Wexford Light Opera society are up there with the best and their big budget, posh frocks production of Frank Wildhorn’s the Scarlet Pimpernel at Wexford Opera House confirmed that status. The venue lends itself to the bold gesture, the proud declaration of intent and ability. The big Gavotte sequence in Act 2 was a sumptuous affair and the director/choreographer Aisling Doyle excelled herself.
Edel Quinn of Centrestage showed her paces as the dance captain. Gerry Taylor’s lighting had the big bold beams to underline the many locations in a fast moving second act that allowed stage manager Nora Cosgrave to shine. Anne Reck was wardrobe mistress to a small army of make-up, costumes, wigs and hair arrangements.
Fintan Cleary directed a pit that had six or seven brass among its twenty or so musicians and they added much to a show of big musical numbers in a series of three minute or so songs that had the potential to be stand alone tunes. Wildhorn loves big brash tunes and a wedding sequence had at least six brass instruments as the betrothed stood on a raised platform like figurines on a cake.
The music is big sound, big sing stuff and at times the drama and the big reveal seemed melodramatic due to loud vocal work, too high a sound control. Occasionally dialogue suffered similar problem and you sensed characters were shouting rather than loud emoting.
A long first act has a lot of necessary exposition with two standout big numbers, Into the Fire and Falcon in the Dive. The second act was a show in itself, with fact action, big dance scenes, a realistic sword fight, guillotine work and the founding action of a musical in full strength and magnificence.
Kenneth O’Regan was Blakeney – The Pimpernel and a hooded Grappin. He has a strong tenor voice that he revels in – sometimes, I found him too loud – and the foppish contrast wasn’t as well defined as it might be.
Maria Fitzgerald as Marguerite St.Just was wonderful and brought beauty and confidence to the role.
Derek Collins whom I saw in Bryan Flynn’s Michael Collins stole the show with a dark brooding performance as Chauvelin.