Die Fledermaus Review – Bruce Wyatt (NODA)

By Johann Strauss 11, this musical first reached the stage on 5 April 1874, but this performance was based on the Royal Opera House’s version of 1989 with original text translated by John Mortimer.

On New Year’s Eve, Gabriel von Eisenstein is being forced to go to jail for punching a police officer, however decides to evade jail for one night so that he can go to Prince Orlofsky’s lavish party. Eisenstein wants to go with his friend Falke, so he tells his wife, Rosalinde, that he is heading off to jail. Meanwhile, Rosalinde knows that Eisenstein is lying, and follows him, in disguise as a Hungarian countess to the ball. Adele, their maid, also feigns an excuse to be released from work that night so that she can also go to the ball, disguised as a Russian actress named, Olga.

After many mistaken identities, Eisenstein attempts to seduce his own wife without knowing. Much frivolity, and many festivities behind them, the great farce ends up with a happy ending for all.

From the first chords of the large orchestra (The Orchestra Of St John, Bromsgrove) located at the rear of the stage, this production by Anthony Ravenhall and MD Richard Jenkinson, Leader Shulah Oliver-Smith, oozed quality in both its music and singing. We first meet Adele played by Naomi Awre. Naomi gave an outstanding performance, of bright disposition with a lovely clear voice and a variety of comical expressions throughout. Rosalinde played by Catherine Barrett also had a powerful voice, acted well with a great stage presence. Alfredo, the likeable Italian Opera Singer with an eye for Rosalinde, was well played by Samuel Taunton and seeks to spend time with her at home whilst Eisenstein is expected in prison.

I was very impressed by Robert Felstead who played Eisenstein. Not only did Robert have an excellent voice, his diction was particularly good and clearest of all. Act 1 consisted entirely of principals, which is why is was important too that Falke a Barrister played by Aaron Prewer-Jenkinson and Colonel Frank, the Prison Governor played by Paul Ellis  could match the singing and stage presence of the others, which they did. Also, good support from Phil Joseph as the Lawyer Dr Blind.

In Act 2, the remaining cast including ensemble enter, who were all beautifully dressed. We are at a party at the Old Imperial Theatre and meet the host Prince Orlofsky, very well played by Meriel Ford, and generous with the vodka! During the party the temptation to throw in some modern references is not resisted, including ‘Downton Abbey’ and ‘Go Compare’. Eisenstein and Frank pretend to be French and this is accompanied by some amusing sub-titles provided by the waiters. Good support too was provided by Briony Stevens as Ida (Adel’s Sister).

During the party, entertainment is provided for the guests including solo numbers by Shara Parry, Jeremy Morfey, Ivan (valet to Orlofsky) and a great opportunity is taken to hear Paul Thompson’s rich tones as the Mikado, all accompanied by Joy Reeve. In addition, 3 dancers from the Translucent Dance Studio (Alice Langford, Margaux Lucas and Elysia Winter) provided a graceful well-choreographed piece en pointe, followed shortly by the dancers being joined by partners for a polka as the New Year celebrations began.

Covering the scene change into Act 3 (The Municipal Penitentiary),  Frosch the prison warder played well by Tim Cranmore provided some entertaining dialogue explaining that ‘25 champagne louts’ were expected.  I was impressed by the way three simple but substantial pieces of wooden trellis on casters were converted and well-dressed appropriately for each scene, and with a few pieces of other furniture, were effective in providing sufficient space for the players. Good lighting added to the atmosphere and all involved should be congratulated in bringing this operetta to the stage.