“The Gondoliers” gears up for opening weekendBy TORI BACHMAN-JOHNSON
After months of rehearsal, singing, dancing, fighting with itchy wigs and upside-down vests, avoiding electrocution and struggling with gondolas, the cast and crew of “The Gondoliers” are ready to take over the Chapel this weekend.
On Friday, Nov. 5 and Saturday, Nov 6. at 7 p.m., the Lyric Theatre Society will present their production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s English opera “The Gondoliers.” Tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for students with ID, while children age 10 and under get in free and receive a Gondoliers coloring book. Tickets can be purchased in The Store or at the door the nights of the event.
This production, directed by Dr. Heather Winter Hunnicutt, has been in the works since last spring when students auditioned for roles and received their parts. After a summer of looking over their music, several months of group practice and a week of dress rehearsals, the opera— which includes a full orchestra and chorus—is ready for its opening night.
Set in 18th-century Venice, “The Gondoliers” centers on two gondoliers, Marco and Giuseppe, played by seniors Michael Cannon and Daniel Ng, respectively. As the opera begins, they are blindfolded and choose their brides from a group of beautiful women. Marco catches Gianetta (junior Victoria Engelhardt), while Giuseppe catches Tessa (senior Sable Floyd), and they run off to get married.
Meanwhile, the Duke and Duchess of Plaza Toro (seniors Chuck Harris and Haley Howard) arrive in Venice from Spain, along with their daughter Casilda (senior Rae Dunn) and the Duke’s drummer, Luiz (sophomore Nathan Van Til). The Duke requests an audience with the Grand Inquisitor, Don Alhambra (Shakir Mackey), and reveals to his daughter that she is married to the son of the King of Barataria. However, the whereabouts of the prince are unknown, because the Grand Inquisitor stole the prince when he was a baby and took him to Venice, where he stayed with a family who had a son of the same age. These two babies grew up to be the gondoliers, Marco and Giuseppe, but only the prince’s foster mother can tell which child is which, and neither gondolier knows that one of them is a prince. To make matters more complicated, Casilda does not want to be married to the prince (now king), because she is already in love with someone else, and Marco and Giuseppe must leave their new wives to jointly rule.
For Engelhardt, this performance of “The Gondoliers” marks her first principal role in an opera at Georgetown (she played the Dew Fairy in LTS’s “Hansel and Gretel” last year). After auditioning for a smaller part, she was excited to take on a leading role as Gianetta. “I’m incredibly glad that I got the opportunity to challenge myself,” she said.
The supporting roles also showcase many talented GC students, including Mackey as Don Alhambra. “My character makes a mess of things,” he revealed before one of several dress rehearsals. Wearing a striking ensemble of all black, including a cape and staff, Mackey revealed that he’d be happy to dress in his costume every day. But, “I’m not at all like my character in real life,” he said. “Well, maybe in terms of how I hold myself in high regard, but that’s it.”
Sophomore Elizabeth Maines also identifies with her character, Vittoria. In her choral role, Maines gets to show off her silly side. “I sing and act like a goofball like I do in any production… it’s pretty fun,” she revealed. Maines forms one third of a love triangle of sorts, along with freshman Brittany Glancy, who plays the role of Fiametta. Though this minilove triangle isn’t a prominent part of “The Gondoliers” plot, it’s a fun background detail that contributes to the comedic tone of the opera.
“The Gondoliers” talent isn’t limited to those on the stage, however;
many skilled students have also been hard at work behind the scenes to make this production happen. Stage Manager Carolyn Seligh and Assistant Stage Manager Audrey Montgomery, both sophomores, work together to coordinate the crew, scenery and props, among other things. “We make a good team,” said Montgomery. “We kind of have the good cop, bad cop thing going on. She’s the good cop, I’m the bad cop.”
Meanwhile, senior Shawn McPeek is behind many audio aspects of the opera. Working the sound board can be a dangerous job, but McPeek has survived multiple instances of electrocution to bring “The Gondoliers” to the stage and ensure the audience can hear each and every performer.
All in all, this semester’s opera is an occasion not to be missed. So, step on board the gondola this weekend and take a ride with “The Gondoliers.”