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Gilbert & Sullivan opens rare Utopia Limited
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Gilbert & Sullivan opens rare Utopia Limited

by Milton W. Hamlin - SGN A&E Writer

Utopia Unlimited
Bagley Wright Theatre
Through July 25


The award-winning Seattle Gilbert & Sullivan Society opens a rare production of Gilbert & Sullivan's 1893 Utopia Limited. The show opens tonight at the Bagley Wright Theatre, the home of the Seattle Rep, at the Seattle Center. It continues weekend performances through July 25.

Utopia Limited is one of the rarest works in the Gilbert & Sullivan canon. True G&S fanatics wait decades for productions of these rarities and travel great distances to complete their own canon, or cycle, of the works. The Seattle G&S Society has not staged Utopia since 1991, and it might well be nearly another 20 years before it returns. Like the Shakespeare fans who haunt the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and other theaters for rare productions to complete their Shakespeare canon, the Society hopes that G&S fans will turn out in record numbers.

Celebrating its 55th season, the Society is committed to staging all of the G&S works - the most popular and the rarities. It is a brave undertaking in these days of financial uncertainty in all of the arts worldwide to bring Utopia center stage.

All of the G&S operettas were originally very timely, very topical satires. (The most famous satirical lyric in all of G&S is probably, "Stick close to your desk/And never go to sea/And you may be the ruler/Of the Queen's Navy," from H.M.S. Pinafore.) The plot of Utopia focuses on the British banking system of the last decade of Queen Victoria's lengthy rule. As is typical in G&S modern stagings, topical references are updated. The Society is also moving the setting to 1929, on the eve of the stock market crash and the worldwide financial downturn and depression. Flappers, Wall Street and Gilbert and Sullivan - my, oh my, that should be a musical and visual delight.

Dave Ross, one of the Society's most popular performers, returns as the King Of Utopia. The cast of 45 actors/singers features 18 principal characters alone. The orchestra has 29 players. In short, this is a major production. The Society has won several awards in England for Gilbert & Sullivan stagings, and this one has winner written all over it. The plot is the typical topsy-turvy tumble of all G&S works. It's probably best to just relax and let the return to yesteryear wash over you as take your seat for any Gilbert & Sullivan work.

The production runs weekends through July 25, Thursday through Saturday nights the next two weeks. As usual, the Society offers discounted family nights with package prices for the whole family. These three family nights are tonight, July 16, and July 23. Senior and student discounts are available for all performances. The student discount is especially generous - "college age and under."

Ticket information and reservations are available at (206) 341-9612 or at www.pattersong.org, a lovely e-mail address for Gilbert & Sullivan fans. Watch next week's SGN for a full review of Utopia.

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