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The Gondoliers

Reviewed April 30, 1994; ran through May 1.

Reviewed April 30, 1994; ran through May 1.

The century-old repertory by British satirists W.S. Gilbert (words) and Arthur Sullivan (music) has a dwindling number of protectors. Some companies feel the need to update the action and tamper with Gilbert’s airborne jokes; others fail from an ability to convince today’s audiences of the timeless and pertinent delights these works contain. Richard Sheldon’s 25-year-old, L.A. based Opera a la Carte sails blithely on; last weekend’s “Gondoliers” showed the troupe in top form.

The work itself deserved no less. Gilbert’s barbs at seedy politicians raking in the cash via product endorsement, and at affectations of egalitarian democracy, ring true today; Sullivan’s takeoffs on seedy opera plots (babies swapped at birth, etc.) retain their delight.

And while everybody’s favorite Gilbert & Sullivan operetta is usually whatever the last one heard, the characters in “The Gondoliers”– especially the girls who see becoming a Queen as “getting all that you want to eat” and argue touchingly to save their brand-new marriages — carry a touch of humanness beyond the G&S norm.

Sheldon’s company is peopled with good local singers, an altogether superior bunch this time around, plus one guest star, the grand British veteran Donald Adams as the cannon-voiced Grand Inquisitor.

The troupe takes its name from London’s d’Oyly Carte Opera, the works’ original producer and guardian. In honoring the tradition of the older group — absolute fidelity to the original texts, absolute clarity ofdiction, absolute delight in the zany, timeless humor — the local forces fully honor their ancestry.

The Gondoliers

(Ambassador Auditorium, Pasadena; 1,260 seats; $ 22 top)

Production: Opera a la Carte presents Gilbert and Sullivan's "The Gondoliers," directed by Richard Sheldon, musical direction by Frank Fetta. Cast includes Sheldon, Donald Adams, Carol Winston, Teresa Brown, Patrick Gallagher and Eli Villanueva.

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