Love takes on every form and shape, but leaves the audience with a smile in Santa Barbara Civic Light Opera’s “Triumph of Love.” The Central Coast Premiere production is a masterful blend of music, humor and old-fashioned love that is recommended for everyone looking for an uplifting evening with a group of very talented actors and all the laughs you can take.
While the beginning took a while to get interesting, it was necessary to set up the characters and the multitude of disguises. Once the perimeters of the play were set and the mayhem began, the laughs continued until the last line.
The translated and slightly modernized version of "Triumph of Love" follows Princess Leonide of Sparta in her quest for true love. This quest takes her to the forbidden gardens, home of the object of her love, young Agis (David Burnham), his bitter aunt, Hesione (Christopher Callen), and scholarly uncle, Hermocrates (Mark Capri). Logic rules in the garden where emotions are forbidden, especially the most illogical of all emotions: love. Women are also forbidden in the garden, causing Leonide to disguise both herself and her maid, Corine (Stephanie J. Block), as men. Under these disguises they are allowed admittance to the garden and Agis. But before the lovers can be together in eternal bliss, they must overcome the small obstacle of Agis being trained to kill Princess Leonide and take the place as the true heir of the Spartan throne (Leonide’s uncle killed Agis’ parents). Also, Hesione falls in love with the disguised Leonide, and Hermocrates falls in love with the girl Leonide pretends to be after Hermocrates discovers her initial disguise. But somehow, as they always do, things manage to work themselves to the point of everyone hating everyone else, followed by everything working out fine and true love wearing the crown.
The songs steal the show. Fifteen new songs were developed for the musical, all of which were delightful. A personal favorite was the stunningly amusing Corine with fellow sidekicks Dimas (Michael Kostroff) and Harlequin (Patrick Richwood). Together they brought down the house with the seductive "Mr. Right" and the hilarious lament "Henchmen Are Forgotten."
The outstanding performance of Princess Leonide (Tami Tappan) was the center of the story. As a single actor, Tappan put forth four characters; three as disguises to each of the people in the garden, and one as her true self. The audience watched Tappan move from a lovesick puppy to the most stereotypical female bimbo to an orphan running from her tyrant husband. Each character added to the tangled web of lament for the characters and laughter for the audience.
The stage itself was simple, but allowed full attention to be directed to the actors, who worked fluidly as a team. Assisting the actors was a blend of comical innuendoes, smart-aleck remarks and unexpected assistance from the orchestra. When you see this play, make sure you are awake and attentive, for if you are not, some of the great subtleties of the play may pass you by. But for those who are attentive, the show is an exciting combination of everything you could want in a classic, heart-warming musical.
"Triumph of Love" performs at the Granada Theatre through Wednesday, Feb. 11, through Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 7 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. $12-$47; discounts for students, seniors and groups. Call 966-2324 for information and tickets.