Durham Savoyards, Ltd. Director Derrick Ivey Sets Gilbert & Sullivan’s “Princess Ida” in Outer Space

The "Princess Ida" cast includes (from left) Carl Johnson as Prince Hilarion, Steve Dobbins as Florian, Ben Neufang as Cyril, and Lee Galbreath as Princess Ida
The "Princess Ida" cast includes (from left) Carl Johnson as Prince Hilarion, Steve Dobbins as Florian, Ben Neufang as Cyril, and Lee Galbreath as Princess Ida

The "Princess Ida" cast includes (from left) Carl Johnson as Prince Hilarion, Steve  Dobbins as Florian, Ben Neufang as Cyril, and Lee Galbreath as Princess Ida
From left: Carl Johnson as Prince Hilarion, Steve Dobbins as Florian, Ben Neufang as Cyril, and Lee Galbreath as Princess Ida

The Durham Savoyards, Ltd. will present a gala production of Princess Ida, or Castle Adamant, an 1884 comic opera with music by Sir Arthur Seymour Sullivan (1842-1900), MVO, and libretto by Sir William Schwenck Gilbert (1836-1911), on March 24-27 in 1,016-seat Fletcher Hall at The Carolina Theatre in downtown Durham, NC. Triangle theater veteran Derrick Ivey will direct and choreograph the show, and Alan Riley Jones will serve as music director.

“The Durham Savoyards perform the entire Gilbert and Sullivan canon,” notes director and choreographer Derrick Ivey, “so I knew Princess Ida was coming up. Even after eight years of directing [Gilbert and Sullivan], I’m still a bit of a novice; and I try to keep it that way.

“In order to avoid a predictable or derivative staging,” Ivey says, “I purposefully avoid seeing or reading the librettos until they’re about to be produced. So, I first read Princess Ida last spring, just as The Mikado was going into production.”

Derrick Ivey reveals, “I’ve chosen to set this production in Outer Space. We’re taking mid-[20th]-century science-fiction movies as our inspiration. The script actually lends itself beautifully to this concept, but it has opened the floodgates in terms of visual possibilities. So our set, props, lighting and costume designs are wildly inventive and unrestricted by any previously conceived notions of how the production should be staged.

“Another challenge is that of coordinating such a large cast in a production which is mostly sung,” adds Ivey. “Staging for singers is very different from staging for a straight production.

“Placement on stage affects vocal blend, and breath control must be taken into account when creating choreography and blocking. This is something I’ve taken to heart and to which I’ve devoted much attention over the past eight years. That said, we have a lot of movement and a constantly changing stage picture. So, [Princess Ida] should be as pleasing to the eye as it is to the ear,” Ivey says.

According to Princess Ida director and choreographer Derrick Ivey:

“Princess Ida (Lee Galbreath) and Prince Hilarion (Carl Johnson) were wed as infants, and now have no memory of each other. Ida is certain she has no use for Hilarion, whereas Hilarion holds steadfastly to the idea that he is in love with Ida.

“The production opens 20 years later, on the day the bride and groom are to meet and finalize their wedding vows. Their warring fathers King Hildebrand (Jim Burnette) and King Gama (John Adams) have counted on the union to maintain the tenuous peace which exists between their kingdoms.

“Unfortunately, Gama arrives without the Princess, and reports that she has sequestered herself within an all-female university, where she and her students shun any interaction with men. Enraged, Hildebrand imprisons Gama and his sons (Richard Dideriksen, Kent Parks, and Scott Sino), holding them hostage until Ida honors her marriage vows.

“Meanwhile Hilarion and his friends Florian (Steve Dobbins) and Cyril (Ben Neufang) make their way to Ida’s university to try and convince her to accept Hilarion as her groom. Once there, the three disguise themselves as women in order to gain entry to the university … and further complications ensue.

“Other characters include Ida’s jealous nemesis Blanche (Evelyn McCauly), her daughter Melissa (Kate Farrar), and Florian’s sister Lady Psyche (Emily Byrne), who has also joined the women’s university.”

In addition to director and choreographer Derrick Ivey and musical director Alan Riley Jones, the Durham Savoyards, Ltd.’s creative team for Princess Ida includes producers Karen and Charles Guidry; technical directors Joe Cohn and Bobby Cameron; set designer Richard Dideriksen; scenic artists Tony Alderman, Charles Guidry, and Richard Dideriksen; lighting designer Chris Bernier; costume designers Karen Guidry and Diane Woodard; hair and make-up designer Pam Guidry-Vollers; properties managers Kara John and Katherine Zeph; and stage manager Donna Cavallo.

Derrick Ivey says, Act I of Princess Ida will take place on the observation deck of King Hildebrand’s spaceship, and Act II and Act III are both set on Princess Ida’s planet. “It will be a blast,” he claims.

“We have a wide range of lighting effects,” says Ivey, “from intergalactic starscapes to other worldly skies. Special effects include teleportation and flying saucers.”

He adds, “As in many mid-[20th]-century sci-fi movies, we are looking forward by looking back. While everything has a futuristic slant, [King] Hildebrand’s court draws on Medieval and Renaissance influences, while Gama’s look is somewhat Roman and Ida’s university draws influences from ancient Greece.”

Derrick Ivey adds, “As with all of the Gilbert and Sullivan shows, I love both the history and the immediacy of the work. While the original [Princess Ida] was performed over a century ago, the themes and the characters remain relevant to a contemporary audience. Princess Ida boils down to a battle of the sexes. But it also includes political maneuvering and the threat of war. While there is a decidedly humorous slant to these serious themes, I certainly think they are relevant to a modern audience.

“I’m always fascinated and appalled at how most conflicts boil down to a ‘team’ mentality,” Ivey admits. “For whatever reasons, we always seem to root for the home team without bothering to step back and try and assess the situation objectively. And team loyalty can drive us to crazy extremes. This is true in politics, religion, sports, and almost any other school of thought.

“My school, my church, my country are always and indisputably right, and the opposing view can always be damned,” Ivey says. “Again, Princess Ida is very light-hearted in its treatment of this ‘team mentality,’ but it lampoons the absurdity of this way of thinking.

“Veering back from that little personal aside,” says Derrick Ivey, “I have to comment on the music in Princess Ida. I think it’s one of the most lovely and diverse scores [Gilbert and Sullivan] produced. Some of the selections are quite operatic, and others are charmingly silly and tuneful.”

The Durham Savoyards, Ltd. present PRINCESS IDA, OR CASTLE ADAMANT, at 8 p.m. March 24 Preview, 8 p.m. March 25 and 26 and 2 p.m. March 27 in Fletcher Hall at The Carolina Theatre, 309 W. Morgan, St., Durham, North Carolina 27701.

TICKETS: $15 general admission ($10 children 11 and under) and $25 reserved seats ($22 students and groups), except all tickets $10 for March 24th preview.


Carolina Theatre Box Office: 888/241-8162, 919/560-3030, or http://www.carolinatheatre.org/tickets.

Ticketmaster: 800/745-3000 or http://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/114779/1134478.

SHOW: http://www.durhamsavoyards.org/current/.

DIRECTOR’S BLOG: http://derrickivey.wordpress.com/.

PRESENTER: http://www.durhamsavoyards.org/.

VENUE: http://www.carolinatheatre.org/about-us/venue-descriptions.

DIRECTIONS/PARKING: http://www.carolinatheatre.org/plan-your-visit/directions-parking.


Princess Ida, or Castle Adamant: http://diamond.boisestate.edu/gas/princess_ida/html/index.html (Gilbert and Sullivan Archive at Boise State University) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Princess_Ida (Wikipedia).

Gilbert and Sullivan: http://www.gilbertandsullivansociety.org.uk/ (Gilbert and Sullivan Society), http://diamond.boisestate.edu/gas/ (Gilbert and Sullivan Archive), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gilbert_and_Sullivan (Wikipedia).

W.S. Gilbert: http://wsgilbert.co.uk/ (W.S. Gilbert Society) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W._S._Gilbert (Wikipedia).

Arthur Sullivan: http://www.sullivansociety.org.uk/ (Sir Arthur Sullivan Society) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_Sullivan (Wikipedia).


Robert W. McDowell is editor and publisher of Triangle Theater Review, a FREE weekly e-mail theatrical newsletter that provides more comprehensive, in-depth coverage of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill theater than all of the other news media combined. This preview is reprinted with permission from Triangle Theater Review.

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To read all of Robert W. McDowell’s Triangle Theater Review previews and reviews online at Triangle Arts and Entertainment, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/robert-w-mcdowell/.

By Robert W. McDowell

Robert W. McDowell is a Raleigh, NC-based freelance writer, editor, and critic. He has written theater, film, book, and music previews and reviews for The News & Observer, The Raleigh Times, Spectator Magazine, and Classical Voice of North Carolina, all based in Raleigh. In 1980-91, he covered business, industry, government, and education for (We the People of) North Carolina magazine, published monthly by N.C. Citizens for Business and Industry. In April 2001, McDowell started Robert's Reviews, a FREE weekly e-mail newsletter that provides comprehensive, in-depth coverage of the performing arts in the Research Triangle area of North Carolina, which includes Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, and Carrboro. Triangle Review is the latest-and-greatest version of McDowell's original newsletter. (To start your FREE subscription, e-mail robertm748[at]aol.com and type SUBSCRIBE TR in the Subject: line.) From December 1980 until September 2017, McDowell served on the board of directors of The Cinema, Inc., a Raleigh-based nonprofit film society formed in 1966. He currently publishes a weekly list of FREE advance screenings of movies in the Triangle area. (To have your e-mail address added to this FREE list, e-mail robertm748[at]aol.com and type SUBSCRIBE FFL FREE in the Subject: line.) McDowell also co-edited and supervised the production of Jim Valvano's Guide to Great Eating (JTV Enterprises, 1984), a 224-page sports celebrity cookbook; and he served as a fact checker for Valvano: They Gave Me a Lifetime Contract, and Then They Declared Me Dead (Pocket Books, 1991).