BWW Review: DIE FLEDERMAUS at Her Majesty's Theatre
Reviewed by Barry Lenny, Tuesday 24th October 2017.
State Opera of South Australia is presenting a main stage production of the comic operetta, Die Fledermaus, by Johann Strauss II. This is the version, directed by David Lampard, that is set amongst the glitterati of Californian society, that had a very successful short run at the Opera Studio last year, in a smaller scale production. That production sold out and so remounting it in a larger venue will please those who missed out, and those who loved it so much that they want to see it again, but speed is of the essence as there will only be two performances, tonight and tomorrow, Wednesday 25th October.
Subtitled The Revenge of The Bat, it tells how Gabriel von Eisenstein previously played a trick on Doctor Falke when he attended a costume ball as a bat, the practical joke leaving he doctor highly embarrassed, and very short of clothing. Dr. Falke wants revenge, and this operetta shows how he gets his own back.
Updating the production to Beverly Hills in the current time opens up a new line of humour, beginning with Falke as Batman and Eisenstein as Robin attending a superhero themed party, with Superman, the Green Lantern, and others creating a rainbow across the stage, very topical as Australia moves towards marriage equality.
This is the all-singing, all-dancing incarnation of the operetta, with very elaborate choreography by David Lampard and movement coach, Daniela Taddeo, who also dances in the production. This is quite normal in musical theatre, of course, but quite amazing in an opera without using a separate corps de ballet. Yes, that is correct, the singers did all of the dancing themselves, whilst singing. Is there nothing that our State Opera company cannot do? Probably not.
Falke conspires with Prince Orlofsky, who hosts a party at Falke's request at which he intends to find retribution. Falke then invites Eisenstein, his wife, Rosalinda, his maid, Adele, and the police officer, Superintendent Frank, who is supposed to imprison Eisenstein for eight days for hitting a policeman. He instructs each of them to pretend to be different people, with Eisenstein's wife, masked, pretending to be an Hungarian film star, the Countess, and encouraging Gabriel, in the guise of a Frenchman, Marquis Renard, to seduce her. Falke also convinces Superintendent Frank, to pretend to be French, as Chevalier Chagrin, and he and Eisenstein engage in an hilarious conversation, with each only knowing a few scraps of the language.
Eventually, all is sorted out, Rosalinda's long-lost lover Alfredo, who turned up early in the piece and sings snatches of numerous arias to pass the time, is dispatched, Frank's assistant, Frosch, quotes iconic lines from an endless string of films, and Orlovsky offers to be Adele's patron as she pursues a career as an actress.
The dynamic duo, Joshua Rowe, as Falke, and Adam Goodburn, as Eisenstein, have a great rapport. Rowe is wonderfully devious in the role, showing us his glee as his machinations unfold, and Goodburn fills Eisenstein with panic as he realises that he has been caught out.
Desiree Frahn is every bit the designer-label-shopping socialite, Rosalinda, elegant, stylish, and terribly flattered by the attentions of Alfredo. She brings plenty of fun to Rosalinda's disguised appearance at the party, with an hilarious Hungarian accent, as she plays mind games with her husband.
Adele is sung by Sarah-Jane Pattichis in an outrageously funny characterisation, stepping it up several notches when she becomes Khloe at the party. Karina Jay plays Ida, Adele's cousin and co-conspirator in the deception. Together, they encourage each other in the pretence and, of course, take an occasional 'selfie'.
Beau Sandford is the sex-mad Alfredo, a lothario with an overwhelming compulsion to sing, and sing, and sing. Every snippet of song, in his powerful voice, brings a burst of laughter from the audience.
Andrew Turner is Superintendent Frank, cleverly conveying his confusion and bewilderment at being caught up in Falke's fun and games.
Frosch is a gift of a role for Rod Schultz, who keeps the audience in stitches with his superb comic timing and rapid-fire delivery. It is not even a singing role!
Rosanne Hosking is Orlovsky, normally a 'pants' role but, this time, portrayed as a male impersonator, her excellent performance resembling a bored Conchita Wurst.
In the second act, members of the State Opera Chorus become the staff and guests at Prince Orlovsky's high society party, and they are there not to see, but to be seen. Costume coordinator, Judith Branford, pulled out all of the stops on this production.
The dozen-strong chamber orchestra, consisting of members of the Adelaide Art Orchestra, responds marvellously to the precise and enthusiastic leadership of conductor, Nicholas Braithwaite.
Lampard has refined and built on the performance that we saw last year and it is a shame that it only ran for two nights in the bigger format. This was another winner for State Opera, and there is more to come with the Verdi Spectacular.