WOOSTER, Ohio — No matter how many times you see a Gilbert & Sullivan production, the music and the merriment always seem to resonate, especially when staged by Ohio Light Opera. Now in its 35th season, the resident professional company of The College of Wooster has developed an international reputation for excellence in lyric theatre, and its presentation of “The Gondoliers,” directed by Julie Wright-Costa, is just one more example why.
Set in 1750 Venice and Barataria, the storyline centers on the quest to find the son of a wealthy king who was married by proxy at birth to Casilda (Olivia Maughan), daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Plaza-Toro. The search narrows to a pair of fun-loving gondoliers (Marco, played by Stephen Faulk, and Giuseppe, played by Nathan Brian), one of which is believed to be the chosen son of the now-deceased King Palmieri. Only Inez, their childhood nurse, can positively identify which is which, but until she arrives, the Palmieri Brothers agree to rule Barataria jointly, even though neither possesses any discernable leadership qualities.
When their love-starved wives, Gianetta (Tanya Roberts) and Tessa (Sarah Best) travel to meet them, they learn that one of them is not only married to a king, but also a bigamist, having been betrothed to Casilda. When Inez arrives to identify the real heir to the throne, she surprises everyone with a shocking announcement that leaves the Palmieri Brothers on the outside looking in.
Faulk and Brian are exceptionally entertaining as the two gondoliers, while Best and Roberts are equally amusing as the two wives. Meanwhile, Ted Christopher and Sandra Ross are appropriately majestic in their portrayal of the Duke and Duchess of Plaza-Toro.
The Ohio Light Opera orchestra, under the direction of J. Lynn Thompson, is spot on, and the singers are pitch perfect in performing Sullivan’s timeless compositions, highlighted by several fast-paced, staccato-like selections, including the lively “Try We Life-Long, We Can Never” and “There Lived a King.”
Kimberly V. Powers and her scenic designers deserve commendation for an engaging water-color backdrop and a realistic depiction of a gondola moving through a canal, while Amber Marisa Cook merits high marks for her festive and colorful costumes.
Ohio Light Opera has traditionally taken some liberties with G&S scripts to infuse some modern-day references into the dialogue, and Wright Costa has done that in “The Gondoliers” by mentioning President Obama, fracking, and Fifty Shades of Gray, as well as the 35th anniversary of the company, which drew enthusiastic applause from the audience.
Once again, patrons get their money’s worth with another delightfully entertaining production that is certain to add sizzle to your summer. Beginning this week, you can see all seven shows over a seven-day period, or just pick and choose your favorites.
For more information, visit OhioLightOpera.org, or phone 330-263-2345.
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