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Viennese Strauss Christmas Gala The Playhouse Weston Super Mare Review 26th November 2018

For some years now our Christmas preparations can’t begin until we’ve seen the beautifully staged Viennese Strauss Christmas Gala. Only the most miserable Scrooge amongst us couldn’t have his heart gladdened by a stage piled high with presents, knee deep in tinsel, a lavishly decorated Christmas tree and Santa’s sleigh drifting across the sky above it all. Added to all this glow and glitter the British Philharmonic Concert Orchestra, three great soloists and a witty presenter make for the best Christmas show you’ll see this year.

As usual The Playhouse theatre was packed ready to give an uproarious welcome to the British Philharmonic Concert Orchestra with Anthony Kraus the conductor, the soloists Alison Roddy, Tom McVeigh and Andrew Forbes Lane, and the said witty presenter Malcolm Mckee. To get us in the mood the concert began with the overture to The Merry Widow and continued in a celebratory mood with the Champagne Trio – a delightful song, full of Christmas cheer and most amusing too.

Alison Roddy is a beguiling soprano; we loved the beautiful carol Oh Holy Night as sung by her and Andrew Forbes Lane and the first half finished with the orchestra, led by Emily Chaplais and conducted by Anthony Kraus, in a rousing rendition of Sleigh Ride.

Now we were all firmly in the festive spirit, the second half opened with a medley of Christmas carols to which we were all invited to join in, and in the process learned the second verse to Deck the Halls which apparently nobody knows (Anthony Kraus was right, we didn’t!). The Thunder and Lightning Polka, one of my Strauss favourites was played with gusto by the orchestra, and the show’s closing songs couldn’t be anything better than White Christmas and Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. Malcolm Mckee’s convivial presence steered us through the show with highly funny readings from the ‘big red book’, which were pretty much as comical as his outfit. Always topical with saucy touch he really does bring a lot of fun to the show.

We missed Jeremy Peaker (the man who started it all!) and his uniquely cheeky approach to the show in general; unfortunately he was unwell and we wish him a speedy recovery. Andrew Forbes Lane and Tom McVeigh, tenor and baritone respectively sang marvellously and we had a wonderful time. We left feeling full of Christmas joy and more than willing to contribute to the bucket collection for the Playhouse fund which helps to keep this wonderful theatre alive and able to bring us shows like this.

Jacquie Vowles

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