Eight Acre Lane is not known for its hidden treasure but Wellington Operatic Society’s show, ‘Diamond Gems’ at the Arts’ Centre, caught out more than a few members of the audience in delighted surprise last week. One spoke for many when she said, “Wow! I’m amazed. I’ve been to the society’s shows at the Wellesley but this is my first visit here. Gosh! What an evening!”
The show celebrated the Queen’s Jubilee with songs from musicals of the past 60 years. Devised and directed by Margaret Liddel and Monica Spalding, it drew on the vocal gifts of nearly 40 singers, including a group of youngsters. In showcasing sparkling talent from right across the age-range – all of them conveying huge enthusiasm and commitment in delivering 40 familiar musical jewels – the Society should be especially praised. And the backstage crews too kept the whole show moving smoothly lit splendidly and costumed with the dazzle you would expect from a gem. Choreography was hobbled by a stage not much bigger than the size of a ceremonial Union Jack, but it worked, particularly when all the stops were pulled out in company numbers such as ‘No Matter What’ and ‘Oom Pah Pah’.
But it was the voices that most impressed. Who would imagine that Wellington could muster so many crystal-cracking females and rich, velvet-voiced men, all of them more than capable of delivering not just the notes and words but the soul of so many great songs? It seems unjust to spotlight individuals when there were so many that deserve praise but Susan Green’s delivery of ‘On My Own’ and ‘Last Night of the World’ was extraordinary, as was John Walker’s ‘Send in the Clowns’. Duncan Hughes, Mark Bond, Sue Kerry, Heli Vile and Margaret Liddel made their music really twinkle and Swannie’s delightful ‘If I Were a Bell’ didn’t just ring, it almost brought down the bell-tower.
In a programme that mixed solos, duets, small group pieces – ‘Sleeping on Our Own’ was a particular delight, both funny and telling – and ensembles, there were few stumbles and even fewer bum notes. Perhaps ‘People Will Say We’re In Love’ had all the physical romance of a parent-teacher meeting and some performers had trouble finding natural things to do with their hands but it is only in the interest of critical balance that it is worth mentioning. Whole company pieces such as ‘Master of the House’ and ‘No Matter what’ were carat-loaded, not least for the sheer pleasure in singing that was conveyed. The performers seemed to have as much fun as the audience.
Had HM The Queen fancied a rerun of her helicopter’n’rope-trick at the Olympics and descended on the Arts’ Centre, she would have been richly entertained. She may even have tapped her feet – or joined in one or two of the numbers. We did. And we may be queuing for tickets for the next show – ‘Oliver’ at the Wellesley from 7 – 11 May 2013.
As befitting a ‘Diamond Gem’ of a night, there’s one word that sums up this show: ‘Brilliant!’ But please fix the dust next time.