UTOPIA LIMITED - MAY 2018
DIRECTOR - David Tatnall
MUSICAL DIRECTOR - Peter Theobald
Vocal Repetiteur - Katie Hickson
By Gilbert and Sullivan
King Paramount - Peter Barber
Prince Harry - Simon Meanwell-Ralph
Lady Sophy - Katie Hickson
Princess Zara - Lisa Axworthy
Prince Charles - Adrian Hickford
Prince Andrew - Alan Morgan
Prince William - James Rosser
Scaphio - Mark Ponsford
Phantis - Wesley Buckeridge
Princess Nekaya - Lucy Whiteman
Princess Kalyba - Lyndsay Smith
Camilla - Lorraine Morgan
Tarara - Suzanne Hall
Princess Catherine - Kimberley James
Phylla - Charlotte Upfold
Calynx - Liz Petley-Jones
Female Chorus: Jan Baerselman, Penny Bullough, Zoe Croune, Alexandra Grieve, Louise Hodson, Kimberley James, Amy Leddy, Lorraine Morgan, Denise Truscott, Charlotte Upfold
Male Chorus: John Burgess, Stephen Gleed, Adrian Hickford, Alan Morgan, James Rosser, Charles Quinn
Abby's Heros - Southampton
Awards and Nominations
Regional Finalist - NODA South East - Best Gilbert & Sullivan Production
Utopia, Limited, or The Flowers of Progress opened on October 7, 1893 at the Savoy Theatre. It was the penultimate collaboration between Gilbert and Sullivan and followed a famous legal dispute between them known as the "Carpet Quarrel". Ably directed by David Tatnall, The Winchester Musicals and Opera Society’s production was full of familiar faces for this, the least performed of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Operettas.
Beleaguered and downtrodden King Paramount of Utopia, entertainingly played by Peter Barber, decides that his people should adopt all English customs and institutions and decrees that the kingdom and each of its inhabitants should become a "company limited". Lisa Axworthy, an engaging Princess Zara, styled on Meghan Markle, brings six "flowers of progress" from England to train the Utopian people in "English" customs. But the reforms are too successful and upset the entire populace, causing revolt.
Despite the odd first night wobble this was a funny and relaxed performance laced with well-placed humour and much appreciated by a select audience who particularly enjoyed ‘the colourful scenery’ and ‘excellent singing’.
Cleverly updated lyrics saw the six ‘flowers of progress’ played as members of the current royal family, to hilarious effect and with a topical nod to the Royal Wedding. Humour was also apparent in the excellent costumes, with Katie Hickson playing Lady Sophy as Mary Poppins complete with an umbrella with a parrot’s head handle.
Mark Ponsford and Wesley Buckeridge as Scaphio and Phantis were suitably bonkers as ‘Wise Men’ in contrast to the two very correct Princesses, played by Lucy Whiteman and Lyndsay Smith, who have been educated in ‘English-style’ deportment. Suzanne Hall as Tarara exploded onto the stage with boundless energy and a convincing Welsh accent and no review would be complete without a special mention of the scene-stealing helicopter!
The large cast delivered the group numbers with lively confidence and the whole evening was a riot of feel-good colour and fun.
Utopia Limited as you have never seen it before! Indeed, it is performed so infrequently many have never seen it. Winchester Musicals and Opera Society have been invited to perform at the G&S Festival in Harrogate during August so they have worked on a set which can easily be transported. The Directors David Tatnall and Peter Theobald are to be congratulated for all the little nuances to the story and for allowing all the revised lyrics. This show was performed during the week leading up to the wedding of the now Duke and Duchess of Sussex. The Imported Flowers of Progress were replaced by six members of the British Royal Family including Prince Charles and Camilla, Prince William, Prince Harry and Prince Andrew were gently poked fun at much to the amusement of the audience.
The stage crew always rise to a challenge. Apart from anything else they had to consider packing it up and transporting it to Harrogate. Deciding on a fixed set with cloth legs but not to be leftwithout something memorable they decided to ‘fly’ a helicopter onto the stage. All very successful, without a hitch and with very effective sound effects. From suntan to wigs, costumes to garlands everything was spot on.
Never have I seen a band dressed in Polynesian shirts for G&S - perhaps they had escaped from“South Pacific”. The band complemented the cast in all aspects. Very well directed. The quality of the singing both solo and ensembles was very high. The tonal quality most appropriate for this style of operetta.
WMOS are very fortunate to have an extremely talented pool of performers to call upon. The balance between the principals was exceptional in terms of both dramatic and singing abilities. The two teams ‘Utopians’ and ‘Visitors’ were easily distinguishable - one set very relaxed the other very stuffy. No marks for guessing which.
Peter Barber was dominating in his role of King Paramount and his voice made a valuable contribution in the ensembles. Phantis and Scaphio played by Wesley Buckeridge and Mark Ponsford were outstanding as the comedy duo. Their timing and comedic actions were spot on.
Most Savoy operas are based on real-life events and the libretto of Utopia Limited satirises the limited liability company to great effect. Many of the story lines are as pertinent today as they ever were in the nineteenth century. Katie Hickson played the role of the English Governess with just the right degree of superiority and sang with clarity. Suzanne Hall gave everyone a giggle with her portrayal of Tarara. Her mannerisms both physical and vocal were a delight.
The whole production was of a very high standard and the performance had a freshness not often felt with Savoy operas. I wish WMOS every success at Harrogate and I am so pleased the G&S Festival asked them to perform Utopia Limited.
NODA South-East Councillor
The Society was very proud that our production of
Utopia Limited was featured as part of the
25th International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival.
We performed at The Royal Hall in Harrogate on
20th August 2018.
Great fun was had by all of the WMOS members who attended the festival, and the committee would like to thank all of the cast and crew involved in the show for creating such a memorable night.