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REVIEW: Iolanthe Hilarious, Lovely (GSVLOC)

Sort-of-maybe-star-crossed lovers The Lord Chancellor (Scott Benson), Phyllis (Sarah Wind Richens), and Strephon (Eric Sargent).

2015 was a good year for Gilbert & Sullivan fans in the Twin Cities. In a typical year, they might expect to see just one or two performances; in 2015, they got three: H.M.S. PinaforeThe Pirates of Penzance, and Trial by Jury – the former and latter staged by the Gilbert & Sullivan Very Light Opera Company and the alternate by the Ordway. This year is off to an excellent start with GSVLOC’s rousing production of Iolanthe.

Iolanthe is a political satire; despite targeting the late 19th-century British House of Lords, it’s zingers are still excellent and close to home in the present election. Suffice it to say that the clever libretto makes one wish that more operas were written like this these days. The music is by and large fun and varied, with an added “turn off your cell phones” ditty in period style that set the evening off on just the right tone.

Of the performances, Deb Haas’s rendition of the Fairy Queen was memorable and perfectly hammed; any time she sang was pleasant to hear and side-ripping in delivery. Scott Benson as the Lord Chancellor plowed through tongue-twisters with aplomb; GSVLOC fans might hope for a sing-off down the line with Steve Hendrickson, who played the similar Learned Judge in last year’s Trial by Jury. Other notable performances include Lara Trujillo (Iolanthe), Eric Stephon (Eric Sargent), and Sarah Mehle (Leila).

There is something very comforting about being in a packed theatre with a stage full of people and classically beautifully scenery as they sing beautiful and engaging music with intelligent lyrics that reward close attention, with a full live orchestra. If that sounds like your idea of a good time, a Queen of Fairies might be in your future.

Iolanthe runs through March 20 at the Howard Conn Fine Arts Center, Plymouth Congregational Church (1900 Nicollet Avenue South) in Minneapolis.

Basil Considine