebe and Elsie are well worth the ticket price.
A special mention goes to Ian Woolford Sergeant Meryll (of the Yeomen of the Guard). Woolford is a natural as the Sergeant; with brilliant facial expressions and mannerisms, Woolford brings the character to life through his various interactions.
An absolute delight is Daniel Felton Jack Point (a Strolling Jester). I was impressed with his development. As Jack Point, Felton is able to showcase his prowess as a triple thread, His expressions, timing and projection of emotions along with the lightness of Jester footwork is impressive. Making this character likeable and relatable. Felton, a Baritone, also has a strong higher register that is well utilised when expressing various emotions.
Andrew McGrail Wilfred Shadbolt (Head Jailor and Assistant Tormentor). Is an incomparable performer. His ownership of Shadbolt is memorable like a breath of fresh air; the pride and seriousness of the character are overtaken by the naivety of his dialogue and body expressions that lifts the atmosphere in typical Gilbert and Sullivan style.
The scenes between Point and Shadbolt are a master class of timing, drama, and song.
Images: Robin Halls