Utopia Limited

Date 17th May 2018
Society Winchester Musicals & Opera Society
Venue Theatre Royal, Winchester
Type of Production G&S
Director David Tatnall
Musical Director Peter Theobald


Author: Kay Rowan

Utopia Limited as you have never seen it before!  Indeed, it is performed so infrequently many have never seen it.  Winchester Musicals and Opera Society have been invited to perform at the G&S Festival in Harrogate during August so they have worked on a set which can easily be transported.  The Directors David Tatnall and Peter Theobald are to be congratulated for all the little nuances to the story and for allowing all the revised lyrics.  This show was performed during the week leading up to the wedding of the now Duke and Duchess of Sussex.  The Imported Flowers of Progress were replaced by six members of the British Royal Family including Prince Charles and Camilla, Prince William, Prince Harry and Prince Andrew were gently poked fun at much to the amusement of the audience.

The stage crew always rise to a challenge.  Apart from anything else they had to consider packing it up and transporting it to Harrogate.  Deciding on a fixed set with cloth legs but not to be left without something memorable they decided to ‘fly’ a helicopter onto the stage.  All very successful, without a hitch and with very effective sound effects.  From suntan to wigs, costumes to garlands everything was spot on.

Never have I seen a band dressed in Polynesian shirts for G&S - perhaps they had escaped from “South Pacific”.  The band complemented the cast in all aspects.  Very well directed.  The quality of the singing both solo and ensembles was very high.  The tonal quality most appropriate for this style of operetta. 

WMOS are very fortunate to have an extremely talented pool of performers to call upon.  The balance between the principals was exceptional in terms of both dramatic and singing abilities.  The two teams ‘Utopians’ and ‘Visitors’ were easily distinguishable - one set very relaxed the other very stuffy.  No marks for guessing which.

Peter Barber was dominating in his role of King Paramount and his voice made a valuable contribution in the ensembles.  Phantis and Scaphio played by Wesley Buckeridge and Mark Ponsford were outstanding as the comedy duo.  Their timing and comedic actions were spot on. 

Most Savoy operas are based on real-life events and the libretto of Utopia Limited satirises the limited liability company to great effect.  Many of the story lines are as pertinent today as they ever were in the nineteenth century.  Katie Hickson played the role of the English Governess with just the right degree of superiority and sang with clarity.  Suzanne Hall gave everyone a giggle with her portrayal of Tarara.  Her mannerisms both physical and vocal were a delight.

The whole production was of a very high standard and the performance had a freshness not often felt with Savoy operas. I wish WMOS every success at Harrogate and I am so pleased the G&S Festival asked them to perform Utopia Limited.