At the Saturday matinee of Iolanthe, I finally filled my punch card— I've now seen the Seattle Gilbert and Sullivan Society's productions of all 13 G&S operettas. The Society does them in more or less regular rotation, hitting the popular The Mikado and HMS Pinafore slightly oftener. (My guess is The Yeomen of the Guard should be up next summer.) Their Iolanthe is typical of their considerable strengths and slightly-more-than-niggling weaknesses.
IOLANTHE Seattle Repertory Theatre, Seattle Center, 800-838-3006, pattersong.org. $16-$40. 7:30 p.m. Fri., 2 & 7:30 p.m. Sat., 2 p.m. Sun. Ends July 28.
In the former column: a fine company of regulars—Dave Ross, William J. Darkow, Alyce Rogers, John Brookes; an endless supply, it seems, of charming sopranos for the ingenue roles (this time, Hayley Gaarde); a set designer, Nathan Rodda, who always provides for pretty stage pictures out of what must be a severely limited budget (one word: bridges); a costume designer, Candace Frank, who does the same (Rogers, as the Fairy Queen, looked like a cross between a Valkyrie and a marshmallow sundae); and best of all, a deep love for these operettas as G&S left them, giving them bright and imaginative but never self-consciously updated stagings. You get the impression they'd rather lose a limb than cut a line of dialogue or a bar of music.
In the other column: occasional pacing and diction issues and some dicey goings-on in the pit. Which, however, didn't seriously compromise the delights of Sullivan's score.
In Iolanthe, Gilbert took pure fantasy and X-Acto-knife political satire and set them to collide head-on, sending a fairy—well, half a fairy, the shepherd Strephon (Brookes)—into Parliament to wreak havoc. But the climax turns from farce to pathos when Strephon's miscegenating parents finally reunite: Rachel Brinn, as the title character, gets one of Sullivan's most heartrending arias, and Ross, as the periwigged Lord Chancellor, shows he can handle drama as expertly as comedy.