Four-handed crowd pleaser

DRESS REHEARSAL: The four former opera singers look for their costumes to get ready for their comeback performance.
DRESS REHEARSAL: The four former opera singers look for their costumes to get ready for their comeback performance.


Quartet, by Ronald Harwood directed by Jan Francies, The Papermill Theatre at Todmorden Mills, running to June 6.

If you’ve seen the movie Quartet, starring a raft of prominent British actors led by Maggie Smith and directed by Dustin Hoffman, you really haven’t seen the play.

At least not the play that in the hands of the East Side Players at Todmorden Mills now is a bawdy delight.

On stage, Quartet — not so oddly — features just four characters, essayed assuredly here by four of East Side’s most reliable players.

The stage is elegantly static, with three centres representing areas in the musicians retirement home where the former opera singers meet in various combinations to relive the days when they starred in a legendary performance of Rigoletto. Daryn Dewalt, a terrific comic actor, plays the aging Wilfred who still has hopes of a sex life, though he has to settle for, often hilarious, innuendoes. His close friend is Robert Ouellette’s Reginald, who is as repressed as his character name suggests, though he has the odd bawdy moment too. Their foil is the lusted-after but semi-senile Cissy, played to batty perfection by Malorie Mandolidis.

The three are thrown into a tizzy by the arrival at the home of their fourth, the famous diva Jean Horton, who’d once been married — sort of — to Reginald. She’s a bitter, imperious, patronizing work of art, a role Jane Hunter seems to revel in. (A tongue-in-cheek note in her cast biography says “Jane would like to thank all the little people, none of whom she knows personally of course” in the production.)

Plans are hatched, over Jean’s objections, for the foursome to reprise their performance as the Rigoletto quartet at a concert put on at the home to mark the birthday of Giuseppe Verdi, or “Joe Green” as a running joke has it.

As the group lurches through personal crises and failed rehearsals, a double doubt raises in the audience’s mind: can these characters get it together in time and can these non-singing actors really pull off an operatic performance?

The personal issues are wrapped up in somewhat facile fashion. But the solution to the second problem brings down the house.

You may not leave the theatre humming the hits of Joe Green, but you’ll leave with a big smile on your face.