BGSU singers show age can’t dull musical barbs of Gilbert & Sullivan

The
cast of "Princess Ida" sings during a dress rehearsal the the BGSU Wolfe Center. (Photos: Shane
Hughes/Sentinel-Tribune)

Much has changed since
"Princess Ida, or Castle Adamant" opened in a steamy summer in 1884 in London.Certainly our ideas
about science, specifically evolution, and the education of women have advanced. But the appeal of the wit
and wordplay and clever musical pastiche of W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan remains unabated among fans of
light opera.Bowling Green State University voice performance students will stage "Princess Ida"
Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. in the Marjorie E. Conrad Choral Room in the Wolfe Center for the Arts on
campus.The production is the annual light opera staged by voice students. This is the seventh such show,
said director Liz Pearse. This is the third year graduate student in contemporary music’s first shot at
directing.The shows have always been by Gilbert and Sullivan. Given the shoestring budget for the shows, the
Victoria-era musical team’s appeal is clear. The scores lend themselves to being played with a "greatly
reduced orchestra" – a horn, a couple woodwinds, a few strings and piano.But the casts are large giving
a lot of students a chance to participate. Then there’s the "catchy tunes" that help bring in an
audience.This is the first time in the chorale room at the Wolfe Center. Indeed "Ida" is the first
staged production in the space. Some recitals have been held there in addition to rehearsals.In previous
years the show has been staged in the Wooster Center, which now serves as home for world percussion
ensembles.

Patrick Scholl performs during the dress rehearsal of "Princess Ida" at the Wolfe
Center.

The setting brings the audience in close. Chorus
risers are used to provide some theatrical terrain. The costuming is minimal and the setting spare. That
puts the focus squarely on the performances.The show opens with nuptials in the offing for Prince Hilarion
played by Patrick Scholl. He and his father King Hildebrand, played by Benjamin Laur with a broad cowboy
accent, are told that his bride Princess Ida will not be coming.She has started a college for women, who
have all renounced the company of men. Enraged Hildebrand imprisons her father King Gama (C.J. Barrett) and
his trio of soldiers Michael Moyseeno, Tyler Dohar and Craig Rowley.Hilarion and his companions played by
Christopher Jackson and Kenneth Pickard head out to the castle to force the issue, entering the female
sanctuary dressed as women.There we meet the princess ( Stephanie Tokarz) and her community of scholars.
Named roles are performed by Maegan Pollonais, Amy Grams, LeTara Lee, Brittany Belew, Anya Freedman-Dona and
Rachel Kowalski.One scholar is disciplined for bringing chessmen who do indeed "mate" to campus
violating the admonition against relations with men. Another is scolded for drawing a baby buggy.In
"Towards the Empyrean heights," they assert that man remains an "ape at heart.""Man
is nature’s sole mistake," they sing.In satirizing women’s education, which at the time was still a
novelty, and the theory of evolution, the show runs afoul of current sensibilities. "That can be a
tricky topic," she said. Still with minor edits, the cast "tried to keep the spirit of the
show" and the many musical punch lines in place.