Opera Review





Presented by Citric Acid in association with Finborough Theatre

Chu Chin Chow



Directed by Alex Sutton

Music by Frederic Norton

Book and Lyrics by Oscar Asche


Finborough Theatre


14 - 28 July 08






A review by Barry Grantham for EXTRA! EXTRA!


The Finborough is to be thanked and congratulated on giving us this taste of Chu Chin Chow. That it can be no more than a taste of the sumptuous feast on offer at His Majesty’s Theatre on 3 August 1916 and thereafter for five years and a total 2,238 performance is hardly to be wondered at. (An excellent programme meant that I didn’t need to check these facts.) What they have achieved in the limited space, resources, and presumably time available, is highly praiseworthy.

And while talking of praise let us start with the Musical Director, Leigh Thompson, and his fellow musicians who were able to evoke so much of the exotic charm of the original. Let’s mention their names, excellent musician each one. Anna Hamilton (Cello), Paul Sadler (Clarinet) Kim Reilly(Flute) and David Marley (Trumpet). Mr Thompson apart from his musicianship is to be applauded for the exactness of his cueing. This professionalism extends to the production, (Director: Alex Sutton) which is perfectly paced and the company well drilled. That not much in the way of subtlety is to be found is to be expected.  The first responsibility of the production team in such a project as this is to get the blessed thing on, avoid major cock-ups, and see that the audience is entertained for the two hours of their visit - a tick for each of these boxes.     

Let us consider though, had there been time enough, Chu Chin Chow as a piece of theatre. By the way, for those unfamiliar with the storyline, the setting is not China  -the one Chinaman in it is a fake – but that of the ‘ArabianNights’; in fact the story of ‘Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves’, which is a very sinister tale indeed. What is entirely lacking in this production is that darker aspect that is amply catered for in the music of Frederic Norton and both the lyrics and dialogue of Oscar Asche.  Here, we get the dialogue at one pitch and one speed (fast, thank goodness, because there is a hell of a lot of it.) with little differentiation between the public voice and the covert intrigue. The songs are either romantic or jolly. Take the Cobbler’s song. This is given by David John Watton (Mustafa) in very jovial song and dance vein. But the cobbler is surely a very menacing character. He is the Arabian Nights equivalent of classical ‘Fates’ who sits and stitches the threads of our lives and, is about to be asked to sew together the quartered body of Ali Baba’s brother; not a jolly fellow nor a jolly song). 

But enough, let us accept with thanks the show as it is and not what it might have been.  On the whole good singing, especially from Victoria Krugar as the romantic lead, Marjanah,  Clear delivery and strong stage presence for Abu Hassan (the supposed Chu Chin Chow)  And an entertaining and audience oriented performance from  Edward Handoll, in the comic role of Ali Baba.. Good support from Sarah Jo Carter, Hannah Richmond, Camilla Bard, Will Barratt, Adèle Anderson, Alan Cox, Alex Dower, and Esther Biddle (Alcolom) who deservedly gets the prettiest and perhaps most famous song ‘Any Time’s Kissing Time’ from the rich score of Norton and Asche’s Chu Chin Chow.




Monday 14th July; Sunday 20th July.;

Monday 21st;Sunday 27th July and
Monday 28th July

Finborough Theatre
The Finborough
118 Finborough Road, London
SW10 9ED

Evenings at 7.30 pm

Box Office: 0870 4000 838

Book on line: www.finboroughtheatre.co.uk

Tickets:  £18 Concessions £14




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