Gilbert and Sullivan Archive



MARY A. FINN: Phœbe is my favorite female role in the whole G&S canon because, more than any of the other roles, it gives an actor something to sink her teeth into. The only G&S women who come close to being as three-dimensional as Phœbe are Mad Margaret and Katisha.

The corollary to this is that the person playing Phœbe must be a good actor. We have often discussed the "Should one cast singers who act a bit, or actors who sing a bit?" dilemma. I say that for a good Phœbe (and assuming one can't find a double-threat performer) go for the acting ability.

JEFF DEMARCO: I agree that Phœbe is a complex and wonderful role; however, I think you need someone who is very comfortable with her singing ability, as it is quite daunting to open the production all by oneself onstage with a solo. Wasn't the original Phœbe (Jessie Bond?) a little unnerved by this?

DAVID DUFFEY: In Phœbe, The Yeomen Of The Guard contains one of the few (how many others?) women who is actually prepared to take an active role and make things happen.

TOM SHEPARD: Quite true in that she acts not only for herself, but for the benefit of another. However she does love Fairfax (!!!) so there is certainly some degree of self-interest involved here. As for women being pivotal to the action, Gilbert has a slew of them, from Angelina onwards, (Patience, Iolanthe and her entire fairy ring, Katisha, etc.)

BRUCE I. MILLER: Phœbe does some maturing during the course of the events in Yeomen. In order to ensure the happiness of two people she only casually knows (Fairfax and Elsie), not to say her needing to keep Wilfred from blabbing about her part in the conspiracy to free Fairfax, she agrees to marry him. She may well try to delay the happy event, and she may well find a way out of her fate, but we staged it at the end to show that she is becoming reconciled to it. I doubt that she would back out on her word, if push came to shove.

MARY A. FINN: At the end of the play, they are definitely engaged, as the price of Wilfred's silence, but I have always thought that Phœbe, being the resourceful girl that she is, will find some way of weaseling out of the agreement before it actually comes down to saying "I do."

RONALD ORENSTEIN: We certainly played it that way at St Pat's a few years back. Phœbe's last line to Wilfred was given as she held Leonard's arm, was distinctly mocking in tone and clearly carried the message that now that her brother was around to protect her she had no intention of giving in to Wilfred. Wilfred (me) got the point and ran offstage with a howl of rage.

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