|Iolanthe > Reviews > No.1 "Iolanthe" Company in Birmingham
Birmingham Daily Post (Birmingham, England), Tuesday, November 6, 1883; Issue 7908.
The noisy distraction of Guy Fawkes night and the deterrent influence of a rainstorm, sufficient to quench all its bonfires and fireworks, were alike powerless to prevent a large audience from flocking to this house to witness the reproduction of Messrs. Gilbert and Sullivan's fascinating lyric fantasia known as "Iolanthe, or the Peer and the Peri." On the first production of this graceful and fanciful work in the spring of the year, we discussed its merits, literary and musical, in sufficient detail to stand dispensed from further criticism on the present occasion; and we will only remark in general terms, that if "Iolanthe" is not quite so strong in dramatic backbone as some of its predecessors, it yields the palm to none in the quaintness of its concerto and the elegance and refinement of the music. The latter is wanting, perhaps, in the broad and popular qualities, say of "Pinafore," but that its charms for 'the popular ear are of a very real and potent order was conclusively demonstrated last night by the enthusiasm it evoked, and the number of pieces which had to be repeated in compliance with the demand of the audience.
As the company is essentially the same as on the occasion of the first production here of the operetta, our remarks upon the performance will be brief. The all important part of the Chancellor finds an admirable representative in Mr. Frank Thornton, whose humour and articulateness leave nothing to be desired, and who wants in parts a little more vocal power to be an ideal representative of the character. Last night he was in excellent form, and was encored in all three of his songs, especially kindling the enthusiasm of his audience in "Said I to myself, said I," and the wonderfully graphic scena descriptive of a headache, commencing "When you're lying awake with a dismal headache," which will hereafter be ranked among the composer's most original and striking efforts. In the various concerted pieces, and especially the quartet with Lords Tolloller and Mountararat and the sentry in the second act, and the famous trio and dance which follows it, Mr. Thornton also rendered valuable service.
Miss Beatrix Young, as the Fairy Mother, Iolanthe, who for twenty five years prior to the opening of the drama has been doing her sentence "on her head at the bottom of a stream," is becomingly youthful, graceful, and tender, and sings the somewhat trying air in the second act, in which Iolanthe pleads to the Lord Chancellor on behalf of her son, with much sweetness and pathetic effect. The Fairy Queen of Miss Fanny Harrison, though somewhat lacking in the ethereal quality which we associate with the idea of Titania, is eminently graceful, pleasing, and vocally effective; and the Arcadian shepherdess Phyllis – the Helen of this new tale of Troy – finds a very competent and pleasing representative in Miss Esme Lee, whose performance last night was a great advance, both in dramatic intelligence and in vocalisation, upon her Gretchen in "Rip Van Winkle." In the charming little pastoral duet with Strephon, "None shall part us," she was especially effective, in spite of the somewhat too rapid tempo adopted, and the occasional obtrusiveness of the accompaniment.
Mr. Federici as the shepherd Strephon, half fairy and half mortal, acted and sang with equal ability, contributing largely to the effect of every scene in which be took part. The sister fairies Lelia, Celia, and Fleta were gracefully personated by Miss Kate Forster, Miss Mary Duggan, and Miss Evelyn Carstairs.
Mr. Walter Greyling was specially good as the Earl of Mountararat, and Mr. Cadwalladr's Earl of Tolloller was not far behind it. Mr. Marler as Private Willis, who plays Bottom to the Fairy Queen's Titania was encored in the popular old English sentry's song; but the compliment must be ascribed rather to the merits of the music than to those of the performance, which was in parts decidedly flat.
The chorus plays an important part in Iolanthe, and it: work last night was on the whole well executed. The chorus of Peers, "Bow, bow, ye lower middle classes," and the piquant wooing scene of Fairies and Peers, "Don't go," with continuous pizzicato accompaniment, were as usual encored, and the fine ensemble at the end of the first act left nothing to be desired. Here and there the playing of the band was a little coarse and uneven, but on the whole there was not much to complain of. The operetta was capitally mounted, and the scene representing Palace Yard, with the Houses of Parliament in the background, by moonlight, called forth, as usual, loud expressions of approval.
The opera, which was followed last night by Mr. George Grossmith's diverting musical sketch, "Cups and Saucers," in which the character of Mrs. Nankeen Worcester, a chinamaniac, was played by Miss Duggan, will be repeated each evening this week, and a special day performance for the accommodation of country visitors is announced for Thursday.
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