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Setting “Princess Ida” in Outer Space Pays Big Comic Dividends for the Durham Savoyards, Ltd.

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

On March 24-27,  The Durham Savoyards, Ltd.’s gala presentation of Gilbert and Sullivan’s 1884 comic operetta, Princess Ida, or Castle Adamant, blasted off at The Carolina Theatre in downtown Durham, NC. Brilliantly relocated from a couple of drafty castles in Victorian England to Outer Space by imaginative and resourceful director and choreographer Derrick Ivey, Princess Ida refought this uproarious chapter in the Battle of the Sexes in a visually striking futuristic setting cleverly conceived by set designer Richard Dideriksen and his fellow scenic artists Tony Alderman and Charles Guidry.

Princess Ida also featured a passionate performance by Lee Galbreath in the title role of the protofeminist princess who emphatically rejects her arranged marriage to Prince Hilarion (jocularly portrayed by Carl Johnson) and chooses instead to pursue a college education at an all-female university that she establishes at Castle Adamant. When the princess’ chagrined father King Gama (John Adams) informs Hilarion’s prideful papa King Hildebrand (Jim Burnette) of Princess Ida’s decision, the indignant Hildebrand decides to invade Castle Adamant and force Princess Ida to honor the marriage contract negotiated 20 years ago, when Prince Hilarion and Princess Ida were still infants.

While Jim Burnette and John Adams are strutting and fretting hilariously as two old friends-turned-bitter adversaries, Prince Hilarion and his friends Florian (Steve Dobbins) and Cyril (Ben Neufang) boldly sneak into Castle Adamant and don women’s clothing to get a closer look at the beautiful but headstrong princess, who is locked in her own battle for control of the women’s college with abstract science professor Lady Blanche (Evelyn McCauly).

There is much to-ing and fro-ing and sprightly accompaniment and spirited singing, under the guidance of music director Alan Riley Jones; and Richard Dideriksen, Kent Parks, and Scott Sino provide considerable comic relief as King Gama’s bellicose but bumbling sons Arac, Guron, and Scynthius, respectively. All in all, the Durham Savoyards treated their growing region of fans to another jaunty rendition of a classic comic opera with music by Sir Arthur Seymour Sullivan (1842-1900), MVO, and libretto by Sir William Schwenck Gilbert (1836-1911).

SECOND OPINION: March 26th Durham, NC Independent Weekly review by Byron Woods (who awarded the show 1.5 of 5 stars):; March 25th Raleigh, NC Classical Voice of North Carolina review by Kate Dobbs Ariail:; and March 23rd Durham, NC Herald-Sun preview by Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan:—Ida-?instance=main_article (Note 1: You must register first to read this article). (Note 2: To read Triangle Arts & Entertainment’s online version of the March 21st Triangle Theater Review preview by Robert W. McDowell, click






Princess Ida, or Castle Adamant: (Gilbert and Sullivan Archive at Boise State University) and (Wikipedia).

Gilbert and Sullivan: (Gilbert and Sullivan Society), (Gilbert and Sullivan Archive), and (Wikipedia).

W.S. Gilbert: (W.S. Gilbert Society) and (Wikipedia).

Arthur Sullivan: (Sir Arthur Sullivan Society) and (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 review is reprinted with permission from Triangle Theater Review.

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1 Response


  1. Critical Mass | Director's Blog — Gilbert and Sullivan's "Princess Ida"