The Gondoliers – humor and song

Jamie Lyons

The School of Music Opera Theatre presents Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Gondoliers” this weekend in the Choral Opera Room of Moody Music Building.

The shows are at 7:30 p.m. tonight and Saturday and at 3 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets are $5 for students and $10 for the general public.

“The Gondoliers” is the type of show that is typical of Gilbert and Sullivan, said Paul Houghtaling, the director of opera theatre.

“It’s a social satire, a political comedy, pointing out the flaws of the rich … and full of plot twists,” he added.

Houghtaling chose this show based on the strengths and talents of the students he has in the opera theatre program.

“This show has lots of roles, and I cast around the wonderful assemblage of students I have,” Houghtaling said.

The show has a cast of 25 students ranging from freshmen to doctoral students.

He said opera is different and often more complex than other performing arts, which provides a challenge for the students.

“Opera literally means ‘the work.’ It is such an all encompassing art form – dancing, visual, music, design elements, storyline… even poetry,” Houghtaling said. He explained that “The Gondoliers” is considered an operetta because it includes unsung dialogue. Operettas were the precursor to what is considered American musical theater.

With such a complex art form, the challenge lies in paying attention to all of the details, but Houghtaling explained that putting on the show is really a team effort.

“I am always paying attention to as much as I possibly can, but we all rely on each other,” he added.

The cast enjoys working together and the cohesiveness of the group was evident even during rehearsal. Amy Hill, a junior majoring in vocal performance, plays Casilda, and she said the interaction between the cast members is an important part of performing the show.

“Everyone really plays off of each other,” Hill said. “The show is different every night that we do it because of the improvised lines.”

The humorous script is supplemented by spirited and lively performances by the talented cast.

“Some of the characters are so over the top. They really are larger than life,” Hill said. “They are silly, but you can still understand them as people. My character just wants to be with the man she is in love with, which is something that people understand.”

Hill said the most challenging part of this show for her was mastering the British accent. She said that the cast went to workshop classes to perfect their accents.

As for preparation, Hill explained that most of it is done independently. As soon as the cast list was posted in November, the cast members started learning the music on their own.

“Before we start rehearsing together, we pretty much have memorized all of the lines and all of the music,” Hill said.

Rehearsals with the cast started at the beginning of this semester.

For those who are curious about the entertainment value of the show, Houghtaling explained that “The Gondoliers” offers “outrageous humor, unexpected spontaneity, lots of improvisation, operatic style singing and audience interaction.”

The show is performed in English, which Houghtaling said makes it the perfect introduction for those who are unfamiliar with the opera style.