Gilbert and Sullivan still relevant in today’s theatre

Gilbert and Sullivan still relevant in today’s theatre

Guelph Little Theatre presents The Gondoliers 

A conductor flicks his hand and music whirls as actresses flood a Venetian set. The show demonstrates the musical prowess of the opera and entrances the entire audience. Even in rehearsals, Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Gondoliers is riveting, a great feat for a play written well over a century ago.

Librettist Sir William Schwenck Gilbert and composer Sir Arthur Sullivan (G&S) are famous for their comic operas written between 1871 and 1896. Their shows are reminiscent of modern Broadway musicals, performed in English and sung so that, unlike traditional opera, the lyrics are clear.

The Gondoliers concerns a pair of young gondoliers, one of whom — no one knows which — is the long lost heir to the throne of Barataria, a fact they discover when the heir’s young bride arrives in town. To add to the confusion, the two gondoliers are already married — and their wives have their own ambitions of becoming queen.

Karen K. Tran | The Ontarion

That the show can succeed so many years later comes as no surprise to Jane Martin, who is directing the new production of The Gondoliers at the Guelph Little Theatre.

“When you’re doing the dialogue with the cast,” says Martin, “they think ‘oh we should change it for something more modern,’ but when you hear the audience, they laugh at all the old jokes.”

Tom Gould plays the role of The Duke of Plaza-Toro, working smoothly with Oriana Abrahamse as the Duchess to portray an imperfect, but realistic marriage. Gould is a Gilbert and Sullivan veteran, and can vouch for The Gondoliers’ relevance to multiple generations. His grandparents were fans who introduced him to G&S at the age of five, and the beautiful music always pulls him back. The Gondoliers holds a special place in his heart as the first G&S show he ever performed in.

“[G&S] have a lot of social statements in their work,” says Gould. “Although they’ve put them into a ridiculous farce onstage, they still resonate with people. Whether it’s equality, political freedom, or women’s rights — they’re all in [G&S], and those are the things that I think have kept [them] relevant over the years.”

Karen K. Tran | The Ontarion

Guelph Little Theatre up-and-comer Ben Wallace plays Giuseppe Palmieri, one of the gondoliers, in this new production. He navigates the challenging score with ease, and is sure of the show’s success.

“The fullness of the sound and the beauty and the catchiness of the tunes: everybody loves that!” Wallace says.

The Gondoliers plays at Guelph Little Theatre from October 13-27.

Photo by Karen K. Tran