Review: Earnest, The Importance of Being (Summer Opera Lyric Theatre)

The Oscar Wilde comedy is adapted into a fun and frivolous operetta in Toronto

The Summer Opera Lyric Theatre presents Earnest, The Importance of Being, adapted from the comedy by Oscar Wilde, in a two-act operetta playing at the Robert Gill Theatre. This witty tale of false identities and love gone awry is filled with frivolity and magnificent voices, making for a great night out.

In Earnest, The Importance of Being directed by Guillermo Silva-Marin with music direction and piano by Suzy Smith, John (Jack) Worthing (played by Sebastien Belcourt) and Algernon Moncrief (Ian Backstrom) are attempting to win the hearts of Gwendolyn Fairfax (Ana Persijn Alarcon) and Cecily Cardew (Katelyn Bird) respectively. Jack lives in the country and has created a story of a younger brother named Earnest — stories of Earnest getting in trouble enables him to escape to London. At the same time, Algernon has also invented a tale of an invalid friend Bunbury and the need to care for him takes Algernon away from the city. Both men use the name Earnest in their pursuit of love.

This type of story — of mistaken identities and the chasing of puppy love — seems like the perfect backdrop of an light and witty operetta, a great way to showcase young and upcoming talent which this production certainly does. The entire cast here certainly have exceptional voices, but O’Leary and Bird stand out. The two ladies have a couple of songs in the second act that truly highlight their vocal skills and range; they are superb.

Likewise, Backstrom and Belcourt are also a great deal of fun to watch as they both decide to use the name Earnest and then quickly get caught in act. But who truly stands out and steals the show is Karen Bojti as Lady Bracknell, the bold and bombastic mother to Gwendolyn and aunt to Algernon. The woman obsessed with status among London’s high society is portrayed perfectly by Bojti; she is delightfully ostentatious in this role.

With this cast, the main focus is certainly on the vocal talent rather than the acting. Though this may likely be the case with operas (as I’m far more familiar with theatre) I did feel like the performers lacked chemistry in the acting department. But of course, their singing made up for it.

Earnest, The Importance of Being is part of an exciting summer series by the Summer Opera Lyric Theatre that is definitely worth experiencing. If you’re new to opera, this is a great performance to sink your feet into as it is performed in English with a narrative and songs that are easy to understand.


  • Earnest, The Importance of Being is playing at the Robert Gill Theatre (214 College St) until August 4 2019.
  • Performances run July 30 and August 1 at 8:00 pm and August 4 at 2 pm.
  • Tickets are $31.25 for regular admission, $25.25 for seniors 65+ and students.
  • Tickets can be purchased online or in person at the box office.

Photo of Sebastien Belcourt, Stephanie O’Leary, and Austin Larusson by Emily Ding