If you have ever enjoyed a Gilbert & Sullivan operetta, Iolanthe is one you should rush to catch before it closes its short run. Iolanthe has a charming story and consistently entertaining music, and it receives a high-quality production in the capable hands of Washington Savoyards.
As the story begins, the Queen of the Fairies (Melissa Kornacki) agrees to lift the banishment of the beloved fairy Iolanthe (Maria Barnes) for the crime of marrying a mortal. As it happens, her half-fairy/half-mortal son Strephon (John Dellaporta) is now a young shepherd who desires to wed the lovely Phyllis (Annie Gill). As Phyllis is a ward of the chancery, however, her husband will be chosen by the Lord Chancellor (Jase Parker). Numerous lords and even the Lord Chancellor himself desire to take Phyllis for a wife and object to her marriage to a lowly shepherd.
The story lends itself well to the droll humor of Gilbert and Sullivan, having fun with themes such as the relationship of the sexes, politics (Strephon winds up in Parliament), personal honor, and the law. The complications are amusing and the requisite happy ending leaves all in good spirits.
All of the cast principles sing well, although Annie Gill’s performance as Phyllis is particularly memorable. Her enunciation is flawless and her vocals soar, especially in her duets with Strephon (“Good Morrow, Good Lover” and “None Shall Part Us from Each Other”). Maria Barnes also has a fine moment with “My Lord, A Supplicant at Your Feet.”
Melissa Kornacki has a wonderfully regal presence as Queen of the Fairies. John Dellaporta has such charm as Strephon it is easy to believe that he is a fairy “from the waist up.”
The real star of the evening, however, is Jase Parker. His expressive performance as the Lord Chancellor is a model of G&S comedic charm. His unforgettable rendition of “Love, Unrequited, Robs Me of My Sleep” rightly drew the most appreciative applause of the evening.
The Washington Savoyards company’s experience handling the canon of Gilbert and Sullivan is evident throughout the performance. The cast handles the witty lyrics with just the right combination of dignity and naiveté towards the often absurd logic guiding their actions. The six fairies are a bundle of fun, thanks in part to Pauline Grossman’s choreography, and the aristocratic peers are equally capable in supporting the story’s amusing momentum.
Director Scott Kenison manages the story capably, drawing fine performances from the cast and handling the large cast numbers well. The production elements are well-done. The panorama of colorful fairy costumes designed by Eleanor Dicks and the bright set pieces of scenic designer Kathryn Pong set an appropriately environment for the light comic story.
Finally, be sure to arrive on time for a treat. Shawn Burke-Stover leads the orchestra in the full overture that manages both precision and color.
By W. S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan
Directed by Scott Kenison
Choreography by Pauline Grossman
Music direction by Shawn Burke-Storer
Presented by Washington Savoyards
Reviewed by Steven McKnight
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