Gilbert and Sullivan seem to have fallen into a storytelling habit and use the same familiar tropes in many of their shows. But so did Shakespeare, so that's no knock on creativity, but more an acknowledgement of using what works. Where Shakespeare often relied on people dressing in disguise, G&S rely on the switched at birth phenomenon that means people aren't who we think they are, leading to a surprise happy ending. In this case, the titular Gondoliers are two brothers in Venice, one of whom is secretly the heir to the throne of the fictional land of Barataria (which seems to be vaguely Spanish). Or are they?! When the parents of the young duchess to whom this crowned prince was secretly wed when they were infants search for the heir to make him King and their daughter Queen, they're surprised at the mess they find. The brothers both act as King (leaving their new wives behind in Venice, evidence of their accidental polygamy) until their childhood nurse can come to identify them. When she finally does arrive, who she points to as the true King of Barataria comes as a great surprise (or at least to anyone who's never seen a G&S operetta before).
|Ryan Johnson, Maggie Burr, Blanka Melbostad, and|
Michael Burton (photo courtesy of GSVLOC)
It always amazes me how they can fit such a large cast on such a small stage at the Howard Conn Fine Arts Center (located in Plymouth Congregation Church in South Minneapolis). The streets and canals of Venice are quite charmingly represented by the two-dimensional set pieces, and there's even a boat that moves in from which characters disembark. The second act sees a transformation to the royal court, with a vaguely Spanish or Moroccan feel (set design by Larry Rostad).
GSVLOC specializes in one composing team, and after 30 years they know what they're doing. If you're a fan of Gilbert and Sullivan, you'll definitely want to check out this company and the fun, light, entertaining Gondoliers (continuing through April 2).