We enjoyed a wonderful weekend of performances with large and enthusiastic audiences. The reception was overwhelming at times; with spontaneous ovations for the entrance of the Peers and after “Loudly Let the Trumpets Bray;” as well as during some of the intricate and lovely choral sections of the Act I Finale; and for Montararat’s and Tolloller’s evident “friendship” in Act II. And there was a hearty and instantaneous standing ovation at the end of each performance. It felt good.
Accolades were abundant for the orchestra, the music in general, the costumes, the scenery, the staging, the acting, and the choreography. Audience remarks included, “inspired,” “magical,” “splendid,” “beautiful,” “and “the best yet.”
I did hear from one person who was disappointed in perceived changes to the libretto. Since we didn’t change one word of the book, and we performed all music as written, I was a bit confused. Then I re-read his note and realized he was unhappy with the costumes. Not their intrinsic design, but the fact that they weren’t exactly traditional.
I realize there is a traditional and somewhat expected view on how G&S productions should look. But the book Gilbert and Sullivan left to posterity contains little to no indication of what actors should wear, how they should move, nor how the production should be staged. It is up to each director to discover these “trappings” for each new production. To me, that is the beauty of theater — especially theater that stands the test of time. It was modern and topical in it’s day and it spoke to it’s audience about their lives and their world. As we re-discover these works I think it is important to also re-discover their original intent and to explore how that message relates to a modern audience. I don’t think everything has to be updated; and certainly not changed simply for the sake of novelty. But I do think we need to find the kernel in each of these works which will speak to our audiences in the here and now. I think the whole point of G&S is to recognize and ridicule ourselves and our follies — to see ourselves and our culture in the topsy-turvy scenarios and characters they’ve concocted. So if I dress the Peers in sharp suits and patriotic ties, it’s to more clearly show them as parody’s of modern politicians; rather than as dusty, antiquated relics in fancy robes from bygone days. And if I dress Strephon as a landscaper, it’s to underline the class divide and to show him as an oppressed member of the working class; rather than as a whimsical shepherd from a nursery rhyme. Most people seem to enjoy these visual commentaries. But I understand when some purists do not. And I am fine with the fact that everyone drinks their own cup of tea.
We did have one review, calling “Iolanthe” a “delightful romp” which was “directed — handsomely — and choreographed — ridiculously.” Huzzah indeed!