When so much of contemporary musical theater has been corporatized (Beauty and the Beast), sanitized (Mamma Mia!), standardized (Les Miz) and lobotomized (Phantom of the Opera), it's hard not to salute the determination of the Pittsburgh Savoyards in producing the 14 light operas of Gilbert and Sullivan. The Rockies may crumble, Gibraltar may tumble but, dammit!, the Savoyards are going to keep doing what they've always done. Which brings us to their latest production of The Yeomen of the Guard.
I can't claim to be a big G&S fan (I don't have the stamina, for one). But after sitting through the number of Savoyard productions that I have over the years, I can say that Yeomen is my personal favorite. The scads of frippery and folderol in your standard G&S musical are kept to a minimum in this tale of a wrongfully condemned soldier who overcomes big odds to clear his name and win the girl.
These operettas require a boatload of period costumes, wigs and props, played out on a mammoth, intricately detailed set by a huge pool of performers ruthlessly schooled in the exacting — and all but extinct — operetta playing style. Most of that the Savoyards don't possess. (They are a community theater, after all.) Director Chuck Penick stages a workmanlike production which maybe can't ever be said to shine but — and this is a big plus — for most of the evening it doesn't get in the way, either.
As always, I'm happy to note the work of musical director Guy Russo and the full live orchestra under his baton. (It's a treat to see a musical with more than an electric keyboard as accompaniment.) It's also a pleasure to recommend the three female leads: Randi Daffner, Rachel Myers and Gabriela Pascale. (These roles have been double-cast so, depending on when you attend, your mileage may vary.) They all possess beautiful, expressive voices perfectly suited for Sullivan's score, and contribute strongly to the evening. Additionally, Garth Schafer does well playing (and not overplaying) the comedy scenes of Sgt. Meryl.
One down, 13 to go! And then it starts all over again.