Fringe Festival: ‘Foggerty’s Fairy’ is a funny take on a forgotten Gilbert comedy
By Joan Reinthaler
Sunday, July 10, 2011
Looking back, Gilbert and Sullivan are viewed as such an organic team that even the idea of their operating independently might seem more like an amputation than a liberation. But on his own, Arthur Sullivan, in a U-turn from comedy, is still best known for composing such Victorian sentiments as “The Lost Chord” and “Onward, Christian Soldiers” while W.S. Gilbert’s music-less stage farces (even immersed as they are in the spirit of legendary G&S) are largely forgotten.
The Victorian Lyric Opera is remedying this with its romp through Gilbert’s “Foggerty’s Fairy” as part of this year’s Capital Fringe Festival. The venue is the Apothecary across from the Convention Center, the gutted shell of an old store, whose tiny stage area, minimal lighting facilities and logistical challenges added a certain Victorian verisimilitude to its pleasures. “Foggerty” opened on Saturday and, for this G&S fan at least, it was like discovering a new G&S operetta (only without the music).
The plot is pure Gilbert — Foggerty is to be married to Jenny, whose one criterion for a mate is that he must never have loved before (Chopin’s Funeral March sounds as the solemn wedding party assembles). However it seems that, years ago, in Australia, Foggerty was betrothed, for financial expediency, to Delia Spiff who (oh horrors!) is on her way to the festivities.
Foggerty summons his fairy guardian, Rebecca (with striped leggings, wings and roller skates), who assures Foggerty that she will zap all traces of Spiff ever having existed. However, Foggerty will have to live with the unintended consequences — which, it turns out, are many and delightfully funny. Along the way is a best man who, briefly, becomes the replacement groom; a lusty wench who is pursuing her 20th breach-of-promise suit; and groups (if this had been an opera, they would have been choruses) of guests and bridal attendants.
The jokes are familiar G&S fare: “If she won’t believe her own father, whose father will she believe?” The action, even in the confines of this tiny space, is comfortingly Savoy-like and the comic timing of the whole cast is terrific.
Rick DuPuy and Rhea Smirlock were a splendidly melodramatic Foggerty and Jenny. Richard Gorbutt’s Walkinshaw, the best man, was not as vividly drawn as he might have been but properly pompous. Casey Keeler was a delightfully ditsy fairy. John Barclay Burns as Jenny’s father, and Christina Postolowski and Erin Gallalee, as the other inconvenient fiancees, were beautifully cast, as was the rest of the company. Working with minimal resources, director Felicity Ann Brown has scaled and sculpted a fine production.