The Merry Widow, Musica Lirica Opera, Grand Theatre, Lancaster
Under the expert direction of Jacqui Mein, who also choreographed the show, a packed audience was treated to an outstanding production of Franz Lehar’s ever-popular operetta in the ideal setting of Lancaster’s charming Grand Theatre.
Joan Aitchison shone in the title role of Anna Glawari, the rich widow of the Pontevedria Court Banker pursued by the gentlemen of Paris for her 20 million dowry. Her rendering of ‘Velia’ was superb.
David Twizell was perfect for the part of Baron Zeta, the Pontevedrian Ambassador in Paris, who is anxious she should marry a Pontevidrian, to prevent the money from leaving his country.
The man chosen is Count Danilovitch, played with style by Peter Bowden, notably with a rousing version of ‘I’m off to Chez Maxime’.
Danilovitch initially refuses to marry the widow until he is told she has no money whereupon he declares his love.
Ken Dagger provided a delightful comic cameo as the Embassy secretary, Njegus, the aide to Baron Zeta.
Unknown to the Baron, his wife, Valencienne (the attractive Sarah Vallantine) is enjoying a dalliance with Pontevedrian hunk, Camille de Rosillon (Ryan Wallace) and when she loses her fan on which he has written the words, I Love You, chaos ensues.
Fairylights lit up the stage in Act Three as the action centred on Maximes where six vivacious dancers, Les Grisettes, in colourful costumes brought a touch of Parisian Follies to the occasion with a tantalising display of Can Can dancing featuring Elaine Mc Nicole as the cabaret singer.
A 30-piece orchestra, conducted by Michael Hall, provided excellent musical backing for the different styles of dancing and, together with a chorus of thirty three plus a cast of nine partygoers, the whole ensemble made for marvellous entertainment by the talented Blackpool society.
The show closed with a duet of ‘Love Unspoken’ which made a most moving finale to the evening before Michael Hall took to the stage to announce a rather special moment.
After thanking the cast, he paid tribute to ‘the greatest Danilovitch ever’, the renowned international tenor, Thomas Round, who would be celebrating his 100th birthday in a few weeks and was actually in the audience this evening.
Mr. Round, who lives in nearby Bolton-le-Sands, stood up to take a bow and accept a rapturous round of applause.
A memorable evening indeed.