Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

 Rivalry strikes the right note


The Grange Players

Grange Playhouse, Walsall


FOR cheering to break out at the end of a particularly long play at the Grange is a rare occurrence, but it was richly deserved by a splendid cast who presented Peter Shaffer's enthralling story with aplomb.

And while the title refers to the famous composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the action is dominated by Ian Eaton, playing the brilliant young man's jealous rival Antonio Salieri, Court composer for the Emperor of Austria in the late 18th century.

Eaton's performance in a play which runs for nearly three hours is nothing short of remarkable, and he even manages to include little bursts of Italian here and there to add to the authenticity.

Set in Vienna, the story suggests that Salieri, a highly successful musician, sees the arrival of Mozart on the scene as a dangerous intrusion by a vulgar young upstart, and sets about undermining him.

Adam Worton is also excellent as the giggling, mischievous Mozart, particularly in the final scenes where, battling against illness, and desperately poor, he dies prematurely after writing his famous Requiem, and Salieri realises, too late, the error of his ways.

Ian Eaton as Antonio Salieri, the incumbent court composer consumed by jealousy of the the upstart Mozart

Eaton excels in all aspects of his towering performance, at times addressing the audience and displaying a range of perfect expressions to suit the occasion. He is totally convincing in demonstrating how - according to the author - Salieri leads the poverty-stricken Mozart to believe he is trying to help him while in fact plotting to damage his exciting career.

Despite promising his Maker to lead a blameless life if his musical ambitions are fulfilled, the cunning Salieri is seen as a devious character who even comes close to adding Mozart's wife, Constanze as a notch on his quill.

Anneka Johnson impresses as Constanze, and Lin Minh Tran is a delight as opera singer Katherina Cavalieri, a very attractive love target for both men.

Other key roles are confidently played by David Stone (Count Franz Orsini-Rosenberg), Terry Atkinson (Baron Gottfried van Sweiten), Alex Barzdo (Count Johann Kilian von Strack) and Christopher Waters (Emperor of Austria).

Period costumes and props, the clever use of harpsichord music which the two men appear, at times, to be playing on stage, plus the stunning make-up of the four rumour-mongering Venticello (Becki Jay, Zoe Maisey, Tomos Frater and, at late notice, Dario Biedma Coleman), add considerably to the enjoyment.

Full marks, too, for stage manager Rosemary Manjunath and her team - all dressed in period costume - for the smoothness and unobtrusive skill of the operation to switch furniture and other props during the action.

This extremely challenging play is superbly directed by Julie Lomas and produced by Rachel Waters. To 19.11.11

Paul Marston 

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