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Ruddigore Review
from
The Times (London)
5 Nov 1929, page 14


ENTERTAINMENTS - SAVOY THEATRE

Sir Ruthven Murgatroyd
Richard Dauntless
Sir Despard Murgatroyd
Old Adam Goodheart
Sir Roderick Murgatroyd
Rose Maybud
Mad Margaret
Dame Hannah
Zorah
Ruth
Merielle Barbon
Conductor

Ruddigore has two numbers which place it musically on a class above The Gondoliers, and it has the episode which endears Basingstoke even to the unhappy traveller who is forced to change his train and finds little of its teeming hidden meaning to quiet his impatient spirit. Its book of etiquette is hardly more out of date when Rose Maybud first began to study it, for does she not say that “nearly all are wont to use their pocket-combs in public places?” And that was as long ago as when it was considered funny to poke fun at foreigners, especially Frenchmen. Ruddigore has, in a word, the same perennial freshness that all the world finds in the other Savoy operas which for so many years eclipsed it. Even now it is only to run a week instead of a fortnight.

It contains less music than Gondoliers, yet for some reason or other it was sung considerable better last night than was The Gondoliers on the opening night of the season. The dramatic requirements, which were more than adequately met, might be held to excuse vocal shortcomings in this opera - Richard Dauntless has to dance a hornpipe and Mad Margaret has to do the hardest of all dramatic things - be convincingly mad. Therefore Miss Nellie Briercliffe, who has only a wisp of a voice, was rightly cast for the part of Poor Meg. The singing in general, however, could not be said to be really good - there was a constant tendency to shout, among both principals and chorus - Miss Bertha Lewis and Mr. Darrell Fancourt - have one of Sullivan’s poorest songs to sing - “The Great Oak Tree,” which Miss Lewis persisted in calling an “Awck.” But the Ghost song is magnificent, and Mr. Fancourt sings it magnificently. The madrigal at the end of the first act, with its delicious orchestra counterpoint, was also worthily done. There was occasionally some divergence of view as to the tempi between the singers and Dr. Sargent, though it was never very serious. Dr. Sargent constitutionally likes things fast, while the singers, either for the sake of their traditional expression or because this “particularly rapid unintelligible patter: is hard to sing, like them a little slower. If they reached an agreed compromise, they might neither of them be satisfied, but we of the audience probably would feel more comfortable.

If some of the singing voices are not what they ought to be for Sullivan’s music, Mr. Leo Sheffield’s speaking voice, with its unequaled unction, is beyond price for Gilbert’s words, while Mr. Lytton’s extravagant parody would make good honest Hollywood melodramas envious. But Miss Melville is miscast as the simple (in both senses) village maid; there is too much professional simpering, not enough appreciation of the satire in her highfalautin talk.

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