The Pittsburgh Savoyards brings its season to a close with a colorful — and long-delayed — Pittsburgh premiere.
The rarely seen Utopia Limited or The Flowers of Progress was the 13th collaboration between Gilbert and Sullivan. The 1893 musical comedy is set on a small island nation in the South Pacific that in every way is trying to make itself like Great Britain. Not only do the Utopians want to emulate British customs and fashion, but they also want to follow the "new" practice of limited-holdings companies.
Immediately, the backdrop by set artist Alyssa Ruggiero creates a tropical atmosphere. Its saturated colors are lush and reminiscent of Gauguin's paintings of Tahiti.
Leon Zionts gives a memorable performance as King Paramount the First, a role tailor-made for his outstanding singing and comedic talents.
As Princess Zara, Samantha DeStefano looks and sounds every inch a royal. Her rich voice fills the Carnegie Music Hall. And during Act II, she is most eye-catching in a stunning red gown from costumer Robin Kornides.
Daniel Arnaldos plays Zara's love interest, Captain Fitzbattleaxe. Arnaldos plays the dashing British officer to perfection, and begins Act II with the very funny "A Tenor All Singers Above."
As the villains Scahio, Phantis and Tarara, Jack Mostow, Michael Greenstein and Gregory Patrick wear ghastly wigs and bring much of the comic relief to Utopia Limited. Unfortunately, Mostrow and Patrick are often hard to hear.
As the English governess Lady Sophy, Robyn Peterson shows great range both musically and emotionally, particularly in "When But a Maid of Fifteen."
Director Robert B. Hockenberry has staged a spectacular Act I finale in which Justin Morrison shines as Mr. Goldbury. Morrison is also a part of a stand-out Act II number "Then I May Sing and Play?" along with Jillian Martini and Mia Bonnewell (as Zara's younger sisters) and Christopher Neff (as Lord Dramaleigh).
As always, the Pittsburgh Savoyards Orchestra under the baton of Guy Russo is a delight.
Some important information: Many of the roles are double-cast, with different performers depending on the date. Also, Utopia Limited is not for the faint of heart: This production runs nearly three hours.