note: entire contents copyright 2000 by Heleni Thayre
The Boston Academy of Music's "The Gondoliers" redeemed itself in the second act after a strangely lackluster start (Sat. 11/26/00). The cast seemed to have received a sudden much needed infusion of joie de vivre during the intermission. The rousing "Dance a Cachucha, Fandango, Bolero" left no doubt that there was a party going on and it was hard not to clap and sing and dance along. (I was half hoping they'd invite us to do so, especially in the finale!) The colorful orientalist set depicting the kingdom of Barataria and the costumes in flowerlike palette of lilacs, blues and pinks also added much to the liveliness. Gondolier Marco's bride Gianetta (Joanna Mongiardo) was particularly good and has a lovely voice. She was brimming with energy as she and Tessa (Roberta Janelle) quizzed their husbands on how they'd been spending their days as king and she used just the right amount of mugging to convey her awe and eagerness. Marco (Ray Bowens) displayed a pleasant full-bodied tenor and endearing puppyish ways as an eager-to-serve monarch/gondolier. Keith Jurosko, as Don Alhambra, is a strong onstage presence and his song advising the two gondolier kings that "When Everyone is Somebody Then No One's Anybody" was good old-fashioned Gilbert & Sullivan at its best. Over all though, there was less antic posturing and physical playfulness in this production than one has come to hope for in G.&S.
When the duke and duchess of Plaza-Toro (Richard Conrad and Laurie Lemley) and their queenly but speech challenged daughter (Debra Rentz) made their second act entrance decked out in gaudy, feathered royal-rococo (bright yellow with accents of neon orange and chartreuse) it was amusingly over the top. I only wish I could have heard their numbers a little more clearly and that Mr. Conrad, who co-directed the show, had played the part of the duke with a firmer hand. He was unwilling to fully take the comic plunge .
The decision to use what appeared to be the "choreography" from the earlier G.&S. productions may not have been such a wise one. Granted, the silly grapevine steps and kicks and flourishes are part of the original parody but they look so truly idiotic in the year 2000 that it seemed almost a send-up of the send-up. Maybe that was part of the intent, but the net result was also a little dull and repetitious. I longed for more comic creativity. Occasionally though it was so dreadful as to be quite a hoot (and this is not a bad thing.)
Nevertheless it is surprising that the BAMopera is billing itself in the program notes as a full-fledged opera company. The level seemed to teeter between the serious College Light Opera Company at Highfield Theatre on Cape Cod and a really good church basement effort. There were a few excellent performers and a mass of average ones.
An historical note: "The Gondoliers" was the last major collaborative effort for the great masters of operetta W.S.Gilbert and Sir Arthur Sullivan. It was first produced on December 7, 1889 at the Savoy in London.