There was a time when there were regular doses of Gilbert and Sullivan in the provinces but sadly the productions became stale, the sets tacky and the lure of G&S waned. So it is to the credit of Opera North, a company never afraid of a challenge, to take on an operetta by the famous duo and even more praiseworthy in reviving one of the lesser performed shows.

This Ruddigore is stunningly designed by Richard Hudson and Gabrielle Dalton. Simple sets in sepia tones with costumes ranging from white through to rich browns with some clever touches of deep red make the stage a constantly pleasing picture.

The second act Gallery is as dramatic as you could wish with its tantalising optical illusions. Jo Davies the director has created an enjoyable entertainment which if a little slow to take off comes into its own in the seaside scene continuing to spread pleasure with mayhem and drama in the church reaching a satisfying end to Act One. Perhaps it is the traditions of these works that are too firmly lodged that make this production at times too stately and restrained (there are some awkward chorus entrances and exits) and moments when it should be funnier or more melodramatic.

There is some fine singing throughout the show but the acting does not always match this. However Richard Burkhard is totally in control in all aspects and he steals the show as Sir Despard giving a stylish and commanding performance. Grant Doyle essays effectively the ‘simple farmer and the bad Baron’ and Hal Cazalet has plenty of vigour as Dauntless. Gillene Herbert sparkles as Zorah and Amy Freston brings out some neat humour from her book of etiquette.

Act Two is more successful with a number of delicious highlights which include some witty updated lyrics providing the biggest laughs of the night. There is a touching duet from Anne-Marie Owens and Steven Page and Heather Shipp does what she can with a part that is probably no longer funny.

The Chorus of reluctant bridesmaids provide sterling support and there is some impressive singing from the Male Chorus.
All in all a fresh production if a little too sedate but if you are looking for a tuneful evening there is another performance this Thursday 17 November.

- Richard Woodward