Contemplating the Gondoliers
The McGill Savoy Society presents The Gondoliers
20 Mar, 2012 2:46
Venice is known as one of Europe’s most romantic destinations largely due to its canals and floating gondolas, beautiful Gothic architecture, and the mysterious masked carnival. “The Floating City” is also the perfect setting for the McGill Savoy Society’s 49th production: The Gondoliers; or, The King of Barataria, which opened on February 10th at Moyse Hall.
The McGill Savoy Society specializes in Savoy operettas which denotes a style of light, comedic opera, pioneered by W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan in the late 19th century. Operettas are often considered the antecedents of modern musicals. The McGill Savoy Society may not have originated in the Victorian Era, but they are the oldest university-affiliated G&S troupe in Canada. The President of the Society, Laura Chuang, describes the group as “students coming from all walks of life, G&S aficionados, and above all, entertainers.”
And entertain they did. The Gondoliers is a romantic and comical mystery involving a pair of dashing Gondolier brothers, Giuseppi and Marco Palmieri. The two brothers are confronted with the news that one of them is the long lost King of Barataria and married by proxy to Casilda, daughter of the Duke of Plaza-Toro. However, the brothers were betrothed to their sweethearts, and Casilda’s favor had already been won over by the drummer boy, Luis. In classic Gilbertian style, the convoluted situation was wrapped up by one simple revelation, and a happy ending was achieved for all.
A prominent feature of this play was the strong presence of the chorus. Gilbert & Sullivan chose to make all the principal roles as equal as possible in The Gondoliers to create a truly ensemble show. “In preparing this production, our lovely, talented cast, has thrown themselves wholeheartedly into the collaborative spirit,” noted director Emma McQueen.
Although the chorus was in perfect harmony, some of the lead actors still owned the spotlight. Stephen Baker’s mellow baritone could melt any Venetian young lady’s heart. His blond curls and Adonis-like features were perfect for the role of Marco Palmieri. Mathew Galloway’s portrayal of the brave, handsome, and sometimes-daft Giuseppi was convincing, but he lacked a certain presence on the stage. With his saunter and ability to spew out lyrics quicker than Jay-Z, Marc Ducusin stole the show as the Duke of Plaza-Toro.
The McGill Savoy Society caters to a niche market of theatergoers, and so those who are used to modern music theater may not be as entertained by their performances. However, it was clear that the show was a labour of love. With perfectly choreographed dance scenes, larger than life costumes, and a gorgeous set, The Gondoliers was pure eye candy.
February is theater season, and it reminds us of how active our theater community is. It is a wonderful thing that McGill has room for such diverse productions, anything from The Gondoliers to The Vagina Monologues. We should take advantage of all the shows, so I encourage you to sit back and enjoy a new musical theater experience.