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BWW Reviews: DIE FLEDERMAUS, King's Head Theatre, December 11 2013

All the best nights start with a drink and some of the worst ones do too. And some of the very worst end with a lot more drink and a dodgy iphone video posted on youtube - for the bantz, innit?

Falke, a bare-bottomed Batman in his boozy video, doesn't see the joke and plots a complicated revenge on his iphone toting erstwhile drinking buddy Eisenstein at Prince Orlovsky's party. Meanwhile, Eisenstein's wife, Rosalinda, is being wooed by Alfred, an ex, and given the runaround by her maid, Adele, who is very keen to meet Simon Cowell.

It's the 17th Opera-Up-Close production at The King's Head Theatre and it's as innovative, witty and accessible as the 16 before it. Librettist and director, Robert Chevara, has set his version of the Johann Strauss II classic in present day London - one might almost say present day Upper Street - which allows him to have a lot of fun with pantomimeish contemporary references (George Osbourne gets a well deserved kicking). Sung in 21st century English (with Adele essaying a bit of spoken word stuff lifted straight from the EastEnders argot) it's a bang up to date show that's a perfect alternative to panto - at least for the grown-ups.

With piano, violin and accordion at his disposal, musical director Patrick Stockbridge even gets a version of "Anything you can do, I can do better" in amongst the arias and tunes that seem familiar: because they are familiar. (I'm sure a besuited Tom has conducted most of Die Fledermaus in various Tom and Jerry cartoons over the years).

But it's the singing, done so close on full throttle, that gives the thrill unique to this venue. Louisa Tee is funny and sexy as Rosalinda, though most of the best lines are given to Elinor Rolfe Johnson's Adele, who answers the unlikely question, "What would Barbara Windsor be like if she were fifty years younger and sang soprano?". Jan Capinski is a brute of an Eisenstein, with just enough charm to make us believe his hold over his friends (and a magnificent Phil Spector wig too), while William Morgan and Alistair Sutherland have a lot of fun setting him up for his fall. Zarah Hible - an Annie Lennox like figure in a gold lamé suit - almost steals the show as the louche aristocratic orchestrator of the night's festivities.

If you haven't tried opera and think it'll be bum-achingly boring waiting for the fat lady to sing, take a trip to Islington - you'll be surprised how much fun you'll have!

Die Fledermaus continues at The King's Head Theatre until 18 January.




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From This Author Gary Naylor