United Kingdom 2016 Gilbert & Sullivan Festival  – Iolanthe: Young Singers and Chorus of the Gilbert & Sullivan Festival Youth production / Andrew Nicklin (director and musical director), Savoy Festival Theatre, Harrogate, 18.8.2016. (RJW)
Gilbert & Sullivan, Iolanthe
George Herbert – The Lord Chancellor
Adam Brown – Earl Mountararat
Oliver Embourne – Earl Tolloller
Giles Longstaff – Private Willis
Samuel Higginbottom – Strephon
Chloe Bartlett – Queen of the Fairies
Ashleigh Hamilton – Iolanthe
Katie Gibson – Celia
Harriet Tyler – Leila
Ashleigh Hamilton – Fleta
Rebecca Barrett – Phyllis
It is always a joy to attend the traditionally-held youth productions at the Harrogate Festival, not only to admire the confidence of these young performers who sang brilliantly (often with mature vibrato), but also from the age of 10 upwards could portray their roles convincingly. These shows are mounted over one week’s intensive rehearsing that has to absorb stage movement and choreography as well as lines and melody. This year the chorus are to be congratulated to have known their routines well and never looked to their stage neighbours to check the timing of their actions; nor look out front ― a habit that even adult performers have a weakness to do.
Especial mention should be made of the chorus of Fairies who opened the show with Tripping hither. Both the quality of singing and steps to some exactly choreography was excellent and set the tone for the rest of the Act.
Phyllis and Strephon (Rebecca Bartlett and Samuel Higginbottom) were well partnered and worked well together in their duet, None shall part us. The Lord Chancellor (George Herbert), resplendent in his robes of office, had a commanding presence and provided good diction in The Law is the true Embodiment. Phyllis soared effortlessly in the lovely Act I finale. Both Adam Brown and Oliver Embourne played the Earls with an appropriate air of aloofness, and Earl Mountararat sang the patriotic When Britain really ruled the Waves superbly.
Private Willis (15-year-old Giles Longstaff) held the stage well at the start of Act II and during delivery of lines aimed his gun threateningly at sections of the audience. An excellent sprinkling of topical jibes included the ‘Remain’ camp and ‘Brexit’ followers which was very much appreciated by the audience and fitted the situation appropriately.
It is not only good to see the next generation embracing some of Britain’s best loved music as a backbone to our culture, but that the G&S Festival is given worthy support to encourage this important musical education to British schoolchildren.
Raymond J Walker