Eastbourne G&S Society, 51 years young this year, has a perfectly simple mission statement: “We keep Gilbert and Sullivan alive!”
Well, in this week’s production of The Gondoliers at the Devonshire Park Theatre, the mission is vibrantly achieved.
Essentially English but crossing musical boundaries, rooted in Victorian society but full of perennial truths, Gilbert and Sullivan has enduring appeal.
It’s a daft and outlandish plot, of course, with some impossible twists.
Gondoliers with royalty thrust upon them, babies switched at birth – but the company takes nothing too seriously.
A fifteen-strong band under Pat White sets the mood, and we open on a splendid Canaletto backdrop: a visual delight, brightly lit and richly dressed.
The familiar tunes tumble out one after another: solos, quartets, patter songs, dance and chorus numbers.
An engaged, likeable chorus brings a wonderful flurry of life to Dance a Cachucha and gives strong support throughout.
But this is a show for a huge range of soloists and cameo parts.
Adrian Samuel and Christopher Peck, an improbable little and large as the lovable Gondolier brothers, play off each other skilfully, and Adrian’s Take a Pair of Sparkling Eyes is a fabulous vocal highlight.
Their brides Tessa and Gianetta – Lucy Sarsfield and Victoria Langley – are a delight, acting and animating their songs rather than blandly delivering.
Trevor Allen is a lugubrious Don Alhambra, and the quartet of penniless Spanish aristocrats (don’t ask) is wonderful: Paul Eccles matchless as a kind of camp Roi-Soleil Duke, formidable Duchess Alison King, with the stunning voice of Rowan Stanfield as a quite haughty daughter Casilda, falling for Tim Archer’s bagman Luiz, who just might turn out to be a Prince...
Wendy Dovey directs cannily but also inventively, and the whole show has an irresistible buoyancy. Watch it, and you will wear a smile from start to finish.
Runs until May 11.