Written by Ian Taylor, Tarantara! Tarantara! tells the story of Gilbert and Sullivan, their disputes, their triumphs and their failures. Although I’m sure if you spoke to any of the Gilbert and Sullivan fans who saw this show on Friday night, they had no failures. I suppose it would be like speaking to me about Sondheim!
The Savoy Opera Company is celebrating its 70th year in producing the fourteen shows that Gilbert and Sullivan wrote. Tarantara! Tarantara! gives the viewer an insight into all fourteen of the shows. There are some that defiantly out shine the others. I doubt much has changed in the staging of these productions over the years. For the most part, the entire company would just walk out on stage and sing giving us an occasional hand gesture in unison. I believe Simon Gallagher was onto something when he revitalized, The Pirates of Penzance, The Mikado, and HMS Pinafore. I truly believe that in restaging these productions with a bit of energy and imagination that these truly great shows of the 1800’s could draw in a younger crowd, both onstage and off, and be bought back to life.
It is a pity that this company does not use body microphones. There were only two cast members with good enough diction to be understood from L Row, where I sat. Thank you to Andrew Ferguson, who played Sullivan and Catherine Bolzonello, who played Mabel, and Yum Yum, for allowing us to understand the words. The rest of the cast had good and bad songs but on the whole unless I actually knew the number, I found it very difficult to understand what was being sung. The incorrect placement of voices did not help with this either.
In the very poorly set out program, there was more than enough room to give every cast member a bio, and also include what was sung. I was interested in seeing what the brothers, maybe twins, Alister and Hamish Bennie had previously done, but they only garnished a mention on the ensemble page. They seemed full of energy and just needed a chance to shine in their own right. David Campbell, Daniel Carison, and a third cast member I couldn’t find listed in the program, opened Act two with a very entertaining Trio from Patience. Other highlights were Trio from HMS Pinafore, Poor Wand’ring One and Pirate King from Pirates, and Duet from The Gondoliers. Ben Jones had a great role, the non-singing narrator/ stagehand. Together with Nicholas Jensen’s Richard Doyly Carte, and Andrew Ferguson's Arthur Sullivan, these three gentlemen did a great job in adding some much needed energy into this otherwise tiresome production.
Those who love Gilbert and Sullivan this would really enjoy this show, with its old school production values and staging being in full effect here.
To their credit, the company are taking the show on the road for the next two weekends – Dunolly on the 13th of October and Portarlington on the 19th of October.