Gilbert and Sullivan Players' Utopia Is Decent Overall
Jiri Schindler--The Tech
Governess Lady Sophy (Anita Costanzo) teaches Utopians proper manners in the Gilbert and Sullivan Players' Utopia (Ltd).
Utopia (Ltd.) or The Flowers of Progress
The MIT Gilbert and Sullivan Players.
Stage directed by Joe Sweeney.
Music directed by Jay Lane.
Book by Sir W.S. Gilbert.
Score by Sir Arthur Sullivan.
Starring Sheldon Brown, Anita Costanzo, Holly Teichholtz, and Mario R Sengco G.
La Sala de Puerto Rico, April 19, 20 at 8 pm .By Teresa Huang
The MIT Gilbert and Sullivan Players latest production of Utopia (Ltd.), or The Flowers of Progress, is a somewhat unbalanced production featuring many excellent leads among a crew of near amateurs. Though the singing is on the whole excellent, the acting varies in quality from professional to high school level, which brought the show back from being truly great.
The action takes place on the island of Utopia, an imaginary society in the South Pacific that is ruled by King Paramount (Sheldon Brown). But in reality, he is controlled by the island's two Wise Men, Scaphio (Daniel P. Kamalic '99) and Phantis (Robert W. Morrison '97), who have the power to have the king exploded by the Public Exploder (Mike Bromberg '70) should the King ever abuse his authority. The Wise Men have forced the King to publish a type of National Enquirer publication about himself called the Palace Peeper, which shocks the governess Lady Sophy (Anita Costanzo) so greatly that she refuses his expressions of affection.
Meanwhile, the King's eldest daughter Princess Zara (Holly Teichholtz) returns to Utopia from her five-year college schooling in England and brings with her five flowers of progress, or five members of the English elite, who are meant to improve the social level of Utopia. The first reform deals with recreating the kingdom as a Company Limited, which creates various kinds of havoc on the island.
Much as I've tried to simplify it, the plot is complicated, and it is exacerbated by the fact that there is an underlying political current running through the dialogue that seems to require sufficient knowledge of English politics at the time. England is presented as the real utopia and area of civilization while the land of Utopia is most likely a microcosm for the rest of the world in the spirit of English arrogance.
Holly Teichholtz as the elegant Princess Zara is by far the best member of the cast. Her character is constantly acting and reacting, unlike many of the characters she interacts with. No one in the cast even comes close to her level - her singing and acting are on a Broadway professional level, and her stage presence is terrific. Also excellent are Anita Constanzo as the governess Lady Sophy and the Wise Men played by Daniel P. Kamalic '99 and Robert W. Morrison '97, though it was not entirely clear to me if they were meant to be comic relief or legitimate villains.
While several of the leads have excellent voices - many coming from professional backgrounds - the supporting chorus members were relatively amateur in comparison. Their voices in full chorus are a tremendous force, but many of them looked like they hardly knew what to do with themselves when they weren't singing. Gilbert and Sullivan were also particularly fond of rapidly paced lyrics, unfortunately for us, as the fast lyrics really lost their volume and were barely discernible at times. The orchestra was good but a bit over- enthused as they tended to muddle the lyrics, especially when more than one set of lyrics were being sung.
This production is packed with extremes in terms of good and bad singing, acting, and stage presence. Though there is obvious talent in some of the cast members, because of the inequalities and political plot, I can't say that the production as a whole is completely entertaining. I was almost waiting from scene to scene for the more talented people to come out. Overall, it was a fair show and maybe not representative of all MIT Gilbert and Sullivan productions.