February 14, 2013
This past weekend, the Hamilton College Choir’s production of Iolanthe dazzled students and the community with Gilbert and Sullivan’s classic fairy operetta. Directed by G. Roberts Kolb, performances were Feb. 8, 9, and 10 in Wellin Hall.
When the curtain rises, a lighthearted, prancing fairyland unfolds on stage. The scene stales slightly when someone mentions their banished sister Iolanthe, punished for marrying a mortal. The Queen of the Fairies relents and reinstates beloved Iolanthe to fairyhood, and in the process we meet her half-fairy, half-human son, Strephon, and his love interest, Phyllis. Enter the Lord Chancellor and the Peers, with each pompous nobleman eager for Phyllis’s hand in marriage. Needless to say, the trajectory of this love story gets complicated as fantasy and political commentary rumble in Iolanthe.
This musical is largely tongue-in-cheek, and the students pull off the Gilbert and Sullivan comedy with ease. From the beautiful orchestral overture to the satisfyingly goofy final moments, when the ensemble sang in gleeful preparation for fairyland, that is- Iolanthe dazzled. In electrically illuminated flower crowns, the chorus of fairies giggled and skipped. In crowns and fancy capes, the chorus of the Peers paraded and bumbled around self-importantly, fitting for political satire. The entertaining character of these separate choruses nevertheless still showcased brilliantly the talents of the choir. This past weekend, soloists also showed off some amazing talent; audience members found that cast members seemed to have a knack for both comedy and notes that give you chills.
One of the most impressive aspects of this professional-feeling rendition of Iolanthe is that director Rob Kolb and the chorus students prepared this performance in less than a month. Choir members praise his energy and talent in working so quickly and effectively.
Brian Evans, who played the Lord Chancellor, comments, “This year was especially challenging because the choir was working with a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, but the choir took initiative and managed to pull together an enjoyable performance.”
The experience itself was invaluable to team building and group bonding for the choir as they prepare for touring in Italy over spring break. Alexandra Kaplan, who played Phyllis, said, “We have a great group of kids in the choir and the musical acts as a major bonding activity for us as a group of 65 students.” Evans agreed with this benefit of the production, noting that “it brought the individual members together. Every individual began to feel like they were a part of something larger.”