Celebrating the season

Carols in the Reservoir (The Underground Opera Company)

The Spring Hill Reservoir

December 3 – 11

On a steamy Queensland evening, things are much cooler in its underground opera house in the 150 year old water reservoir in Brisbane’s CBD… and not just due to the av backdrop of snow falling, accompanying “Carols in the Reservoir”. The display is quite beautiful, especially in its provision of some stunning imagery in support of classic Christmas songs, which makes for a memorable experience in revel of the show’s exquisite music from some of Australia’s best opera and musical theatre performers.

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From a traditional German ‘Silent Night’ opening, through to the cheesiest of American tunes like ‘The Christmas Song’ (aka ‘Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire’) there is something for everyone, all entertaining. Individually, the performers are excellent; together, the harmonise perfectly in numbers like Irving Berlin’s ‘White Christmas’ and especially Act One’s closer, a mashup of classic numbers including Handel’s ‘Messiah’.

Other breathtaking moments of note include Glenn Lorimer’s stunning ‘Jerusalem’ and Louise Dorsman’s ‘O Holy Night’, full of huge vocal swells and soars. Douglas McRae also delivers a moving, melancholic rendition of the Christmas standard, Bing Crosby’s ‘I’ll be home for Christmas’. There are bright moments too, such as a cheeky call and response ‘Baby it’s Cold Outside’, which, in the hands of McRae and Dorsman, is spirited not just due to the smattering of snow that falls from the rafters. Lorimer’s ‘It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas’ is also full of character, complete with top hat and cane addition. And Ashleigh Maclaine adds catchy musicality to solo numbers like ‘Let it Snow’.

Singalongs punctuate proceedings from the show’s second number. While this adds to the shared enjoyment and community feel, the peppered placement throughout the entire show sometimes compromises the integrity of performances as some in the audience with significantly less vocal prowess, feel the need to join in on more than just the intended numbers. Like in “Opera in the Reservoir”, emcee Bruce Edwards oozes enthusiasm and passion for the company, which is about to head into its tenth year.  When he joins Lorimer and MrRae in rendition of “We Three Kings” it is a jubilant exhibition, especially with glorious Gilbert and Sullivan interjections from pianist Brendan Murtagh.

From the joyful, joyful Hymn of Joy’s gospel to a ‘Jingle Bells’ joined in singalong, there is much to love about the night’s musical program. At times, however, the show’s lengthy between-segment commentaries detract from the momentum of its magic.

The Underground Opera Company has made a unique name for itself by performing in underground venues across Queensland for the past nine years. Due to the brilliant acoustics, magnificent voices and atmospheric venues, any performance becomes one to remember. “Carols in the Reservoir’ is, accordingly, a unique event in celebration of the season, worth adding to your annual Christmas tradition list.

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