Theatre Review: A Starry Night

Presented by South Australian Light Opera Society (aka SALOS)
Reviewed 29th November, 2018

Nobody sang Jingle Bell Rock.  In late November, that’s a minor miracle. I was grateful for the reprieve, and I suspect most of the audience of this genial Christmas show shared my relief. However, SALOS strayed well outside their “Light Opera” brief to provide an evening filled with musical and comic bon-bons. Where else in the city would we hear Curly Putman Jr.’s Green, Green Grass Of Home,  Ivor Novello’s Waltz Of My Heart, and Marriott Edgar’s famous cautionary monologue, The Lion and Albert, on the same programme? Director Pam Tucker knows her client base, and chose a wide range of crowd-pleasers. The diversity of repertoire showcased the cast’s range of skills.

Six medleys were presented by the chorus, featuring different soloists.  Themes included stage musicals, movie musicals., country and western, Christmas songs and Christmas carols. The charm of the night was that everyone on stage actually did something on their own, even if it was a “Did you hear the one about..?” joke.

The thorough work of Musical Director Peter Potts was evident throughout the night’s offerings. Piano was played by faithful repetiteur Sue Penhale, ably assisted by fine flautist Robert Brown. A percussionist, Miriam Wilson, was set up behind the curtains, making her sightlines problematic.  She suffered from her geographic isolation.

Doc Pomus & Mort Shuman’s immortal Save The Last Dance For Me was curiously programmed as You Can Dance.  Pony-tailed Charlie Burke on acoustic guitar and sprightly Sue Whittaker in a sparkly frock with a fabric dinner-suited partner stitched to its upstage side, sang, played and danced this beloved 60’s pop song. It was a real crowd-pleaser. David Roberts sang Leslie Coward’s early 20th century art song, Wandering The King’s Highway in a pleasingly resonant baritone. Ralph Gourlay, a skilled finger-style guitarist, teamed up with Margo Ongley to present folk-styled songs. Gourlay’s solo work on Vincent was the most memorable.

Quality singing is the hallmark of SALOS work, and twin pillars in the company are mezzo Dione Baker and soprano Katrin Treloar. Their duet, Ketelbey’s 1915 hit, In A Monastery Garden, served to display these two lovely singers in a sentimental favourite. Of their solo party-pieces, Baker’s was the more impressive. She sang two waltzes: Edward German’s Waltz Song from ‘Tom Jones’ and Waltz Of My Heart, giving both musicality, vocal confidence and excellent acting choices too. Her lively energy communicates constantly with the audience.  Treloar’s choice of a Deanna Durbin medley was a smart one for her voice, which is happiest in its silvery upper register. Unlike Deanna, she has yet to build her mid-range to match the quality of her upper range.

Memorable highlights included the sincerity and clear storytelling of Charlie Burke’s Green, Green Grass Of Home. Hard-working Claire Langsford’s recitation of The Lion and Albert was a winner; she also handled Life Upon The Wicked Stage beautifully, with excellent acting nuance and a fine developing voice.  Noel Carthew avoided the spotlight all night until near the end when, with hastily-donned “Bah! Humbug! hat, he gave splendid account of Tom Lehrer’s misanthropic Christmas Carol. The ladies’ chorus sang a sweet two-part arrangement of Novello’s We’ll Gather Lilacs. Shaun Nugent acted and sang well. (One might add that he sings better than he whistles.) He certainly worked hard all night. Energetic Andrew Trestrail kept smiling. Quiet Cyndy Trezise’s focussed and precise voice sang Schertzinger’s One Night Of Love, from the 1934 film of the same name. Geoff Tucker recited Banjo Patterson’s Clancy Of The Overflow with just the right amount of Ocker gravitas.

When SALOS announces a new show, Spotlight announces dividend payments to its shareholders.

This night of unashamed crowd-pleasers did its job beautifully. I overheard comments amongst audience members near me. They loved the repertoire, loved the presentation, and kept commenting on the fact that “We can hear all the words. Not like a lot of modern shows.”  Wise Pam Tucker knows her customers well.

Review by Pat. H. Wilson

Venue: Tower Arts Theatre, Pasadena
Season: 29th November – 2nd December, 2018
Tickets:  Full Price: $28  Concession: $25
Bookings: www.salos.websyte.com.au   /  8294 6582


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