2024 – Utopia Ltd

Utopia Ltd.
NODA Report

Director: Richard Straw
Musical Director: Ken Matthews
Choreographer: Glynda Blackburn

I do love seeing the groups within my district challenging themselves, and St Andrews Operatic Society certainly did that with their most recent show choice, Utopia Ltd, another of Gilbert & Sullivans comedic tales. I didn’t know a thing about the show when I appeared, it’s one of their lesser performed operettas, but I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed myself!

It’s a satire of Limited Liability Companies and the concept of a bankrupt company being able to leave creditors unpaid without any liability on the part of the owners, as well as reflecting party politics, privatisation and press obsession with Royalty. Remind you of anything – the concepts are just as relevant today as when it first opened in 1893. It was the second to last of their fourteen collaborations and written at a time when there was noted conflict between the two. As such the libretto has not had the usual editing and fine tuning being a significant challenge for St Andrews. They presented a reworking of the show which was relevant, accessible, hilarious and certainly the audience on the night I attended thoroughly enjoyed it.

Musically I love what St Andrews do consistently. They presented a well controlled, balanced beautiful 17 piece orchestra under the direction of Ken Matthews, a superb and always modest Musical Director. You do so much more than “wave your arms around” Ken! Absolutely wonderful to see and hear, I admit I miss hearing the National Anthem to start off performances with many groups considering it “old hat” but I loved it. Thank you for your hard work. All of the vocals were well rehearsed and impeccable.

I especially enjoyed the “Society has quite forsaken” number which stood out for me.

There was a gender switch with instead of King Paramount, we had Queen Paramount played by Kathy Price and I cannot think of anyone more perfect for the role. Regal, brilliant timing and a wonderful singing voice she regaled us with her wonderful performance. The entire ensemble were well costumed and engaged the audience throughout, with very precise movement during the ensemble pieces. The wise men, played by Richard Straw and Andrew Cunningham were very animated and kept us all well entertained with their antics. The never aging Bernie Trotter played the Princess Zara beautifully, her grace and poise on stage is always notable accompanied by a beautiful singing voice. Her expressions and engagement with Captain Fitzbattleaxe played by Gavin Jarvis were fabulous. The “Flowers” were very well caricatured by Paul Blakey as Captain Sir Edward Corcoran, Edward Bradshaw as Mr Goldbury, Keith Armitage as Sir Bailey Barre KC and Glynda Blackburn as Dr Sophie Blushington and kept the audience engaged with their antics.

Princesses Nekaya and Kalyba were played very well by Anna Maria McCloskey and Jen Bradshaw respectively who even managed to speak in complete perfect union, which is surprisingly difficult!

It was a satirical, relevant and hilarious performance to watch, thank you St Andrews, I really enjoyed it!

Author: Helen Abraham