“The Gondoliers” is one of Gilbert and Sullivan’s most celebrated and successful operettas, and the G & S Society of SA did it proud as their celebration of 70 years of bringing these wonderful, satirical, improbable and frequently delightfully silly works to Adelaide audiences. And the faithful turned out in droves to hear the familiar lines and tunes, chuckle at the familiar jokes, find the occasional topical insertion and check how it compared with how it was done last time and whether it measured up to expectations.
It was clear from their reaction that this traditional production filled the bill very adequately. It is presented with competence and skill by some excellent seasoned performers, and some very fine young and up-coming ones. Barbara Turner’s direction gave us few surprises in a well coordinated, well rehearsed, visually delightful, dramatically competent and musically satisfying whole. Musical Director Ian Boath maintained fine balance between the pit and the stage, and was in full control of his sizeable and well balanced orchestra which did not contain too many instances of the unfortunate aberrations, such as a suggestion of flatulence from bassoon or trumpet, that often appear in amateur pit orchestras. The rhythmic complexities which occur in some of the pieces were well controlled.
Hazel Green’s choreography was fitting and executed smoothly, and Ole Wiebkin’s sets were imaginative and well used by the large cast, and the costumes were superb.
From the first curtain raise, I had the feeling that this cast knew what it was doing. There is a long overture during which we were treated to Venice awakening, before the chorus of love-sick maidens enters, lamenting the shared love by all 24 (or15 in this case) for the two eligible brother gondoliers. The long and the short of it, Paul Talbot (Marco), and David Lampard (Guiseppi) played these parts with élan, and sang with very fine voices, satisfactorily matched with Alexandra Stubberfield (Gianetta) and Gemma Gibson (Tessa). However, the words from the boys were a lot clearer than those from the girls, whose vibratos tended to cover the words, thus losing some of the Gilbertian subtleties. Gondolier voices were particularly shown off in David Lampard’s crisp rendition of the patter song “Rising Early in the Morning”, and Paul Talbot’s beautiful “Take a Pair of Sparkling Eyes”.
The voices of Alicia Jedrzejcak and Timothy Wilson were perfectly matched as Cassilda and Luiz (who was eventually revealed as the king, so it was all alright), while experience clearly showed in the performances of two of Adelaide’s favourite veterans of the stage, Bev Shean (The Duchess) and Richard Trevaskis (The Duke of Plaza Toro). They both frocked up, made up, and played up a treat in this jewel of duo roles.
Other notable performances and clear diction came from Timothy Ide as Don Alhambra, and Susan Brooke-Smith as Guilia. But a voice to be watched, and heard more is that of Stuart Benson, who was delightful in “For the Merriest Fellows are We” – his only solo. We could take more of him.
All in all, a joyful romp, showing the Sullivan Music is as fresh as the day, and the Gilbertian humour can still retain its sharp satirical wit.
Gilbert and Sullivan Society of SA Inc. presents
W.S. Gilbert and Sir Arthur Sullivan
Venue: Union Hall, University of Adelaide
Dates: 22 - 26 May 2007
Bookings: BASS on 131 246