Sunday, June 8, 2014

KISMET



Book by Charles Lederer and Luther Davis
Music and Lyrics by Robert Wright and George Forrest
Directed by Peter Smith
Musical Director: Jennifer Groom
Queanbeyan Players, Q Theatre, Queanbeyan 6 to 21 June 2014

Review by Len Power 6 June 2014

One of the big, lavish musicals of the 1950s, ‘Kismet’ opened on Broadway in 1954 and ran for 583 performances.  It had an even longer run in London in 1955 and seems to be one of only a few musicals with an operetta-like musical score to still be produced these days.  The reason is probably due to the memorable songs in the show which everyone has heard, whether they know they’re from ‘Kismet’ or not.  Based on themes by Russian composer Borodin, several of the songs became standards – ‘Baubles, Bangles and Beads’, ‘And This is My Beloved’ and especially, ‘Stranger in Paradise’.  In fact, it’s now difficult to listen to Borodin’s originals without trying to sing along using the lyrics of ‘Kismet’.

Producing ‘Kismet’ is a major undertaking for a non-professional company on a limited budget.  Courageously taking it on as a first-time director, Peter Smith, has produced a colourful and entertaining show with some very good singing from his principal players.  It’s a bit rough around the edges but some of that was probably due to first night nerves and it should settle down as the season progresses.

Don Bemrose’s excellent voice suited the role of the Poet very well.  The Poet lives by his wits and ability with words, as is clear from the lyrics.  In the dialogue scenes, Don Bemrose’s interpretation of the character as a nice but nervy guy often lacking in confidence was at odds with the confidence of the singing character.

As Marsinah, the Poet’s daughter, Rosanna Boyd was charming and sang and acted her role very nicely, especially shining in her solo part of ‘And This Is My Beloved’.  Thompson Quan Wing, often seen and heard in Queanbeyan Players chorus, displayed his pleasing solo singing voice to great effect as the Caliph, especially in ‘Stranger In Paradise’.  He also brought considerable depth to his characterisation of a man used to being a ruler but desperate to find love.  Michael Politi sang and acted the role of the Wazir of Police very well.  His song, ‘Was I Wazir?’, was a highlight of the show.  Stephanie McAlister, as the Wazir’s voluptuous wife, Lalume, displayed a good sense of comic timing and was in fine voice in ‘Not Since Ninevah’.  The large chorus sang the big score very well.

The set by Thompson Quan Wing was simple but effective and the costumes by Janetta McRae were colourful and fun.  Choreography by Belinda Hassall suited the skill levels of the performers and the dance of the three princesses of Ababu was nicely witty and well-danced by Theresa Buetre, Kate Terry and Zoe Swan.

Using the original lush orchestrations, the orchestra under the direction of Jennifer Groom seemed to have some difficulties here and there on opening night.  It’s a huge score in a long show, so it must be quite a challenge to play.

This isn’t a perfect production but it’s enjoyable and has some great singing and a magical score.  We don’t get a chance to see these classic shows much these days so full marks to Queanbeyan Players for giving us this production.

Originally broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7 'Dress Circle' program with Bill Stephens from Sunday 5pm 8 June 2014.

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