Iolanthe – South Australian Light Opera Society

Iolanthe – South Australian Light Opera Society

With an eye to the future, SALOS assembled a cast with a combination of youth and experience when mounting this production. In a generally conventional interpretation by Director Maria Davis of this satirical observation of 19th century English society, and especially the House Of Lords, there were some additions, including a children’s story style explanatory narrative during the overture, some local topical references in the fairy queen’s solo, and the inexplicable insertion of a wicked fairy into the fairy chorus.

The production sustained the intentions of the original. Gilbert’s wicked humour was clearly presented, and Sullivan’s songs bounced along nicely, led by MD Kate White and her small ensemble. Also, in what can otherwise be lots of pretty static choruses, Deborah Proeve’s choreography got all of the songs moving, led by the elegant dancing of Rachel Lee in the role of Fleta, and a small troupe of able fellow dancers.

As the young lovers, Aled Proeve provided just the right tone of self-effacing decency as the half mortal, half fairy Strephon. In the dialogue his voice and characterisation were spot on, as they were in most of his songs. Playing opposite him as Phyllis, a ward of State, was Danielle Ruggiero-Prior whose lively stage manner and delightful soprano voice made a considerable impact. 

Damon Hill played the Lord Chancellor with restraint and keen humour. The role requires precise diction and Hill definitely has that. He did well in the famous Nightmare Song (Love unrequited robs me of my rest), although at a more studied pace than is often set for G&S patter songsters. As Chancellor, he worked well with the haughty Lords Mountararat, solidly played by Graham Loveday, making good use of his strong and true baritone, and Tolloller, played by Benjamin Fleming with a light touch and his fetching tenor voice. Their trio in Act 2 worked well.

Jemimah Lanyon was a most effective Queen of the Fairies. Her commanding voice and stage presence was a highlight, and, more so than in many productions of this comic opera, she had the required acting prowess to show the Queen’s self doubt when needed. Dione Shantel played Iolanthe with dignity and credibility. She had sound timing in the dialogue and her solo My Lord, a suppliant at your feet I kneel was moving, and made an effective dramatic contrast to the satire and humour of the other characters.

Jason Clark was an entertaining Private Willis, and his commanding bass baritone and comic sense carried the sentry’s song perfectly, to open Act 2.

The principals were well supported by the ensemble of fairies and Peers, and the big choruses such as those ending both Acts, were well tuned and powerful. It’s definitely worth noting, too, that even with a quite deep stage in the Tower Arts Centre, none of the voices were amplified, and in the very good old tradition of using voice projection, the cast ensured that every word of every song came through loud and clear. Credit to all concerned, soloists and ensemble alike.

Importantly, the audience certainly enjoyed the production. Apart from the occasional hesitation and opening night mis-step, SALOS has done well with Iolanthe, yet again maintaining and conveying their love of light opera.

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This production was reviewed by:

David Smith
David Smith
David’s long involvement in community theatre began in Adelaide and continued for some decades in Port Augusta, Whyalla, Kapunda and the Barossa, and for one year, McAllen, Texas, USA. He is a performer, director, writer and former secondary school Drama teacher. He sings in the Adelaide Harmony Choir.

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