While it is laudable to have an open policy for membership of an amateur operatic society the knock-on effects can be dire as demonstrated in Cat-Like Tread’s production of
The cast no doubt had a good time putting together this show so beloved of amateur groups.
As ‘we sail the ocean blue’ with this ‘gallant crew’ all seems well. The male chorus is powerful. The problem arises later when joined by an inadequate chorus of the First Lord's sisters, cousins and aunts. His extended female family lacks numbers and in particular sopranos for the melodies to be heard over the booming bases and tenors blasting out their top notes. All choruses thus become bottom heavy.
Most soloists give the impression that a chest and throat infection has taken hold of the company, such is the almost universal level of huskiness. Buttercup is certainly made up to look like the ‘rosiest, roundest, and reddest beauty’ in the district but her earthy tones are probably too affected by the ‘snuff and tobaccy and treacle and toffee’ she plies. Ralph’s crumbling voice often missed the pitch of higher notes and on occasion he omitted them altogether. Captain Corcoran’s ill-fitting tunic did nothing to raise his credibility as a leader of men in a well-spoken but lifeless performance that failed to extract the humour of this role. He was matched by a fumbling Sir Joseph. Josephine brought some brighter moments to this sorry lot, but confirmed the thought that the whole score should have been transposed to lower the top notes.
The pianist worked hard throughout and kept the show moving. The step patterns of the choreography were predictable, though the introduction of mobiles phones for the dialogue between Ralph and Josephine was surprisingly innovative if historically out of place. The wardrobe department made an attempt at injecting some humour into the finale dressing Ralph in a kilt while the chorus proclaimed ‘he is an Englishman’. Very droll.
The cast no doubt had a good time putting together this show so beloved of amateur groups. The operetta however deserves better and there is little in this production for which to ‘give three cheers’.