Young Vic's 'Iolanthe' is a cool delight

July 12, 1993|By Stephen Wigler | Stephen Wigler,Music Critic

It's hard to think of a better way to beat the brutal summer heat than the Young Victorian Theatre Company's production of Gilbert & Sullivan's "Iolanthe." Nicely sung and played and charmingly staged, it may be the nearest thing to a breeze in Baltimore this week.

The Young Vic has been doing G&S here for nearly 20 years, but this "Iolanthe" is the best thing I've seen them do in the in the 7 years I've been attending its performances.

Certainly, the audience at the Bryn Mawr School loved it -- delighting even in its enthusiastically corny references to the neighborhoods of Roland Park and Guilford and to the travails of Maryland Governor William Donald Schaefer.

"Iolanthe" possesses one of G&S's most far-fetched plots -- it's about the relationship between the fairies and the peerage in England -- but Gilbert's witty verses about the hypocrisy of politics continue to score bullseyes and some of Sullivan's most pellucid music is in this piece.

The excellent cast included Mark McGrath and Frances Garcia as the young lovers, Strephon and Phyllis. McGrath, who performed this role in a Young Vic production seven years ago, showed real identification with this role and made it charming indeed.

Garcia, a young soprano with a beautiful voice, sang with a convincing sense of style and made the most of the comic dialogue with the two Earls -- played to perfection by David Martosko and Gary Leard -- who court her.

Steven Goodman, another Young Vic regular, was hilarious as the Lord Chancellor who tries to twist the laws of which he is the protector so that he might marry Phyllis. Goodman's energy never lagged in his several patter songs and he had the physical grace -- he sometimes reminded one of Cyril Ritchard -- to make the comedy more than purely musical. Christine Thomas was an equally engaging Queen of the Fairies and Charlotte Anderson made a beautiful Iolanthe, fairy mother of the half-human Strephon.

In somewhat smaller parts, Greg Geiger, Caroline Widegreen, Tracy Adler and Charlene Gross were all suitably charming.

The orchestra was intelligently conducted by Cyrus Ginwala and Leard (who directed this production as well as played Tollover), scenic and lighting designer Gregg Hillmar, choreographer Denise Mayer and costumer Christine Darchicourt all showed that one doesn't need a big budget to put together convincing musical theater.

THEATER REVIEW

What: 'Iolanthe'

Where: Young Victorian Theatre Company at Bryn Mawr School

When: 8:15 p.m. on July 15, 17, 22, 23 and 24. Also at 3 p.m. on July 18.

Call: (410) 323-3077.

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