Southwick Opera, Grab me a Gondola, Please!: Fun tribute to the 1950s

Philip Davies as Giuseppe, Jess Snape as Tessa, Gareth Ashley as Marco and Jennie Duval as Gianetta
Philip Davies as Giuseppe, Jess Snape as Tessa, Gareth Ashley as Marco and Jennie Duval as Gianetta

Southwick Opera’s celebration of the 1950s, Grab me a Gondola, Please!, makes for a lively and fun evening at the Barn Theatre in Southwick.

It is an interesting concept, interspersing extracts from Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Gondoliers with songs from other musicals and films written in, or inspired by, the decade.

As usual, the Opera has a large cast and what this format does mean is that several of them have the opportunity to shine in a solo.

Giulia Federici’s There are Worse Things I Could Do from Grease is perhaps the highlight, a very touching performance, though Daria Robertson comes a close second with her assured version of Summertime in Venice, a song released by Gracie Fields in 1955.

Amy Bowyer gives a fun rendition of Teenager in Love though on opening night, there was a problem with her mic and the sound varied between booming and almost impossible to hear.

Similarly, Tony Adam’s beautiful and moving solo Younger Than Springtime, from South Pacific, was almost drowned out by the keyboards last night.

Members of the audience could be heard joining in with Roy Riggs as he sung Bangers and Mash, and he had us smiling with the quick changes of character required in this duet with Giulia.

In between the songs and The Gondoliers extracts, director Simon Gray stands to give short explanations of what is coming up – short explanations that could, to be honest, be a bit shorter.

On to The Gondoliers and here is the opportunity for the ensemble to really get involved. It is all very colourful with some nice dance moves and good stage coverage.

Chris Tippett and Philip Davies play dual roles and Philip’s portrayal of the inquisitor Don Alhambra went down particularly well last night.

Tony, now with a big moustache, gives a great performance as the Duke of Plaz-Toro, alongside Sue Burchett as the Duchess.

Further fun comes in the café scenes, with Amy as Floria and Mario as her husband, the pair making their money from customers attracted by their constant rowing, until they accidentally reveal their true love for each other.

Overall, it is a varied evening and I am not sure you would immediately see it as a tribute to the 1950s, especially as Simon has added in a number of modern references, including Mario Kart, the royal family and a rather political beheading of Boris.

The production runs until Saturday, with performances at 7.30pm daily, and a best dressed competition on Saturday night. Tickets £14 to !6. Visit www.southwickopera.co.uk for more information.