Wellington Operatic Society’s autumn show, ‘Love’, which opens on Tuesday 7 November at The Arts Centre, Eight Acre Lane, brings to the stage a programme of superb songs (and a few words too) delivered with all the style that audiences have come to expect from the group.
In taking on his first show as Director, Kirk Shepherd has devised a programme of music that does not simply roll through the extensive list of songs devoted to love but tells stories too – about love in its several guises. Four couples illustrate different aspects we can all recognise as featuring in love affairs – including the more troubled moments – and their songs reflect those relationships. There’s dialogue too but it is the vocal numbers that tell the stories.
Kirk has drawn on the vocal firepower of OpSoc’s fine singers for solo numbers and duets and has a strong, reliable chorus to provide vibrant support in big numbers. He has also selected new arrangements of familiar songs to bring a freshness to the whole programme. With so many fine voices on show it is, perhaps, unjust to single out any but Christina Matravers’ ability not only to sing but also to deliver the dramatic content of her material is stunning. Cheryl Keith-Hill’s single vocal number, ‘Young Hearts Run Free’, is superb, Charlie Hughes provides the emotional depth needed in ‘Frozen’ and Richard Matravers and Amy Eveleigh convey the delightful cuteness of their affair in performance as well as in music.
Cheryl Keith-Hill is also responsible for the choreography that is at its finest in the ingenious and very neatly executed line dance that accompanies ‘Knowing Me Knowing You’. On such a small stage big dance numbers are troublesome but there’s support from the whole chorus in movement sequences.
With 28 musical numbers to deliver, Kirk Shepherd and his Assistant Director Dawn Morton have found ways to ensure the programme’s necessary continuity is achieved. It is to be expected that, at the dress rehearsal, there are stage-management issues to be addressed but the show rolls along cleanly without undue fussiness with curtains and props.
Too often the contribution of the technical team in these shows is little more than a footnote but Rob Spurway’s lighting deserves its own round of applause. He colours each segment of the programme (and sometimes the stage) skilfully, adding so much to its impact for the audience. Colin Marshall’s work on the show’s sound is always reliable and probably more exacting than is generally realised. Projections onto a screen behind the stage has potential when the knots in technical aspects are undone.
OpSoc’s shows always lift the autumn gloom and ‘Love’ is no exception. It is a rich and wholly entertaining programme, devised with considerable thought and care and delivered by vocalists who can rattle windows and tease out feeling from music. Audiences should feel the love in ‘Love’ – and that’s all they need.
‘Love’ is at Wellington Arts Centre, Eight Acre Lane, from Tuesday 7 to Saturday 11 November at 7.30pm and on Saturday 11 November at 2.30pm. Box Office: Odettes tearoom; 0844-997-9000 and online at Wellington Arts Centre.