The ingredients for the holiday treat THE SLEEPING BEAUTY OF SAVOY are this: A fairytale (in this case, Sleeping Beauty), performed in Victorian-style Pantomime featuring characters and music from the operettas of Sir W.S. Gilbert and Sir Arthur Sullivan with lyrics adapted by former D’Oyly Carte Opera Company members, Cynthia Morey and John Fryatt, dialog in rhyming couplets, character gender switching, fairy dust and The Ardensingers.
Disney Princess Alert! The characters and story are standard fairytale and totally G-rated. King, Queen, Princess, Good Fairies, Bad Fairies and Handsome Prince. Princess is beautiful, Bad Fairy is jealous, curses are put into motion, Good Fairies do the best they can to protect but it all comes down to a Prince and a kiss to save the kingdom.
The Sleeping Beauty of Savoy is similar in shape and length to that of a G&S operetta (two acts with intermission) and contains many allusions, quotations and other elements which those familiar with G&S find amusing. The authors carefully refrained from too many “in” joke to ensure a general appeal. The Ardensingers take a few extra liberties to update the work.
A reference to Target (pronounced in its pseudo-French form) received a hearty laugh. As noted by the authors, “The characters retain the attributes and idiosyncrasies with which Gilbert endowed them, though of course the relationships and situations in which they find themselves are vastly different.”
The serviceable cast of 24 is supported by a musical trio (piano, flute & trumpet) conducted by Music Director, Helene Furlong. The chorus graciously sings its roles of courtiers, ladies, servants, minions and fiends. King Corcoran, played by former D’Oyly Carte member, John Dennison, provides spot-on G&S flavor. Queen Julia (Nicole Servais) nicely balances hers duties as wife, mother and former actress. Princess Rose Maybud (Marisa Robinson) and Prince Hilarion (Paul Hayward) are charming and sweet. The Fairy Queen (Amy Karash) and her corps of Professional Fairies a/k/a Godmothers (Kaylie Olson, Martha Smylie, Paula Gonzalez) are sublime comedy relief. (The Fairies’ brightly colored, glitter-ridden costumes are a hoot, including Smylie’s decorated air cast.) Evil Fairy, Mad Meg (Ed Emmi) provides the most energy and animation of the production. Emmi takes the stage and audience members eagerly perk up.
For those not familiar with Pantomime, it is a musical comedy presentation, traditionally a fairytale, complete with song, dances, jokes, exaggerated characters and lots of audience participation. Panto is a wonderful way to achieve audience interaction as the audience is encouraged to be vocal. Booing and hissing at villains. Cheering for the heroes and heroines. Clapping and singing along. The audience for the show I attended was a bit shy. It wasn’t until the middle of Act 1 that one brave audience member vocalized for the entrance of Evil Fairy, Mad Meg. The program includes a notation that audience participation is encouraged but perhaps a short warm-up curtain speech could assist in loosening up the crowd.
It’s unfortunate performers couldn’t be heard, either due to lack of volume or diction. Gild Hall can be a large void for some to fill. The use of microphones could help in this instance. Also, I struggled at times to make out lyrics. As a former G&S performer, I know how difficult learning all of the words to the original works can be and how confusing it is to learn adapted lyrics for a modified show once the original is seared into memory. Nonetheless, the show arrived at it goal – toe-tapping, hummable, lighthearted entertainment for all ages the G&S way.
THE SLEEPING BEAUTY OF SAVOY
Written by Cynthia Morey & John Fryatt
Music by W.S. Gilbert & Arthur Sullivan
Stage Director – Michael Carbone
Music Director – Helene Furlong
November 21, 22, 23 & 24, 2013
2126 The Highway
Arden, DE 19810