Review: McGill Savoy Society presents a “spritely” Iolanthe

Act II Finale of the McGill Savoy Society’s “Iolanthe” at Moyse Hall (Photo: Cai Cheng)

Last night, the McGill Savoy Society opened their production of Gilbert & Sulllivan’s Iolanthe, an overabundance of Sullivan’s catchiest tunes, Gilbert’s sharpest wit, and rock-solid physical comedy from an ebullient cast (plus enthusiastic use of a fog machine).

The plot pits a complement of high-spirited fairies against the stuffy members of the House of Lords when the latter interfere in a romance between Strephon, a shepherd, and Phyllis, a highly-desirable ward of court. Strephon is half-fairy (from the waist up) and the fairies take his side out of love for his mother Iolanthe. Disaster ensues for the state of British politics.

It is a great pleasure to report that this show was captivating from start to finish. Visually, it offered a feast for the eye, with attractive sets, fun lighting effects, and stunning costumes. The engagement of the cast, including the chorus members, was impressive. Each peer and fairy sported their own distinct personality, which made watching them worthwhile at all times (hint: even when the main action occurred between leads downstage). Of the generally good soloists, the imperious Fairy Queen (Olivia Barnes), the pompous Lord Mountararat (Michael Loewen), and Strephon (Aaron Meredith) were remarkably entertaining. Aaron Meredith owes part of his success to his natural execution of Coralie Heiler’s delightful choreographies, which animated several of his scenes as well as the chorus.

Phyllis (Hanna Nes) and Strephon (Aaron Meredith). (Photo: Cai Cheng)

This is highly to be recommended as a child-friendly show. There is lots of colour; accessible, lovely music; and enough recognizable character archetypes that the story will be engaging for them. Though Gilbert included a fair amount of adult humour (actually quite shocking for a Victorian) and political satire (which has remained impressively current), it will go over young heads while amusing parents.

Iolanthe plays again on Sat, Feb. 10 at 2 PM & 7:30 PM; Fri, Feb. 16 at 7:30 PM; and Sat, Feb. 17 2 PM & 7:30 PM at Moyse Hall (853 Sherbrooke St. West, McGill downtown campus). Tickets are $25 Regular / $15 Students & Seniors and can be purchased online or at the door. Note that certain roles have alternating cast members. It is worth the trip, even if you think you don’t care for G&S (I usually don’t).

Give it a try!

Sandra D'Angelo

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