Monday, February 3, 2014

Review: (Toronto) Princess Ida

G, S and the Princess
by Lucy Wells

MADS, the Music and Drama Society of St Anne’s Anglican church, has recently marked its 50th anniversary of putting on Gilbert and Sullivan operettas. In celebration, it is currently presenting Princess Ida.  A light-hearted parody of feminism, women’s education, and Darwinian evolution (that is to say, three of the hottest topics of 1884, when the work was first staged), Princess Ida is classic G&S.

Welcomed by an enthusiastic front-of-house crew, I took my seat in St Anne’s quite spacious theatre and was shocked to find out just how many people are involved in these productions, and how many of them clearly consider this organization a second family. The result was an enthusiastic and well-rehearsed mix of talented amateurs, professionals, and old hands who have clearly performed just about every G&S role out there.

The music director, Daniel Norman, conducted a small orchestra as well as the soloists and large chorus, who had excellent diction (vital in the many patter songs!).  The choreography of Jennie Friesen Garde was generally quite simple and in keeping with the more-or-less medieval setting.  The artistic director, Laura Schatz, kept the flow of the action moving throughout, as well as playing a very funny Lady Blanche – her act 3 costume reveal is a show-stopper.

Princess Ida herself was beautifully sung and acted by Lorelle Angelo, who it must be said, rather out-sang her lover, Prince Hilarion.  Played by Michael P. Taylor, he was a riot in trios with Jay Lambie and Mark Potvin, who had a great buddy dynamic among them.  Hilarion’s father, King Hildebrand, was played by Loris Buzdon, a noble foil to the unpleasant but very funny King Gama, played by Roy Schatz, a founding member of the company. His sons, another trio (but this time comically dumb), were played by Todd Sherman, David Garde, and Adrian Alder. Beth Armstrong was a lovely Lady Psyche and Angela Forbes was a vivacious Melissa; rounding out the rest of the cast were Lisa Dell’Aera, Cassandra Bell, and Heather Friesen as Sacharissa, Chloe, and Ada, members of the women’s university run by Princess Ida. As well as these named roles, I counted 36 members of the chorus. The time commitment to rehearsing so many people must be immense, and my congratulations go out to everyone involved. This is clearly no run-of-the-mill community theatre show.

The production values were also good; the castle and university used the same set with minor detail changes. With an upper level and a staircase running up the back wall, it provided ample opportunity for swashbuckling entrances and exits, as well as a lovely setting for Princess Ida’s opening number addressing the goddess Minerva as her pupils watched below. To my great satisfaction, it was not at all wobbly (I hate a wobbly set!). The lighting design was well done and included a blue sky cyclorama above the set wall, which was very effective. Best of all were the costumes. They made for a cohesive style throughout, and at times added to the fun in their own right; Hilarion and his buddies have a great bit trying on the girls’ student robes and hats, and once again, Lady Blanche’s act 3 costume brought down the house.

I came to this show expecting a good time, but was pleasantly surprised by just how much fun the evening ended up being. This is a well executed production and everyone involved is clearly having a ball; it’s a joy to watch, and it’s on for another week.

Jan. 31 - Feb. 9

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