Sasha Regan's production of Iolanthe has transferred from the Union Theatre to Wilton's Music Hall, but has it weathered the necessary changes in cast, staging and choreography? Yes, pretty much.
Most of the cast have stayed with the production, which has been skilfully re-staged and re-choreographed by director Sasha Regan and choreographer Mark Smith. The magical atmosphere of Wilton's lends itself perfectly to the fairies/peers theme, and the lone piano playing works just as well here as it did in the 50-seater Union.
The star of the production is undoubtedly the extremely watchable Christopher Finn, reprising the title role of Iolanthe with grace and charm. Finn's gorgeous vocal and nuanced portrayal of the fairy ripped from her family due to fairy law (and her duty, a common G&S theme) is thrilling and reason enough alone to see this production. Although some of the intimacy of Iolanthe's reunion with the Lord Chancellor (Shaun McCourt) has naturally been lost in the transfer, the two nevertheless manage to wring lots of emotion from this precious moment. The super-youthful McCourt is also good fun in his patter songs, managing to balance perfect enunciation and comic timing well.
As Strephon, Louis Maskell is an improvement on previous incumbent Gianni Onori, bringing more vocal power and emotional strength to the role, but he sometimes needs to enunciate more clearly in order to be understood in the larger space of Wilton's - unlike Onori, he doesn't have the benefit of an audience literally at his fingertips. Overall, though, Maskell works well in the role and displays good chemistry with Alan Richardson, who makes a strong, sparky Phyllis, perhaps slightly more arch than before but with a vocal that fills Wilton's, as opposed to his all-too-quiet Mabel in Pirates of Penzance just a summer or so ago.
Matthew James Willis (Earl Tolloller) once more anchors the ensemble with his powerful vocal, which somehow manages to both blend with the others and stand out from the crowd. As Lord Mountararat, Luke Frederick is fine, but can't live up to the work of the delightful Kingsley Hall, who played Mountararat at the Union - it's a curious decision to demote Hall to the ensemble, which causes, for those who saw it first time round, a great deal of hankering for his wonderful chemistry with Willis and his super-smooth vocal.
Alex Weatherhill's Fairy Queen is funny and authoritative, and although he can't quite match former Fairy Queen Kris Manuel's unbelievable power on the high notes, he proves to have a much more reassuringly even tone to his voice than Manuel. Weatherhill is supported well by Reuben Kaye as Celia, who manages to wring honest laughs out of just a few lines.
It's also lovely to see Michael Burgen, who played Samuel in Pirates of Penzance, and former ensemble member Joseph Davenport back in a Union G&S production - both show their versatility as members of the ensemble.
Things have certainly changed for Iolanthe, but it's (mostly) all for the good. It's a classy, clever production of a G&S classic that has wit, charm and a great deal of heart.
Read my original review here.