The Savoyards' Princess Ida | Pittsburgh City Paper

The Savoyards' Princess Ida

A few standout performances energize this Gilbert & Sullivan rarity

When a princess foregoes her arranged marriage to start an all-female academy, her father ends up in chains. And her prince has no choice but to storm the academy to find her.

This is Gilbert & Sullivan's Princess Ida, the current offering by the Pittsburgh Savoyards.

In the title role, Samantha DeStefano (alternating with Keeley Bosworth Borland) has a powerful singing and physical presence. However, her spoken lines could be delivered with more volume.

As young prince Hilarion, Sean Lenhar (alternating with Justin Morrison) had a slow start, but once he hits his stride, he sings beautifully and looks every inch a prince. Eric Hayes and Michael Greenstein play Hilarion's best friends, Cyril and Florian. The three have great fun frolicking in the dresses they use to disguise themselves as women to infiltrate the all-female academy. 

Garth Schaffer as Ida's father, the obnoxious King Gama, provides much comic relief to the production. As Gama's sons, Eric Starbuck, Brian Bogovich and Jim Newsome have two great songs and some very funny lines. They could easily steal the show; unfortunately, they lack the self-assuredness to do so.

Deborah Greenstein is delightfully devilish as Lady Blanche, who plots to take over the academy. As her daughter Melissa, Kaitlin Very (alternating with Johnna L. Mernick) supplies spark and energy.

Director/choreographer Patrick Brannan has brought each of the three acts to powerful finales (particularly the end of Act II). And "Death to the Invader," with Melissa and the Ladies Chorus at the top of Act III, is visually stunning. Sadly, many of the other numbers become repetitive, and Act II bogs down.

The orchestra, under the baton of Guy Russo, does a wonderful job. These volunteers (compromised of professional and semi-professional musicians) are a definite plus to Princess Ida.  However, as music director, Russo needs to get his vocalists much tighter on the "patter" portions of songs (a Gilbert & Sullivan trademark).

Robin Kornides' costumes have a very "polyester" look, and the colors are garish. 

Princess Ida is one of Gilbert & Sullivan's rarely performed operettas, so for local G&H aficionados, this production should be required.