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July 2003
Orpheus in the Underworld
reviewed by Lorri Little in The Isle of Wight County Press 18/07/03
(reproduced by kind permission of the Isle of Wight County Press)

FRENETIC dancing of the Can Can in a deliciously naughty finale provided the perfect highly charged ending to Cowes Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society's latest offering.

A large and enthusiastic cast performed the colourful operetta Orpheus In The Underworld at the Thinity Theatre to great aplomb.

The CAODS version of the 1858 Jacques Offenbach play used arrangements of the original score with an updated book and translated lyrics from 1966.

The fast-moving comedy featured larger-than-life characters and this was what made the Cowes group so enjoyable to watch. It made for great entertainment to have so many odd characters on stage.

The synopsis is too complicated to go into detail, but suffice to say it is a classic tale of love and discontentment, heaven and hell and gods and mortals, providing a tongue in cheek indictment of class systems, hierarchies and traditions.

Phil Segal, in his debut as director, certainly took up a challenge with the ridiculously over-the-top comedy but brought the best qualities the fore.

The plot built up over the three hours, giving away little snippets of the famous Galop, better known as the Can Can, until at last the dance broke out in full, the moment we had all been waiting for.

It surpassed expectations as the dix scantily clad girls put in breathlessly energetic performances, running rings around the other characters in a cheeky interpretation of the dance.

There were so many good performances it seems unfair to mention just a few. However, Steven Young was excellent in the lead role of virtuoso Orpheus and had a strong voice, while Tracey Boudreau as his wife, Eurydice, was clearly very irritated at being married to him and made it clear she wanted out.

Anita Davies as Calliope had some challenging fast-moving singing to contend with but made it look easy, while Phil Burland had presence as Pluto and Paul Stevens was a successful and amusing Jupiter.

Some of the best plaudits ought to go to choreographer Liz Segal, musical director and vocal coach Robin Holbrook, and the lighting and set construction crew. One star did not go unnoticed despite being tucked away in the pit. Many people commented on how wonderful the 77-year-old violinist George Reid was. He accom panied the pre-recorded synthesiser music throughout the performance. As one would expect with the age of this play, much of the singing was extremely high-pitched and grated after a while, but that is my only, minor, complaint. CAODS patron Alan Titchmarsh attended the gala evening, and said theatres were special to him because he met his wife in one. He also pointed out that as patron, he was following in the footsteps of Princess Beatrice, Queen Victoria's youngest daughter. Money raised at the gala evening will go to one of Mr Titchmarsh's other causes, Cowes Inshore Lifeboat.


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