Lamplighters Music Theatre’s “Princess Ida” Review – Sheer Delight

Princess Ida and Prince Hilarian in the Lamplighter's Music Theatre's "Princess Ida"
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There is still an opportunity to see the Bay Area’s acclaimed Lamplighters Music Theatre presentation of their own version of Gilbert and Sullivan’s PRINCESS IDA, in Mountain View on Sunday, February 23. Don’t miss it. 

Sneaking into the women’s college-Hilarian, Cyril and Florian

This production is a delight from beginning to end.  Everything about it was captivating; sets, staging, costumes, lighting, choreography and, most importantly, the beautiful voices and talented actors, all who were perfect for their roles.

The success of this production is largely due to Stage Director and creator of Lamplighters’ unique PRINCESS IDA, the wonderfully creative Artistic Director Emerita, Barbara Heroux, and Conductor is Lamplighters’ highly regarded Resident Music Director, Baker Peeples.  This production was dedicated to Monroe Kanouse in honor of his retirement and “gratitude for his sterling contributions to the Lamplighters as music director since 1966”. He participated in the prize winning performance when the Lamplighters participated in the international G&S Festival in Buxton, England where they won Best Production, Best Overseas Society and other awards. The adjudicator’s remarks in part were, “ This was a remarkable performance which gave pleasure to everyone in the theatre.”  I could not have said this better.

Hildebrand’s Queen, King Hildebrand and King Gama

While PRINCESS IDA may be less known it has, arguably, Arthur Sullivan’s finest score of all the famous operettas he created with W.S. Gilbert.  It is the only Gilbert and Sullivan opera in three acts and the only one with dialogue in blank verse. The plot, however, can be a bit of a conundrum. The opera, based on the poem The Princess by Tennyson, was written originally as a satire on the feminist and Darwinian movements of the late 19th Century. The story begins twenty years earlier when the kings of two neighboring kingdoms signed a treaty that included the eventual marriage of their children – King Hildebrand is the father of Prince Hilarion, and King Gama is the father of Princess Ida. To learn more come to see the show.

Lady Blanche

Originally, the ending, with its defeat of the Princess’s dream of running a women’s university, is not comfortable for modern audiences and performers to accept.  Ms. Heroux went back to the original poem and found a rich love story that argued for a better ending. With subtle changes in dialogue, the characters are allowed to maintain the humor of the original but give us a plot that is pleasing to our 21st Century views.  

Princess Ida

Lamplighters’ production of PRINCESS IDA has received multiple awards internationally for past performances in the U.S. and the U.K.  The script that Ms. Heroux has continued to adapt  makes this production very relevant to 2020.  In a year with so many women running for president, why not have a Princess choose her own path?

The audience visits with the cast following the performance, Photo: B. Keer

The cast is composed of talented and skilled performers. Jennifer Ashworth as Princess Ida inhabited that role with an amazing voice.  Charles Martin as King Gama was just perfect in his role, which was further enhanced by his costume.  The scenes role out one after the next, each better than the one before. Go, and enjoy.


Princess Ida – Jennifer Ashworth
Prince Hilarion – Robert Vann
Cyril – Jonathan Potter
Florian – Ron Houk
Lady Blanche – Elana Cowen
Lady Psyche – Rose Frazier
Melissa – Camilla Leonard
King Hildebrand – Bill Neely
King Gama – Charles Martin
Arac – Robby Stafford
Guron – Pete Shoemaker
Scynthius – Sam Rabinowitz

Photos: Courtesy of the Lamplighter’s Music Theatre unless otherwise noted.

 Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, 500 Castro StreetSunday, February 23 (2pm) 

For tickets please call 650-903-6000 or visit

Bringing Music and Laughter since 1952

Lamplighters Music Theatre is a San Francisco based, non-profit theatre company founded in 1952 to produce the comic operas of Gilbert & Sullivan and other works of comparable wit, literacy and musical merit.

Additionally, we’ve been writing and producing timely spoofs of current events, set to music (mostly Arthur Sullivan’s), since 1979


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