The story starts off in Piazzo San Marco, The Florian Cafe in Venice, Italy where every single woman in town is vying for the hands of the handsome young Palmieri brothers, who are both Gondoliers. And even though there are many eligible bachelors around, none of the ladies will commit until they know that the two are married.
The fine ladies, dressed in their elegant gowns, offer flowers to the brothers trying to win their hearts. A game of blind man’s bluff ensues where the brothers are blindfolded and try to choose their future wives in this way, although it seems like they cheated and peeked. Marco (Wes Rambo) wins the hand of Gianetta (Isabel Davis) and Giuseppe (Sam Plett) picks Tessa (Susanne Reimer).
No sooner do they get married that they find out from the Grand Inquisitor of Spain, Don Alhambra (Scott Braun), that the King of Barataria has just been killed and that one of them is the successor to the throne. The thing is that it is not known which one is the prince as they were raised by a Gondolier who had raised the prince and a son of his own but couldn’t remember which was which because he was a drunkard.
In the meantime, they would both rule Barataria until it could be determined who is the true heir. The wives are excited that one of them will be Queen. Their happiness is short-lived as they find out that they will not be able to accompany their husbands or be with them until that time that the King is determined.
At the same time, the Duke (Fred Cross) and Duchess (Cathryn Harrison) of Plaza Toro are informing their daughter, Casilda (Deanna Smith), that 20 years ago they married her to the Prince when she was only six-months-old and that now it’s time for her to meet her Prince and soon-to-be King.
She is outraged and not happy to hear this at all as this arrangement was made without her consent and besides, she is in love with their servant Luiz (Michael Dueck). Nonetheless this was a time, unlike now, where children respected the wishes of their parents and she agrees to go with them to meet her King. Casilda and Luiz reluctantly part ways, realizing they may never be together again.
After being separated from their wives for three months, the brothers have the realization that, “Life is dull without female society.” The wives back home are also longing for their husbands and decide to make the long voyage to Barataria with a group of friends. When they arrive, a banquet and a cachucha (dance) is planned and everyone has a grand time.
At this point, the brothers have promoted all the citizens to the status of nobility believing that all should be equal. This outrages the Grand Inquisitor who exclaims, “When everybody is somebody, no one is nobody.” Quite the profound statement. He’s not impressed with them and the feeling is mutual, as they ignore him as he talks and they decide to go golfing.
So now all the characters are in Barataria where they are all waiting for the one person who knows the true identity of the prince. Inez (Gail Mildren), was the nurse who cared for the two brothers along with her son Luiz, for the drunkard father. What a surprise she has for everyone. The prince is actually her son, Luiz. So, now everyone is happy. The Palmieri brothers can now go back to Venice with their wives and Luiz and Casilda are reunited and are now King and Queen.
Quite the role reversal. The servant of the Duke and Duchess is now King and the Duke must now bow down to him and show him the respect that he thought he was entitled to in the earlier course of events.
And the commoners, the gondoliers, when put in a position of power, actually thought of the welfare of the people. What a concept! Real down to earth people in the government.
A wonderful production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s 12th of 14 comedy operas which opened Dec. 7, 1889 at the Savoy Hotel in London and ran for 554 performances in its first run. The play came to Winnipeg April 21, 1891 and was better received here than when it opened in New York where it was panned and as the review there stated, “It should be called the Gone Dollars.”
The set and costumes were elegant although the setting was slightly updated from the original production to the 1950’s and references were made to the Target store and Budweiser beer. The large cast of 17 actors (with 22 more in the chorus) put on a brilliant performance with their synchronized dances as they breezed through the 22 compositions.
And as is tradition in a Gilbert and Sullivan production, Paddington Bear made a couple of cameos. The first was at the Royal Barataria Golf and Country Club in Act II where he was sitting on the bar. He was also spotted dancing with the cast when they came out for a bow at the end. I wonder if Alfred Hitchcock got the idea to do his cameos in his films from Paddington Bear. Hmmmm!
Photos by Gary Barrington
Photo of Michelle Mourre and Paddington Bear by Doug Kretchmer