The editor of Wee Review, a wise and clever man, looks up from his typewriter, his pipe clenched firmly between his teeth. “This might be one for you, Scratchmann,” he barks, indicating a dogeared press release, and, your intrepid reviewer, who is famed in seven counties for his indefatigable dedication to research, duly wanders cluelessly to Greenside Venues and settles in the front row of a show he knows absolutely nothing about.
Serendipitously, however, Admiring La Stupenda turns out to be a theatrical tour de force and redefines the possibilities for one-man-shows for all Fringes to come. Written and presented by Daniel Somerville, a rather portly and self-confessed Opera Queen, it commences somewhat inauspiciously and looks to be a fairly lighthearted lecture on opera in general and the coloratura soprano, Joan Sutherland, in particular.
This, however, cannot be further from the truth and for the next hour we are regaled with a heartfelt and highly emotional performance which takes us through opera, infatuation, isolation, sexuality and some beautiful personal memoir, although how a middle-aged man wrapped in a duvet and lip-syncing to a dead opera diva can make the hairs rise on the back of the neck and reduce your reviewer to tears is – as yet – totally unexplainable.
A landmark extravaganza for all for opera nerds, this show is equally a total must-see for anyone who has ever felt isolated and alone or wanted to be transported out of a life of mundane routine to the dizzy heights of ecstasy that only music can induce. Imaginatively staged with a minimum of props and atmospherically lit, Somerville owns his stage with sly wit and a physical grace which is not at all duck-like (a reference which will become crystal clear after viewing the show) and Admiring La Stupenda is, in this reviewer’s opinion, the best show of this year’s Fringe to date.