La Belle Hélène was performed by Reading Operatic Society at The Hexagon, Reading on 3-7 March 2009.
A three-act operetta with music by Jacques Offenbach, book by Henri Meilbac and Ludovic Halévy and adapted and arranged by Phil Park and Ronald Hammer, La Belle Hélène propelled ROS into the world of Greek gods, witty one liners and ridiculous characters. This lead to a lot of good fun in the run into show week and during it.
The cast of 54 included Suzannah Brooksbank as Helen, Maggie Preston as Nesta, Jess Wallis as Leona, Jenny Gumbrell as Cressida, Simon Hutson as Paris, Jeff Trim as Menelaus, Iain Whittaker as Calchas, Rod Whyte as Philocomus, Keith Lawrence as Agamemnon, Kevin Gingell as Ajax, Mark Williams as Achilles, Adrian Tang as Orestes, Katy Wallis as Juno, Alexandra Renshaw as Minerva, Samantha Fields as Venus and David Saunders as Mercury.
The producer and choreographer was Jill Morgan and musical director John Lawes, alongside the Reading Operatic Society’s residential production team – David Parsonson production manager, Carol Hodgkinson stage manager and Kim Hollamby lighting designer.
A Superb Production of La Belle Hélène
“Tonight I went to The Hexagon theatre in Reading to see Reading Operatic Society perform La Belle Hélène. This is a comedy based on the story of Helen of Troy and her lover Paris, set to the fabulous music of Offenbach, ably produced tonight by Musical Director John Lawes and his orchestra. There were several modern humorous references but not so many as to overshadow the plot.
“Suzannah Brooksbank was magnificent as Helen and Simon Hutson was dashing as Prince Paris but special praise must go to Iain Whittaker who was hilarious as Calchas the Chief Augur. His speech impediment and impeccable comedic timing combined to make him the star of the show for me. The rest of the cast were excellent, producing a quality of singing and a volume that only Reading Operatic Society can do on such a regular basis.
“The choreography was to the usual high standard under the expert tutelage of Jill Morgan fabulously aided by some striking costumes. Although I did think that the set was a little inadequate at times. That is the difficulty for amateur societies these days as the cost of hiring sets and costumes is almost prohibitive. This production cost over £20,000 to stage and that is very difficult to support from ticket sales alone. A huge amount of effort must go into fundraising for any good society to survive nowadays.
“When I first moved to Reading in 1995 I was a member of Reading Operatic Society for several years, performing in a number of shows with them, so naturally I am biased, but this was a fantastic production.”
Conservative Councillor on Reading Borough Council
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