Gilbert & Sullivan’s ‘Utopia Ltd.’ Wed 8th March – Sat 11th March 2017
- Director/Producer – Steve Skinner
- Musical Director – Tom Porter
- Assistant Musical Director – Katie Leaver
- Rehearsal Pianist – Carol Griffiths
- HM the Queen of Utopia – Carole Massey
- Lady Sophy – Eleanor Peberdy
- Princess Zara – Jo Hargreaves
- Princess Nekaya –Sophie Hill
- Princess Kalyba – Cara Brimmell
- Prince Paramount / Tarara – Stewart Vick
- Scaphio – Richard Needham
- Phantis – Keith Williams
- Captain Fitzbattleaxe –Michael Ferris
- Captain Corcoran – Michael Hawkins
- Lord Dramaleigh – Iain Waddell
- Mr Goldbury – John Alderson
- Dame Bailey Barre – Jean Chalk
- Calynx – Ben Hart
- Phylla –Roz Chalk
The ruler of an idyllic but backward South Seas island kingdom decides that Utopia needs modernising, ideally along British lines. However, the reforms go way overboard when, amongst other things, it is decreed that the kingdom and each of its inhabitants should become a limited company based on the English “Companies Act of 1862”.
Princess Zara, brings six “Flowers of Progress” back from England to educate the Utopian people in English institutions and customs. But the reforms prove far too successful, which upsets Scaphio and Phantis, Judges of the Utopian Supreme Court, and the entire Utopian populace, who threaten revolt.
Zara realises that an essential element must have been forgotten. Once that is introduced the result is “general and unexampled prosperity” – the required happy ending.
Utopia Ltd, Astwood Bank Operatic Society, Palace Theatre, Redditch, 8 March 2017
A RATHER zany production bearing all the hallmarks of a classic Gilbert & Sullivan creation, Utopia Ltd was towards the last of the pair’s collaborations, and is certainly one of their least well known.
The scene is all set on a paradise island where languor describes the pace of life. Snakes in the grass, Scaphio, played by Keith Williams and Phantis (Richard Needham), both relished in their roles as the wily old wise men who control all the Queen’s actions, while Stewart Vick enjoyed two contrasting roles as Prince Paramount and Tarara, the strangely named Public Exploder, ever ready to blow up the Queen in order to ascend the throne himself..
The elderly Monarch (played very regally and convincingly by Carole Massey) admired all things English which led her to introduce Lady Sophy, a rather straight-laced English lady, played by a sure and confident Ellie Peberdy, as governess to her younger daughters, Nekaya and Kalba. In terms of their enthusiasm, exuberance and singing capacity, Sophie Hill and Cara Brimmell rather stole the show with their excellently cast pairing.
Princess Zara, the Queen’s eldest daughter and assertively played by Jo Hargreaves, has been educated in England and returns home, bringing with her Captain Fitzbattleaxe, with whom she is in love, and five other Flowers of Progress – who epitomise all the qualities which have helped to make England a powerful, happy and blameless country!
This is what makes the classic G&S of course – their ability to take the proverbial mickey out of the English establishment, while weaving the story around a number of whimsical (if sometimes rather lengthy) musical ditties, all so pleasant on the ear. There is rather a large cast to this show, but standout among the Flowers of Progress was Melanie Hart as the somewhat wacky County Councillor Bunty Blushington.
All starts to go a bit pear-shaped when everybody has to become a limited company (yes, honest), but all turns out for the best – of course.
Utopia Ltd allows the costume designers to go mad with colour, while the orchestra is paramount in a production such as this; however under the competent leadership of musical director Tom Porter, there were never any worries on that score.
The modernisation of the show, complete with up-to-date references and competently produced by Steve Skinner, was to be applauded and made for a highly enjoyable evening as usual.