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KISS ME, FIGARO – Riverside Studios, London.

kiss me, figaroIn a world where musical theatre is dominated by what has been coined as ‘jukebox musicals’, crow-barring existing songs together to a usually shallow and paper thin plot, it was perhaps inevitable that the Opera world might try and follow suit.

It is not by any means a new craze having been around in some shape or form for decades but since the worldwide success of shows like Mamma Mia (Catherine Johnson and ABBA) and We Will Rock You (Ben Elton and Queen) it is becoming more and more preferential to use music which has already stood the test of time, despite the major misfortunes of already infamous flops such as the recent Viva Forever (Jennifer Saunders and the Spice Girls). However, nothing thus far has stood the test of the years quite like Mozart, Handel and Puccini.

Kiss me, Figaro!  is described as a ‘Rom Com’, set backstage at the opera. Cue the modestly sized opera company with the inevitable diva soprano Daisy Brown played not so coincidently by young singer, Daisy Brown and the ex fiancée tenor Joe Morgan played once again miraculously by welsh tenor, Joe Morgan. Let’s for confusions sake at this point call the characters by their first names and actors, more formally by their second. So…Joe dumped Daisy brutally two years previous and it has left a scar in the soprano’s heart so deep her hurt has boiled into concentrated hatred, so when he appears to save the day after an accident takes out the company’s current tenor, the drama as you can imagine is about explode in true rom com fashion. Lovers, betrayed but destined to be together….what isn’t operatic about that? But will they get together in the end…of course it’s a Rom Com.

Morgan is, vocally, a true powerhouse here and considering his young age is most definitely on route to becoming a tenor in demand but the real credit here goes to Brown who not only has the emotionally hard-hitting vocal range but a true naturalism that is so hard to find in the world of opera, not only commanding the stage with her presence but driving you to both tears of joy and sorrow.

The, I dare not say the ‘c’ word (chorus), ensemble are all individually vocally strong and some offer moments of real belly laugh humour, especially the desperately and unrequitedly loved up Rachel (Jenny Stafford) and the slightly more experienced and frank Jacqueline (Kristen Finnigan).

Merry Opera, founded in 2010, strive to produce touring opera in English which is an understandable, interesting and enjoyable introduction to a genre that is often perceived as difficult to get into, and this piece certain tries hard to make the audience feel involved and at ease. However, written and directed by John Ramster, the piece as a whole feels a little lost and inconsistent. The introduction of jazz numbers feel a tad patronising to the audience trying to soften the blow for those who might not be comfortable with the opera sound, but it would have been more cohesive and exciting if the songs were picked entirely from the genre which it promises to explore. Act Two however picks up and seems to find its voice, opening with one of the funniest interpretations of the famous ‘Three Little Maids’ from Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado you could ever wish to see.

Arranged and performed by Stephen Hose the score is, for the best part, a clever weave of operatic music which drives the show forward and adds a layer of wonderful unspoken emotion to what can sometimes be a cheesy script. The dialogue is a little forced and some acting a little wooden but the honest campness of the production is truly warming and whether an opera virgin or old hat to the likes of Puccini and Mozart, Kiss Me, Figaro will guarantee to entertain.

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Reviewed 13/02/14

By Dan Phillips

14th February – 2nd March 2014.
Riverside Studios, London, W6.

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