"Esther" - an Operetta in eight scenes by Nicholas Marshall Sat 23 July
Nicholas Marshall, who is familiar to 'Classical Journey' listeners as the Musical Director of the Exeter Bach Society, prepared and presented a quite remarkable operetta for children at the Budleigh Festival.
Each of the eight schenes was a small gem of storytelling and humour with superb incidental music, as one would expect from a musician of Nicholas' standard.
A retentive memory and a beautiful voice
Perfect narration by Isabel Shaw-Smith
The gentle, but volatile, King Ahasuerus of Persia
Isabel's introduction of Adam as Haman, drawing our attention to his devious eyes - which he demonstrated on cue, was a beautifully timed piece of comedy which let us all know what to expect.
The first chorus, starting as they intended to continue, was very clearly sung and perfectly synchronised. Every word was clear as a bell as Nicholas conducted from his position by the grand piano (not used in this performance).
Extraordinary unaccompanied singing by
Sylvie Hodgson as Esther, the King's Jewish wife
Once the story was clearly set out in the first scene, we moved to a scene for pure entertainment. A troupe of acrobats and circus performers danced together in a delightfully simple but effective piece of choreography before each member performed their special stunt. 'Ahmed', to great suspense music from the orchestra, lifted a broom handle as if it were a heavy barbell. 'Rachel' walked a rope on the floor as if it were a high-wire. each stunt was beautifuuly crafted with that lovely element of comedy which keeps the audience amused.
The persecuted Jews petition Esther's father Mordecai
(Orla Gunner) to intercede with the King on their behalf
In the second scene the circus acts were mirrored by a 'pageant' where various potential wives tried to impress the King. (Madeline's line about 'firing' the previous Queen for non-attendance at court was one of the best in the show.) Silvie as Esther really did impress us when she appeared, quietly dignified and with her head covered. Esther's selection as the King's new wife was coupled with the appointment of Haman as Grand Vizier - a disaster for all the Jews in Persia, including Esther and her father Mordecai. The dramatic irony was enhanced by a very clever chorus with asides telling us what we had all realised already - Haman is bad news!
Their nemesis, Grand Vizier Haman
Ahasuerus revokes Mordecai's death sentence
and ends Haman's persecution of the Jews
Before the final intercession scene there was just time for a very special glockenspiel piece played by percussionist Rosie Lester. Lightly played, in the special acoustic environment of the Temple Church, the sound was truly celestial - a perfect touch.
The full cast with Queen Esther in the centre
The wonderful acrobats are nearest the camera with
Ahmed the strong-man at the extreme left
Not forgetting Nicholas Marshall and his talented orchestra
Many thanks and congratualtions to the actors and extras, and to the orchestra, to Nicholas for his composition and conducting, and to the Producer and Assistant Producer, Sue-Claire Morris and Gill Gray.