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The Gondoliers

Wolverton Gilbert & Sullivan Society will always have a special place in my heart. Over 30 years ago (don’t say that too loud) I used to sing with them. During my time, I have been involved with Pirates of Penzance, The Mikado, The Yeoman of the Guard, Trial By Jury and HMS Pinafore. However I never did The Gondoliers so all these years later it feel like I am coming home to be able to review it by my old company.

The legendary Gilbert and Sullivan practically invented comic opera and The Gondoliers is their Italian attempt which is very well-known and has some memorable songs as well as their traditional farce. The story concerns the young bride of the heir to the throne of the fictional kingdom of Barataria who arrives in Venice to join her husband that she was married as a baby to. It turns out, however, that he cannot be identified, since he was entrusted to the care of a drunken gondolier who mixed up the prince with his own son. The two young gondoliers must now jointly rule the kingdom until the nurse can be brought in to determine which of them is the rightful king. When she arrives, she finds that the two gondoliers have both recently married local girls. She is also in love with another man.

The gondoliers are Marco played by Graham Mitchell whose interpretation of the role gave such meriment with his joking and larking about. The other gondolier is Guiseppe played by Roger Whatmore who had women fainting at his feet with his handsome looks and suave manner. These two gondoliers wish to marry and chose a wife each. Gianetta is played by Paula Fraser and Paula portrays her as an extrovert and pushy, but loved-up wife. In fact Paula is an excellent actress and owns the stage when she is on it. Tessa is played by Jo Bigg and is Tessa is a much quieter personality with a great sense of humour. Jo plays Tessa perfectly with her coy movements and shy manner. The duke is played by Graham Healing and he has excellent diction to undertake the role. His wife the Duchess is played by Kim Bennett and she gives a lovely portrayal of the high and mighty Duchess who thinks that common townsfolk should treat them better for their status. Their daughter, Casilda who is due to marry the King, is played by Elizabeth Healing. Her lovely soprano voice is a joy as is her attitude at her imposition of being married off as a baby. Her true love is Luiz, the duke’s attendant, who is played by Luis Orozco and he is perfect in the role as two people in love who are not allowed to be together. Alan Bennett plays Don Alhambra who is the one responsible for investigating who the true king is – Alan’s italian accent is funny and a real joy to behold.

The whole cast ensemble give a great performance and a special mention needs to go to the costume and set designers who have done an excellent job. If you enjoy Gilbert and Sullivan then go and see this. The Gondoliers is at Stantonbury Theatre until Saturday 24 March 2018.

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