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Belters and bohemians: Opera Locos @Sadlers_wells

At the start of the Opera Locos performance, the announcement says that they really are singing. You could be forgiven for wondering that, given the amplification turns up the backing track and the voices so loud that you can't always tell what's real. But this is a mostly harmless and slightly eccentric blend of opera classics fused with the occasional pop classic. However, recognising the pop tunes would help if you were over a certain age. The most recent of them dates back twenty years. It's currently playing at the Peacock Theatre .  Five performers play out a variety of archetype opera characters. There's the worn-out tenor (Jesús Álvarez), the macho baritone (Enrique Sánchez-Ramos), the eccentric counter-tenor (Michaël Kone), the dreamy soprano (María Rey-Joly) and the wild mezzo-soprano (Mayca Teba). Since my singing days, I haven't recognised these types of performers. However, once, I recall a conductor saying he wanted no mezzo-sopranos singing with the s

Pulling all the stops out: Gypsy

Gypsy has been running since April, and four months in Imelda Staunton’s performance as the mother of all stage mothers is still fascinating, exciting and exhausting to watch. It's amazing showcase in stamina, guts and determination, and that's just working with the material.

Staunton previously managed to give new meaning and depth to the role of Mrs Lovett in Sweeney Todd. Here she gives a dramatic sense of determination and vulnerability to the role.

And what lingers after the show is her exquisite vocals that give a velvety depth to the character. While there is an album from the show, after hearing her sing in this show I really want to hear her  sing jazz standards. Afterall she knows how to writhe every possible meaning out of a lyric.

But star power (and future album wish lists) aside, this show has a gritty feel that at times feels a bit too joyless. You are left without a doubt that this show is really about the race to the bottom, which is not necessarily a good thing with a night out at the theatre.

To be fair it is a challenging musical. There is no real romance, the only love here is the love of being on stage. And it ends (and this is a possible spoiler for anyone unfamiliar with the show) with the daughter agreeing to look after her mother. That's not a musical fable that's real life.

But you can’t help but get the feeling that the production missed the chance to explain the time, place and magic of Vaudeville better. Instead there are a series of rolling titles on the side and a series of static sets wheeled on and off.

Louise Gold, Julie Legrand and Anita Louise Combe provide welcome  comic relief as the jaded and faded strippers working what little talent and dignity they have left. But it is awfully late in the show.

Gypsy runs at the Savoy Theatre until 28 November.


Photo credit: Production photo by Johan Persson

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