The Pittsburgh Savoyards Present “Princess Ida”

Reviewed by George B. Parous

The Pittsburgh Savoyards became the latest local troupe to return live theater to audiences last night, when the first performance of their current production of Princess Ida entertained a fair-sized crowd at the Carnegie Music Hall in Carnegie. There was a great deal of enthusiasm on the stage and off, and the colorful Gilbert and Sullivan three-act comic opera was brought to life by a large and lively cast who overcame some “first night” glitches, and doubtless will be even more successful in the remaining performances.

Tiffany Meyers (Princess Ida) with Lisa Dunlap, Megan Kelly, Mia Gallo, Inara Manzetti, Savanna Simeone, Kate Manuel, Kira Varela, Deborah Geary, Kat Bowman, Elizabeth Partee, Jennifer M. Davidson, and Sarah Schultz

The large ensembles and concerted numbers were the highlights of the performance, with some standouts in the leading parts. Tiffany Meyers, in the title role, made her first appearance with the Savoyards, and a very favorable first impression she made, indeed. The part of King Gama’s daughter allows for a fine display of her singing abilities, and she delivered the spoken dialogue in a voice as “Princess-like” as could be imagined. As Lady Blanche, Sally Denmead came close to stealing the show, singing and acting her role with a brilliant comedic flare. Even in moments of repose, her facial expressions and head-to-toe “once overs” were priceless. Corey Nile Wingard was one of the strongest vocal assets to the cast, in the role of King Hildebrand, and that character’s brief appearances made one wish he had more to sing.

 Jordan Speranzo (Hilarion), Ben Nadler (Cyril), and ALex Policicchio (Florian) 

The two groups of three comic characters played their parts with obvious delight and enthusiasm. Jordan SperanzoBen Nadler and Alex Policicchio were King Hildebrand’s son Hilarion and his friends Cyril and Florian, respectively. They were a lively and tuneful trio, eliciting much laughter, especially in their female disguises at Castle Adamant, and they received hearty applause at the final curtain. Eric SchafferDon Neuhaus and Gerry Neuhaus played Princess Ida’s three brothers, Arac, Guron and Scynthius, and the “We are warriors three” group amused by their deadpan singing and acting of the not especially bright and easily defeated bunch.

Robert Hockenberry (King Gama), Kate Manual (Lady Psyche) Kat Bowman (Melissa) Lisa Dunlap (Sacharissa) Elizabeth Partee (Chloe) and Savanna Simeone (Ada) rounded out the cast in roles of varying sizes. Some of these parts will alternate to different Savoyards on other performance dates. Since they provided some of the best singing of the evening, it would not be fair to leave out that the “Chorus of Girl Graduates” included Leslie ClarkJennifer M. DavidsonDeborah GearyMegan KellyInara ManzettiSarah Schultz and Kira Varela. The Chorus of Soldiers and Courtiers – Martin AtschulAdam BirchLogan NewmanCraig Yankes and Myles Zuckerman – also added color to the performance and deserve mention as well.  The accompanying photographs can say more of the staging and costumes than any attempt on my part.

Tiffany Meyers, Don Neuhaus, Eric Schaffer, Gerry Neuhaus, Jennifer M. Davidson, Megan Kelly, Adam Birch, and Myles Zuckerman

Congratulations are in order to the entire cast for keeping things together as tightly as they did despite the orchestral support they received from Conductor Guy Russo and his musicians. From the opening overture until about the middle of the second act, the accompaniment was rather rough, and raising the volume to make some of the lighter voiced cast members more difficult to hear did not seem like the best solution. However, halfway through the performance the quality of the orchestra’s playing improved dramatically, and stayed more or less on an even keel for the remainder of the performance. Opening night jitters sometimes strike below the stage as well, and doubtless will fade with repetitions.

For those looking for a fun show, reasonably priced, in a picturesque area of town that offers a number of pre-show dining opportunities, Princess Ida is highly recommended.

For full production details, a complete plot synopsis, remaining performance dates, tickets and more, visit The Pittsburgh Savoyards.

The Production Team for Princess Ida – 

Music Director/Conductor, Guy Russo; Stage Director, Michael McFaden; Assistant Stage Director, Sean Lenhart; Production Manager, Lynette Garlan; Production Stage Manager, Andrea Lisiak; Technical Director, Robert Hockenberry; Lighting Designer, Garth Schafer; Costume Designer, Ellen Rosen; Properties Designer, Lara Rogers

Photography – Lara Rogers

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