The Merry Widow is showing her age. Not the lady herself of course, who is portrayed by Stephanie Corley, complete with a charming northern accent. Nope, Countess Hanna Glawari remains vivacious and tere is real chemistry between her and William Dazeley as her lost lover Count Danilovitch. Amy Feston adds excellent physical comedy as the cartwheeeling high-kicking ex-chorus girl Valencienne.
However, nowadays Victor Leon’s and Leo Stein’s book presents a rather passive heroine – one who waits for, rather than instigates, events.The first act, therefore, feels like a very long build-up to developments which, when they emerge, are not that significant. The slender plot involves a government maintaining its income by preventing a wealthy widow from marrying a Parisian. Franz Lehar’s score avoids the pitfall of limiting comic opera to light and bouncy tunes by adding authentic and very well performed Viennese waltzes.
The success of the evening is ensured by Leslie Travers' ravishing set and costume designs - combined with Giles Havergal’s dynamic direction that brings the second half of the show to life. The male chorus enjoy a highly comic assessment of the difficulties of relating to the female gender and "Quite Parisian" sets the tone for the operetta.