Over its 25 years of existence Opera della Luna has given nearly 500 performances of the indestructible Gilbert and Sullivan comic opera, and this latest run reveals Wilton’s to be an ideal venue for the company’s small-scale approach.
With just eight singers in the cast, there’s some doubling up. Sir Joseph’s sisters, cousins and aunts are reduced to one apiece – plus a band of seven, led with spirit by Michael Waldron from the piano. The show comes over irresistibly; indeed, its skewering of the English class system seems – almost unbelievably, given its date – as pertinent as ever.
Company founder and director Jeff Clarke’s staging places the opera somewhat earlier than Gilbert’s contemporary period (1878), in the Dickensian era; no harm done there, nor in the handful of cuts or the odd addition, notably the company working hard during the overture to rig out the ship before our very eyes.
Vocals are strong, with particularly fetching performances from Matthew Siveter’s lyrical Captain Corcoran, Georgina Stalbow’s engaging Josephine and Louise Crane’s mettlesome Little Buttercup.
Lawrence Olsworth-Peter captures perfectly the note of parody in able seaman Ralph Rackstraw, while Graeme Henderson’s outrageously camp Sir Joseph Porter never goes too far (well, hardly ever). Secondary roles are skilfully handled by Martin George (Bill Bobstay), John Lofthouse (Dick Deadeye) and Carolyn Allen (Cousin Hebe).
Above all, there’s an energy to proceedings that maintains the show’s momentum through its moments of pathos as well as its sharp-edged comedy. The entire ensemble works hard to keep the audience amused – and in that they unequivocally succeed.