Saturday, May 11, 2013

a Sorcerer

Having written some publicity blurbs for the Stanford Savoyards' production of Gilbert and Sullivan's The Sorcerer, I figured I should at least go to the show. It premiered last night, and continues over the weekend.

First I should say that I considered this a satisfactory amateur production. It conveyed the charm and appeal that does exist in the music of an operetta whose songs don't appear in the G&S hit parade, and it was well-paced and kept moving a plot that takes a long time to get off the ground. There was real choreography in the staging, and the performers mostly managed to keep to it. I was satisfied.

The costuming was deliberately random and eclectic, in an attempt to make the setting seem like an imaginary land to emphasize the magic in the story. (I'm not sure I follow the logic here. Unreal/unspecific lands = magic? I guess if you read enough secondary-world fantasy it may seem so.) Constance wore a leather bustier; Wells was a seedy 19th-century circus hustler; Aline dressed like a flapper; her mother dressed like nothing on earth. The spirits directed to speak from offstage during the spellcasting are present throughout, made up like the fairies from a typical Midsummer Night's Dream production, invisible to the mortals but directing their actions in a way sometimes seen in Iolanthe. A version of a cut scene in Act 2, in which the sorcerer Wells appeals to his demon master for a way to break the spell, was inserted, lending some coherence to the problematic ending where Wells pulls the arbitrary answer out of his copious hat. Though there was no trap door, Wells' disappearance was handled with successful stagecraft. The lights dimmed and the fairies hustled him offstage, leaving his cloak behind. The illusion that he had vanished came off.

The singing and acting, of course, varied. There was one really first-rate singer in the show, a newcomer cast in the secondary female role of Constance, and some of the best comedy was in her love scene with the ancient Notary, who is supposed to sing badly and emitted a deliberately comic croak. The lead female, Aline, also had a good, though hard-edged, voice. Alexis, the lead male, could emit powerful, strong notes on pitch, and if he could only succeed in doing that with two notes in a row, we might have something. That he spent the entire show wearing the facial expression of Graham Chapman playing the Upper-Class Twit of the Year didn't help. (I know it's not his natural face: he dropped it for the curtain call.) The rest of them managed, and, as always with such pieces in Sullivan, even the weakest voices came off well in the 5-part madrigal, "I rejoice that it's decided."

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