Thursday, June 08, 2017


Shenfield Operatic Society at Brentwood Theatre

The simplest of sets: a staircase, with rope lights, lanterns, banners for the Rising Sun and Yum-Yum's moon, and Ian Southgate's splendid swing band just visible behind.
This jazzed-up G&S is set in the 1940s, and the six dudes in shades – Gentlemen of Japan – could have walked straight in from Guys and Dolls. This keen sense of style is maintained throughout Louise Byrne's hugely enjoyable production.
Maximum space for the nifty choreography – no passengers, no prisoners in this show – and we're treated to Lindy Hop, Jitterbug and a fabulous tap routine in Act Two.
A talented cast handle the tricky hybrid with élan. Jack Lloyd is the young second trumpet Nanki-Poo, Liberty Watts his Yum-Yum Рshades of Judy Garland, in her artless Japanese way, for her big solo. The comedy roles include Allister Smith's energetic KoKo, his Little List firmly 40s-based, with Revivalists, FDR and Garbo in the frame, sporting a top-knot for Tit Willow. Iain Johnson is a suave Mikado; Jamie Fudge an engaging Pish-Tush. Lloyd Bonson makes an imposing Pooh-Bah, bringing all of his many offices to life. Superb vocals from the other Little Maids РKate Smith and Rachel Watson, polka dots and parasols for their introductory Andrews Sisters trio. And, stealing the scene with her vampish torch songs, Kerry Cooke's wonderful scarlet Katisha. They all work together with practised ease; the trios for Howdy Do and I Am So Proud very neatly done.
The music comes off best in this adaptation. The lyrics could usefully have been updated with more imagination, though many of Gilbert's original jokes still score their laughs.
A stylish, polished production, with the impressive chorus given lots to do, and choreographed smoothly on and off the awkward Brentwood stage.

image: Claire Collinson photography

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