With Gilbert and Sullivan's The Gondoliers, Light Opera Oklahoma presents a charming, fun, hilarious misadventure that could very well be the best of its 2009 offerings.
The musical, which debuted at the Savoy Theatre in London in 1889, is the twelfth comical collaboration (and last great success) between music author Arthur Sullivan and libretto penman W.S. Gilbert.
And yet, despite its age, LOOK's presentation of the musical is anything but tired.
From the beginning, when the orchestra enters the Tulsa Performing Arts Center's small Norman Theatre, dressed as peasants and gondoliers, followed by the 14-piece chorus (seven men and seven women), the show quickly captures its audience. We are enraptured by the show's beautiful music, as well as the stunning performances by its cast, anchored by solid directing from LOOK's artist director Eric Gibson.
The tale is this: Two Venetian gondoliers, Giuseppe (Patrick Howle) and Marco (John Bernard) have their pick of virtually all of Venice's available maidens. They settle on two, Tessa (April Golliver) for Giuseppe and Gianetta (Claire Connelly) for Marco and the four wed.
The Duke of Plaza-Toro (Ron Loyd) and his wife, the Duchess (Dixie Roberts), his daughter Casilda (Jenna Harris) and their servant Luiz (Ross McCorkell) arrive in Venice via turbulent ship ride.
The Duke has come to find the King of Barataria (a fictional island kingdom borrowed from Don Quixote), who was wed to his daughter in infancy and who had been living the life of a poor gondolier, unaware of his social and financial standing.
Unfortunately, although Casilda is enamored at the thought of being a queen, she is more enamored by Luiz and forlorn at being unknowingly married to another man.
Enter Don Alhambra Del Bolero (Christian Elser), a Spanish Inquisitor, to inform Marco and Giuseppe that one of them is betrothed. And since it is unknown who is actually the king of Barataria, both will reign together, and each must leave his new bride.
Because they believe in equality for all, the two model their new monarchy in Barataria after their Republican principals, where every department is equal and every man is the head of his own department.
It's soon discovered, though, that the two kings are doing all the "work"--like running errands for the ministries of state, helping President Obama choose his Supreme Court nominee, working out the kinks in the auto industry and with the economy and keeping up with RiverParks (and thanking George Kaiser for providing the funds).
And although they enjoy this special kind of dictatorship, they worry about not getting enough to eat (ruling as one means they share one ration of food), and they miss their brides, who quickly arrive with the entire wedding party.
The Ducal Party also arrives to claim the king for their daughter.
Finally, the foster mother of the once-infant king is found, his identity is revealed and, unsurprisingly, everyone lives happily ever after.
The Norman is sparsely set for this play, with large columns providing the backdrop for the orchestra and smaller ones sandwiching painted scenes of Venice.
Much of the already small stage is taken up by cabaret seating, allowing the audience to almost intermingle with the singers, who meander freely throughout the entire space.
Loyd, Roberts, Harris and McCorkell all offer outstanding performances as the Ducal Party, each one's comedic timing impeccable.
Loyd leads the group, waving a white handkerchief manically through the air, punctuating every joke with a flourish of fabric.
Harris, whose character speaks with a pronounced lisp, very nearly stole the entire show and had the audience in stitches throughout.
The two male leads, Bernard and Howle, worked in almost perfect synchronization, especially when, as an example of how they would reign equally, they sang together as one person.
And because LOOK always assembles a knock-out cast of singers, even the chorus is deserving of praise, each member easily holding his own alongside the leads. There truly are no small roles in this production; every element of the show leaves you with a smile on your face and a sore stomach from laughing so hard.
Contributing to the laughter is Gibson's incorporating of current events and popular culture into the script, replacing Gilbert and Sullivan's original 19th century satire with something today's audiences connect better with, and it was met with hefty appreciation.
The Gondoliers plays June 28 (7:30pm) and 30 and July 1 (8pm) in the Charles E. Norman Theatre of the Tulsa Performing Arts Center, 110 E. Second St. Tickets are $29 for cabaret seating and $25 for regular seating.
For more information or to buy tickets, go to lightoperaok.com or tulsapac.com.
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