Presented by SALOS
Reviewed 24 April 2014
It isn’t often that the historical and sociological significance of theatre is appreciated by the general public. One such production that deserves recognition is The Maid of the Mountains, which premiered in Manchester in 1917. This heartwarming tale of love, adventure, and triumph served as a light-hearted morale boost to lift the spirits of those living during the Great War years. Receiving exceptional praise, the production delivered over 1300 performances in its first year, only stopping when the lead actress José Collins succumbed to sheer exhaustion.
Ambitious SALOS has accepted the baton, with Director Pam Tucker at the helm and Peter Potts as Musical Director.
In a nutshell, The Maid of the Mountains is the tale of an elusive gang of bandits, and their struggle to evade the watchful authority of outgoing Governor of Santo, General Malona (Noel Carthew). The Governor is intent on the capture of bandit leader Baldassare (Greg Paterson) to prove his worth to his townsfolk. He succeeds in apprehending a maid amongst the bandits, Teresa (Dione Baker), to use as leverage against Baldassare. This prompts a valiant rescue attempt from the judicious Beppo (Nick Boxhill) and his companions Antonio (Potts) and Carlo (last minute step-in, Sean Nugent).
Not uncommon with operas is the longer than normal running time. A whopping near-3 hours is enough to make the most fastidious of theatregoers squirm in their seats; it takes a talented ensemble to maintain attention and intrigue, and keep the story progressing.
SALOS has not failed to deliver. Baker is a virtuous and adept soprano (you may have been lucky enough to witness this in her appearance in Phantom of the Opera in 2013), and portrays her character well. Equally talented vocally is Boxhill, who delivers some wonderful performances, particularly in A Bachelor Gay and A Paradise for Two. Although Baker’s on-stage romance is Paterson, duets performed by herself and Boxhill were breathtaking spotlight-stealers and absolute highlights of the production. Paterson himself is a skilled singer and depicts his powerful character nicely.
Potts by far is the most entertaining actor on the stage; I found myself immediately drawn to his character whenever he appeared. His character’s rekindling of romance with the delightful Vittoria (Roslyn Fleming) was endlessly entertaining and could have featured in its own production. Newcomer Katie Rees as the General’s daughter Angela was also a delight, and shows a lot of promise and expertise in her role. Well done, Rees.
Caution is needed for the pacing, which at times slowed during lengthy back-and-forth dialogue. A little more motion and use of the stage could have stimulated some of the more stagnant scenes. Nonetheless, this did not impede the delivery of the plot.
An enjoyable rendition of a classical piece with some fantastic historical significance. SALOS has paid skillful homage to it.
Reviewed by Nathan Giaccio
Venue: Tower Arts Centre, corner Daws and Goodwood Roads, Pasadena
Season: 24 – 27 April 2014
Duration: 2 hours, 40 minutes
Bookings: Book on (08) 8294 6582