The Gondoliers, currently being presented by The Victorian Lyric Opera Company at the F. Scott Fitzgerald Theatre in Rockville, Maryland, is a valiant interpretation of Gilbert and Sullivan’s last great success. Directed by Catherine Huntress-Reeve and music directed by Joseph Sorge the cast and musicians keep up with the beautiful score both in appropriate action and full-bodied sound that you would expect from a Gilbert & Sullivan opera.
The story itself revolves around Casilda, the daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Plaza-Toro, who was wedded to heir of the throne of the kingdom of Barataria at a very young age and may only ascend the throne as soon as everyone involved (including the rightful King) figures out who she is married to. She arrives with he farther and mother in Venice to meet her husband and begin her reign only to discover that the Grand Inquisitor of Spain (Don Alhambra Del Bolero), who was responsible for the infant prince of Barataria, placed the prince in the care of a Gondolier who had a son of the same age. The two boys grew up together and became the greatly sought after and admired Venetian Gondoliers of all the single young ladies of Venice. Just prior to Casilda’s arrival both Gondoliers (Marco and Giuseppe) have decided to marry women chosen through a game of blind man’s bluff. When Don Alhambra discovers the infant wedding of Casilda and the gondolier king, he attempts to untangle the mess, but in revealing to Marco and Giuseppe that one of them may be king, they reveal they are already married. To solve an unforeseen problem, Don Alhambra sends both Marco and Giuseppe away to rule on an island without the women while sending Luiz, an employee of the Duke of Plaza-Toro to search for the foster mother of Marco and Giuseppe who can resolve the matter and determine who is the rightful king. Confused yet? So is everyone in Venice! Have no fear, all will be resolved, there will be a very rewarding happy ending, and it is very satisfying once you get there, but you will not find it here! (Because we don’t give away endings!)
When the curtain goes up on both acts it reveals a stunning set designed by William Pressley. The moving gondola is impressive all on its own! The costume design by Denise Young is spectacular, especially with the number of cast members in the chorus and the impressive costumes for the Duke and Duchess of Plaza-Toro, Casilda and Don Alhambra. The choreography by Helen Aberger was appropriate for the show, the stand-out dance number comes in the second act and is a pleasure to watch.
Overall, the direction by Catherine Huntress-Reeve is well done and solid. There are several moments where the sheer size of the chorus overwhelms the action on the stage, in particular, around the selection of the gondolier’s brides-to-be and their departure. The music direction of the orchestra was sensational, however, with such a large orchestra and a lack of mic usage of the actors there were several moments throughout the show where it was difficult to hear the actors above the music and it was more than necessary to rely on the written words above the stage to understand the words, pulling focus away from the action on the stage.
The ensemble of chorus and leads as a whole was powerful and rich-sounding. When full-cast numbers or moments occurred, it was thrilling to say the least. There were several stand-out performances that deserve a special mention. The Duchess of Plaza-Toro, performed by Jenellen Fischer, had perfect comic timing, magnificent facial expressions and beautiful vocals. Tessa (the wife of Giuseppe), performed by Amanda Jones, was a breath of fresh air on stage with perfect reactions and truly believable characterization. Giuseppe Palmieri, performed by Jacob Mason, for someone who’ s bio says “has had an episodic love affair with the theater” should consider making it a more serious relationship! Mason was overall the strongest male vocal on stage, with body movements and facial expressions that worked perfectly with the action or song on stage.
For a production with such epic ingredients, the Victorian Lyric Opera Company pulls it off almost flawlessly. The cast appears to have fun performing the show and the audience loves it – what more could you want? Oh, right, to find out who is king. Well, to do that, you have to get yourself out to the F. Scott Fitzgerald Theatre and see Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Gondoliers now playing through the first weekend in March!
Running Time: 2 hours and 20 minutes with one intermission.
The Gondoliers plays through March 3, 2019 with the Victorian Lyric Opera Company at the F. Scott Fitzgerald Theatre— 603 Edmonston Drive in Rockville, MD. Tickets can be purchased by calling the box office at 240-314-8690 or by purchasing them online.