Utopia is little known but full of big laughs

Linda of London

The Seattle Gilbert & Sullivan Society celebrates its 55th season with one of the British musical comedy team's least known operas, Utopia, Limited. The show opens Friday, July 10, and runs for 11 performances through Saturday, July 25, at the Bagley Wright Theatre, Seattle Center.

The last production I attended was in July of 1991 and was the most hilariously funny and uplifting production ever. Since the Gilbert and Sullivan Society seems to get better each year, this one should really lift all our spirits. Don't miss it.

Utopia, Limited was written in 1893, the 13th collaboration of Arthur Sullivan and W. S. Gilbert. Set in a tropical paradise kingdom, Gilbert pokes fun in his usual manner of the major British institutions, focusing in this show on the financial changes that were occurring in England at the time, and on which American financial practices are based. The King of Utopia (Dave Ross) believes that he can improve his idyllic island kingdom by copying England's financial models. He seeks advice from "consultants" (Gilbert's Flowers of Progress) whom he imports from England.

The plot revolves around the little country reinventing itself as a limited liability corporation. Utopians learn the value of companification (incorporation), contango and backwardation (technical terms of investment), winding up (bankruptcy), liquidation of toxic assets, and the Joint Stock Company Act of 1862. And all of this in rhyme and song!

The satire of 125 years ago is just as biting and funny today as it was then. As usual, the Seattle Gilbert & Sullivan Society's production includes a few updated bits.

Producer Mike Storie, stage director Christine Goff, and music director Bernard Kwiram have brought together an outstanding cast (of 45) including 18 principal roles with an orchestra of 29 for this new production. The cast includes some of the Society's favorites from past productions as well as several outstanding newcomers.

The featured principals are: Dave Ross as the King, William Darkow and Scott Bessho as his Wise Men, Rob Martin as the Public Exploder, Jennifer Hague as Princess Zara, Carla Hilderbrand as Lady Sophy, Meagan Castillo and Breanna Edwards as younger twin Princesses, and the six Flowers of Progress are Parker Albin, John Brookes, Derek Hanson, Nathan Rodda, Wesley Aman, and Phil Parham.

This production includes newly designed sets by Nathan Rodda and costumes by Carl Bronsdon. It is set in the year 1929 for this production.

Performance dates are: July 10-11, July 16-18, and July 23-25. They include three Saturday matinees, and five family nights. (Family nights offer reduced ticket prices for students and seniors, with a question and answer session with the actors and back stage tours after those shows.) Tickets are $32 for the general public. Tickets for people under 25 are $12.

For tickets, call the Society at 206-341-9612 or Ticketmaster at 206-292-ARTS. People can visit the Society's Web site at www.pattersong.org for a ticket order form and more information about Utopia, Limited, the Society, or to order DVDs of their previous shows.

The Seattle Gilbert & Sullivan Society is a nonprofit, community arts organization whose funding is provided by member donations, tickets sales, and local grants. It is dedicated to performing the works of Gilbert & Sullivan and others to the highest artistic standards and offering family entertainment at affordable prices.

See you opening night. TTFN

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