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The Zoo
Published on Monday, 15 August 2011

2 stars

Paradise in The Vault (venue website)
8-14, 16-21 Aug, 9:30pm-10:15pm
Reviewed by Lee Zhao

 Family-friendly. Suitable for all ages.

The collaboration of Gilbert and Sullivan is one of the most famous in all of opera. But it took a while for the partnership to become exclusive, and before then, Arthur Sullivan worked with other librettists. The one-act operetta, The Zoo, is one such example of a G&S operetta without the G.

Even so, since the music is from a common source, The Zoo sounds a lot like a G&S operetta. It's also got a suitably silly story: during a day at a zoo, an incognito peer tries to woo his beloved by eating all the snacks she is selling; meanwhile a chemist is contemplating suicide after mixing up a gift for his beloved and the prescription for her father.

Arthur Sullivan's operettas tend not have the highest reputation in the highbrow world of opera. I think a main reason is that, because his music isn't particularly challenging to sing, play or stage, many amateur performing companies try their hand at them. Simply put, there are a lot of subpar productions out there. Sadly, this is one of them.

Vocals were regularly off-key, the acting from certain members of the cast was unconvincing, and the movements and choreography were wooden.  The pitter-patter baritone could be better enunciated (and sadly, on the day I attended, had to be cued by the conductor in the front row after forgetting a line).  It's also a very large chorus, at least for a space as small and narrow as the Vault is, and might be improved by a little paring down.

The cast were jugely enthusiastic, and the keyboard playing was a highlight, but these positives weren't enough to save this production. Yes, the show was amusing and I found myself laughing at regular intervals, but unfortunately I can't recommend this particular version of The Zoo.

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