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The Gondoliers - Gilbert & Sullivan Society of Western Australia

Reviewed by Jordan D'Arcy

 

The Gondoliers is an operetta, one of fourteen by Gilbert and Sullivan. The style rides the line somewhere between contemporary musical theatre, pantomime, and opera.


The minimalist set was perfect for the style and allowed the gondola to slide in behind the main set for actors’ entrances. In particular, the water reflection on the bottom of the upstage wall (lighting design by Don Allen) sold the idea that we were on a Venetian pier.


Blake Houlahan has done an incredible job in his role as musical director. The eighteen-piece orchestra was perfect, and although directly between the audience and the stage (as is the standard for Gilbert and Sullivan productions) the sound balance was generally very good. It is also clear that the ensemble has been drilled on their music – the vocals throughout the whole show were solid. There were a couple of roles that are generally filled by men that were played by women in this production, and the only gripe I could have is that as a result of not having enough male voices some of the harmonies did not quite have the full rounded sound they would have ordinarily.


The cast was strong for this production, although there were some particular standouts. Zac Porter as the Duke for one, with a very distinct character throughout every scene. Cynthia Pickering as Luiz was very good (especially given I believe she only gained her voice back after being unwell in the last week or so), and took on a more difficult task of a male role. Emma Hazell as Casilda had a beautiful stage presence and often stole her scenes. Mathew Leak and Theodore Murphy-Jelley were a solid comedic relief duo, both with outstanding vocals.


There were a few moments where it was hard to believe that the women of Venice were as enamoured with the leads as their lyrics suggested. It felt like much of this had to do with the sheer concentration happening in order to execute the choreography – very few of the actors seemed to look at each other during their time on stage, and it gave the impression that the characters did not really have relationships with anyone else in the scene. There were also a couple of instances where modern mannerisms or choreography drew me out of the suspension of disbelief otherwise built into how era-appropriate the other elements of the show were.


The costumes in this production (Gail Reading, Veronica Hudson, Jenny Dawson, and Janet Vinsen) were striking and perfectly era-appropriate.


Director Paul Treasure has done an excellent job of collating a talented group of performers, and it is evident how hard the cast and crew have worked to put this production together.



Reviewer Note: Due to the potential of a perceived conflict of interest, the production team was contacted and permission was granted for this reviewer to attend on behalf of Theatre Reviews Perth. Tickets for this review were provided by the theatre company.

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