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
For Details, Directions and Tickets, click here.
Annie Gill says
Many thanks to Mr. McKnight for a wonderful review! The entire cast and crew are very appreciative of this article. Please come out for a performance of Iolanthe if you haven’t already – there are only 5 left!
Nkemjika Ofodile says
Hiya!! I play ensemble in the show, and we had as much fun rehearsing this show and putting it on as we hope that you all will get from watching the show!! Come out and see us!!
G&S Fan says
How refreshing to see a well written review! Thank you – if only the Washington Post would take the writing classes you took!
I am not a performer like Mr. Dellaporta (who gives a beautiful performance), but I am a huge G&S fan and have followed the Savoyards for years – you are correct Steven in your review. Especially your point that the troupe’s skills with the material shines through. In fact, there is very little I can add that you did not cover. Anyone who appreciates well done theater really needs to get to see this production. Being a DC native, I particularly enjoy supporting Savoyards because they rely on local professionals for their shows. Their past 2 G&S shows (along with their Music Man) have been the best shows they have done in years and I look forward to this trend continuing.
John Dellaporta says
Thanks so much for your generous praise for our show. We have a great time doing it and I’m glad you had a great time watching it!