The Southland Time - 16 October 2006

Last Night of Proms a right razzle dazzler

The Last Night of the Proms - Civic Theatre, Invercargill   Reviewer: Lynley Dear

The sun which would never set on the British Empire rose again to dazzle Saturday night's Civic audience in Invercargill at the Last Night of the Proms.

There was razzle and dazzle in equal amounts as the Ascot Park Hotel Brass, under the baton of maestro John McKinley, set the pace for the first half with Kern's No Business Like Show Business on a stage festooned with red white and blue.  Even the jokes from compere Malcolm Gayfer were colour co-ordinated.

BBC Voice of Musical Theatre finalist Tim Beveridge presented a suave Sinatra, and his later showbiz spot accompanied by the Ascot Hotel Brass showed that McKinley and his band can swing with the best of them, with New York, New York - nothing short of raunchy, and Mack the Knife - a real show stopper.

The A Capella Singers, directed by Di Lenihan, delivered harmonic drama with All My Trials and upbeat exuberance in Sunny Side of the Street, followed by diva Judy Bellingham, with Mozart's Figaro, Lloyd Webber's Requiem and that so familiar British Airways ad, the Flower Duet by Delibes.

After interval, in the true promenade concert tradition, the audience was on its feet more often than seated.  Owen Gerrard's artful stage direction gave us tiers of red white and blue and massed choir and band dressed for the Empire (right down to Tim Beveridge's Britannia boxers).

Our venerable Civic shook to Handel's Zadok the Priest from the massed choir, and that proms essential, Elgar's first Pomp and Circumstance March, asserted its right to be highlight of the show.  In this politically correct age, there's nothing quite like standing with more than 1000 people, waving a flag and bellowing Land of Hope and Glory, Jerusalem and Rule Britannia.

A warming aside was Kevin Dell's presentation to veteran musician Hazel Christie, acknowledging 21 years as the band's accompanist - a shining example of the enduring talents showcased at the year's Last Night of the Proms.