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The Arcadians

“The score is an absolute winner”

Back in 1909, Lionel Monckton and Howard Talbot’s ‘fantastical musical play’ The Arcadians was an enormous hit, running for 809 performances – the third-longest run for any piece of musical theatre up to that date.

These days such an Edwardian confection – somewhere between operetta and musical comedy – languishes on the shelf until rescued by that valiant little enterprise Opera della Luna, which specialises in comic opera.

Even so, this was not a full-scale production, but described as a semi-staged, rehearsed reading – though many of the performers were off the book and certainly inside their roles.

The premise of the piece is that Londoner Jim Smith’s plane is brought down in Arcadia, where he is converted to the virtues of truth and simplicity and renamed Simplicitas. He returns to London with a couple of Arcadians in tow, who become all the rage at Askwood Races and in their own Arcadian restaurant in the West End.

Ibsen it isn’t, but there are lots of good jokes in the book, gently adapted by director Jeff Clarke, and the score is an absolute winner, some numbers recalling Sullivan or Edward German, others the music hall and the rise of musical comedy.

David Russell Hulme has made an expert new arrangement for 11-piece salon orchestra, which Michael Waldron conducts with style as well as skill.

Though they’re using the set for a different show, the costumes – from the company store – are apt to all requirements. The cast throw themselves at their material with a winning joie de vivre, Paula Sides fielding a superior soprano as Sombra, Rosemary Ashe giving a masterclass in maximising the impact of every line, and Neil Ditte whipping up a storm of comic activity as Smith and his Arcadian alter ego.

Any chance of a full-scale production?

Production Details
Production nameThe Arcadians
VenueWilton's Music Hall
StartsAugust 1, 2018
EndsAugust 1, 2018
Running time2hrs 35mins
AuthorAm Thompson, Mark Ambient, Robert Courtneidge
ComposerHoward Talbot, Lionel Monckton
Book writerJeff Clarke
LyricistArthur Wimperis
DirectorJeff Clarke
Assistant directorMichael Howcroft
Musical directorMichael Waldron
OrchestratorDavid Russell Hulme
ConductorMichael Waldron
Casting directorJeff Clarke
CastChris Jenkins, Damien Noyce, Emily Kyte, John Griffiths, Neil Ditte, Paula Sides, Peter Van Hulle, Rosemary Ashe, Sarah Goggin, William Morgan
Stage managerEla Schmid
ProducerOpera Della Luna
VerdictAn enthusiastic cast breathes life into Monckton and Talbot’s forgotten operetta
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George Hall

George Hall

George Hall

George Hall

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