You are here: Archive Home > Gondoliers > Review from the Staffordshire Sentinel

Review from the Staffordshire Sentinel
7 Feb 1923, pg. 2

This Weeks Performance At The Grand Theatre
The Principals And The Music
North Staffordshire Amateur Operatic Society

The performance of "The Gondoliers" by the North Staffs Amateur Operatic Society at the Grand Theatre, Hanley, reflects immense credit, as we said yesterday, upon principal, chorus and orchestra alike. Following yesterdays appreciation of the general characteristic of the production, we are now pressed to examine it in more detail.

Following the admirably played overture, the opening chorus by the ladies, pointing out that "rose white and roses red" must indicate the love which maidens may not first speak, is both tuneful and picturesque and imparts to the opera a bright beginning. The Gondoliers enter, and after the first recitative by Mr. Dudley Baker, Miss Emma Grice, Mr. A. Gropp Hawkins, Miss Edith Maland, Mr. F. H. Walton, and Miss Ethel Mass, the first song (with chorus) falls to Mr. Gropp Hawkins as Antonio. "For the merriest fellows are we," and he sings it in spirited style.

A Wonderful Quartette

Mr. Frank Edge and Mr. Butterworth, the two principal gondoliers, join the throng and explain their sentiments in a duet. Being blindfolded for the game of marrying the girl you can catch, Mr. Frank Edge as Marco of course catches Miss Mollie Hackney as Gianetta while Mr. Butterworth as Guiseppe catches Mrs. Gwynne Joy as the frolicsome Tessa, as desired. This wonderful Quartette (the same as when the Society produced the opera at the Theatre Royal in 1919) is thus established and constitutes a brilliant feature of the opera both collectively and individually, throughout the evening. They not only sing so well, but they all know the 'business' of the respective parts as well, and they work together 'like a glove.' Miss Hackney easily maintains her well-established reputation for these operatic impersonations, in which she is the 'leading lady' of North Staffordshire. She has acquires a permanen niche in local hearts, and the admiration for her accomplishments is of course reinforced by personal affection for herself. Mr. Frank Edge is singing better than ever, and his acting is still more effervescent than before. Later, his famous rendering of "A Pair of Sparkling Eyes" is again fascinating and every audience insists upon an encore. It is not only that Mr. Edge's voice is so pure and rich, but he infuses such feeling and sympathy into his singing, floods the theatre with melody, duly supplemented by dash and humour, and evokes storms of applause. Mr. Edge is an operatic artist. Miss Gwynne Joy makes a fascinating Tessa, with her melodious voice and piquant acting, and her pretty clothes. He work has gained in character, and she makes a quick appeal to the audience. Her song "When a Merry Maiden Marries," is one of the haunting melodies of the performance, and Miss Hackney's song, "Kind Sir, You Have the Heart," is another, most artistically sung. Mr. Ernst Butterworth has renewed his youth and as Guiseppe (Mr. Edge's gondolier partner) is remarkable. It is understood that Mr. Edge particularly desired Mr. Butterworth's partnership as they had worked so well together in the past, and the results fully confirm the wisdom of the arrangement. Mr Butterworth must be accorded credit for a full share in the general success.

Miss Hackney, Mr. Edge, Miss Gwynne Joy and Mr. Butterworth of course make a hit with the descriptive quartette about the glory of being Royal, followed by the duet for Mr. Edge and Mr. Butterworth "And All Shall Equal Be," with chorus, leading up to the Quartette in which the two wives tunefully counsel their respective husbands as to their conduct when they are exercising joint kingship in Barataria.

In the second act, Mr. Butterworth scores again with "Duty To Be Done" song, which is followed by Mr. Frank Edge's renewed triumph with "Take A Pair Of Sparkling Eyes." Tess and Gianetta have the duet of alternate lines, in which they question their husbands as to their proceedings, and demand to be told all about it. A little later, there is the Quartette for Mr. Edge, Mr. Butterworth, Miss Gwynne Joy and Miss Hackney, in which Sullivan links musical fun with Gilbert's literary fun, starting calmly and working up into a frenzy about the triangle about one of the husbands being supposed to be already married. As we have already said, this quartette is conspicuous in the opera and Miss Hackney, Miss Joy, Miss Edge and Mr. Butterworth sustain the characters of the quartette with a radiance that has much to do with the high standard achieved by the performance of the opera generally.

Another Splendid Quartette

Then there is the other Quartette, composed of Mrs. Wilbraham (Casilda), Miss Jean Machin (the Duchess of Plaza-Toro), Mr. Douglas Maddock (the Duke), and Mr. Cyril L. Brooke (Luiz), with Mr. Boullemier as Don Alhambra, the Grand Inquisitor, hovering here and there. Miss Machin has several leading contralto parts in Gilbert and Sullivan to her credit, and he beautiful singing and polished acting are still more appealing than before. Mrs. Wilbraham's sweet voice, and experienced acting at once gave her a distinguished place in the company and everybody is grateful for her kind and invaluable co-operation, which lifts the production more than ever in the direction of professional verve and completeness. Mr. Maddock sustains the comedy of the Duke with his customary agility, characterization and [...] drollery. Mr. Cyril Brooke, as the Ducal attendant, who is in love with the Duke's daughter Casilda, and who turns out to be the real missing king, to appear in magnificent attire and a regal air in the last scene, is distinctly one of the assets of the production, by singing and acting with gift and personality.

The Ducal quartette starts off with the taking number, "From The Sunny Spanish Shore, followed by the Duke's song, "The Duke Of Plaza-Toro," which Mr. Maddock renders so trippingly, supported by the others, leading up to the Love scene and duet between Casilda and Luiz, so admirably rendered by Mrs. Wildbraham and Mr. Brooke, followed a little later by the quintette

"Try we life long, we can never.
Straighten out life's tangled skein"

so melodiously sung by Mrs. Wilbraham, Miss Machin, Mr. Brooke, Mr. Maddock and Mr. Boullemier.

In the second act, the Ducal party makes a second entrance, "dressed with the utmost magnificence," when the Duke comes to present his daughter Casilda as the Queen of Barataria, expecting the missing king, thought to be one of the gondoliers, but of course really Luiz, and here Mr. Maddock, Miss Machin, and Mrs. Wilbraham "come into their own and afford a feast of melody and fun, including Miss Machin's leading number as the Duchess, "On The Day I Was Wedded," followed by the catchy and amusing duet for the Duke and Duchess, "Small Titles And Orders," in all of which Miss Machin's lovely contralto voice is so expressive that one is never tired of listening to it.

Mr. Boullemier

Mr. Boullemier, as already indicated, is a "host in himself," as the Grand Inquisitor, the dignified picturesque and amusing personage who regards himself as king-maker - a kind of Warwick who rather reminds you of Dr. Samuel Johnson. Mr. Boullemier revels in the unctuousness of it, but he also gets through the musical numbers of the part very well - "I Stole The Prince" and "There Lived A King" (assisted by Mr. Edge and Mr. Butterworth as the two gondoliers). Mr. Boullemier greatly enhances his reputation by this impersonation and renders most valuable service to the Society, by the members at which he is also held in such cordial regard personally by his amiability and comradeship.

A Happy Week

We must not omit to mention the admirable rendering of the part of Inez, the king's foster mother, by Miss Gladys Penke, towards the end of the opera - quite a dramatic episode. And we must also emphasize again how much the production owes to the singing and acting qualities of the ladies and gentlemen of the chorus, the ladies so pretty and so prettily and gaily dressed. It is a wonderful chorus and the stage "crowds" are excellently deployed. The stage pictures are indeed sumptious and artistic. Mr. Douglas Maddock, the producer has the cheerful and valuable co-operation of Mr. Wilbraham, the stage manage of the Grand Theatre. Mr. Cartmell, the musical director of the Grand Theatre, willingly "lends hand," and Mr. Harry Crane, the manager of the Grand Theatre, beamingly gives everybod and everything his blessing. Mr. W. Ellis' work as electrician is perfect, and Mr. J. C Sherwin presides over the makeup department with the art and helpfulness of a past master Mr. H. E. Sherwin, as musical director for the Society, shares with Mr. Douglas Maddock the honours for managing the production, and by his alert and accomplished conductor' baton, keeps stage and orchestra smoothly running linked together. In every way then, a very happy week at the Grand Theatre, and it only remains for the public to give themselve the real enjoyment and pleasure of supporting the North Staffordsire Amateur Operatic Society in their delightful performances of "The Gondoliers."

This review was submitted to the G&S Archive by Louis Silverstein.

Updated 10 December 2003