Thespis, Etc. Presents Gilbert & Sullivan’s PRINCESS IDA (or Castle Adamant)

by Lila Achuff

OK, readers, I must admit (shamefully, sort of) that I’m not into operas, not even operettas, but I’m trying to be open to “it”. As I was sitting through (please note my choice of words here) this amateur production, it was with pride that at least I could understand what was going on. I wouldn’t even begin to critique this group’s production … well, we’ll see how it goes. You wouldn’t want me to steer you wrong. It is important to note that this year Thespis, Etc. is celebrating 25 years of performing Gilbert & Sullivan productions. YAHOO! The bottom line is: You like Gilbert & Sullivan, go, enjoy! To think, I was even in THE MIKADO in junior high school along with Santo Loquasto (now well known on Broadway for his set and costume designs in stage and film productions). See, gang, ya never know!

Amy Karash and Regina Florian in a scene from PRINCESS IDA, Thespis, Etc.'s production running through March 6 in Media, PA.

W.S. Gilbert (1836-1911) and Arthur Sullivan (1842-1900) produced 14 comic operas between 1871 and 1896. Gilbert wrote the words; Sullivan composed the music. PRINCESS IDA, the 8th of 14 collaborations, had a run of nine months in London in 1884. The opera that followed, THE MIKADO, proved to remain the most popular. Perhaps you didn’t know that Sullivan was knighted in 1883.

As an operetta, a not-so serious opera, Princess Ida is a satire on women’s education which was just coming on to the scene in Victorian England. Females began attending all-male schools. So poking fun at this controversial subject back then wasn’t far behind. Don’t leave me now…

Princess Ida (Regina Florian, you played her well…enough to shake me up with your most expressive eyes) is the daughter of King Hildebrand (Richard Brenner, you need to toughen up; it’s not the read through before rehearsals…you’re the king! Act like one! Yoo-hoo, Director!) and Prince Hilarion (Joshua Holmes) is the son of King Gama (Bob Beavins, you could have been much funnier; you have the hunchback going for you; yuk it up!) The two “kids” were married when they were two years old! Have an image? Fast forward to their 20’s; they’ve been apart all this time. Go figure… The Princess is off in the countryside of Castle Adamant starting a school for women only. Her husband (?), the Prince, is on a mission to find her and claim her as his wife. Of course, everyone gets in on all the silly action. In this “comedy”, there was one funny moment that you won’t get to experience and I shall call it a wardrobe malfunction…the Prince’s wig came off while he was getting into (or out of) an outfit while he and his buddies were dressing as females in order to enter the school under the pretense of wishing to enroll. His attempt to put it back in place sans a mirror finally made me laugh.

While Princess Ida was determined to be in charge, some of the women enjoyed the presence of “men” once they were uncovered (a pun intended) and goofy though they were. Lady Blanche (Amy Karash, you had your moments) was more interested in taking the head position of the school away from the Princess. Does the Princess give in to her “man” or does she stay true to her cause? I suggest you bring a huge sense of humor to this rollicking, frolicking, bumbling production and leave those high expectations at home.

The 2012 production of Thespis, Etc. is HMS Pinafore. Anyone want to get into the act?

Until the next show…

by W.S. Gilbert & Arthur Sullivan�
Directed by Daniel A. Libby and Ryan Goulden
February 25 – March 6, 2011
Thespis, Etc.
Unitarian Universalist Church Delaware County
145 W. Rose Tree Rd
Media PA 19063

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Petra March 3, 2011 - 11:43 pm

Really, Stage Magazine?

You let someone who knows nothing of G&S write a review of a G&S show? How amateur of you. Why not let an English professor critique the local community orchestra?
To say that I’m disappointed would be an understatement. Granted, Thespis, Etc., is a smaller league of performers, and not a group of people who have majored in Theatre, who have dedicated their lives to The Craft. No, we are, with few exceptions, mothers and fathers, business professionals, scientists, grandparents, retired military, librarians, etc., who LOVE Gilbert and Sullivan. We perform in multiple G&S societies – Ardensingers, Rose Valley, Chester County, and yes, even the Philadelphia be-all, end-all that is Savoy. We do this in our spare time, and for many, at great sacrifice You come to critique us under false pretenses, and that skews your view of us to all who read your uninformed review.

If you truly love live theater, Stage Magazine, do the community a favor, and choose your reviewers carefully. Don’t send a girl to do a woman’s work.
After all, you never know who you might

Jack Shaw
Jack Shaw March 5, 2011 - 9:44 am

As an unbiased observer, don’t you want audience members to try out G & S who are not already in the fold? A reviewer gives a perspective based on their experiences and thus tells the audience the basis for the review and prepares potential audience members for the show. In some ways, she is perfect to review this show; she’s looking at performance–not whether she likes the music and operetta style. If this were a preview, that makes a difference, too, and should be noted.

Good performance is good performance. Lila, not STAGE Magazine, commented on the aspects what she saw that needed to be improved to make it a more dynamic performance for the audience. That’s what reviewers do. Granted, it is opinion, but in this case, based on what Lila said, a Gilbert and Sullivan scholar might have made it worse.

Musicals, including Gilbert and Sullivan operettas, as I’m sure you are aware, have more going on than the music. She chose to comment on the acting, and that, is even an important element in a musical. Songs are not just sung, they are also acted. You can be a great singer and lousy performer if you can’t make the piece live. Be fair to G & S and do it as they intended it and you can’t go wrong. Just ask the scholar.

Even directors get it wrong with us sometimes, but it’s our job. I did a show where the lead actress got panned and couldn’t understand why. She said all the right words and interpreted them properly, but she missed an important part of the character that was crucial to the show. Had I reviewed the show, I might have pointed out the director could have helped her achieve that since she was obviously a fine actress. Just another take.

We reviewers can’t please everyone, but I want reviewers to be honest and up front with me, don’t you? Bottom line, it is opinion–educated and qualified opinion. I’ve raved about a show that someone else trashed; I’ve trashed shows in their initial venue only to see later they took some of what I had to say seriously and improved the show so much, it won at the American College Theater Festival and play the Kennedy Center. I hope what I said in my initial review helped. Part of my review focused on the fact, the soldiers in the play did not know how to hold a weapon in a war zone. I was no expert in reviewing or plays or acting, but I had the experience of having been a Marine so I knew how to hold a gun. Now, I do know about something reviewing, paired with a lot of experience as an amateur and a professional. Sometimes it pays to get an outside opinion–even a critic–before opening night, but you and I know it is often not practical. At any rate, despite Lila’s review, I am still interested in seeing a G & S show again.


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