Longwood Gardens: an extraordinary, lush oasis. One would think they’re in a page from a storybook, perhaps “The Secret Garden” or “Alice in Wonderland”. What better place to see a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta than Longwood Gardens Open Air Theatre?
We had the pleasure of a two-fer. A double-bill of Gilbert & Sullivan’s fanciful humor: TRIAL BY JURY and THE SORCERER. The elegant design of the sets and costumes, the serene, colorful rain curtain, the open-air theatre setting, and the articulate sense of the comedy and characters enveloped the entire audience. The Savoy Company did an excellent job putting on these two performances.
TRIAL BY JURY is a mini opera that runs duration of 35 minutes. It is a delectable spoof of a breach of promise. The show begins with the Usher (Lawrence Hicks, boy, can he hit those low notes!) leading the jury to their places. Edwin (Ross Druker), the Defendant, enters and tells them how he fell in love with Angelina (Mary Punshon) and grew bored of her then he fell in love with a new woman.
The Judge (Samuel Griffin) enters, the jury is sworn in, and Angelina enters with her bridesmaids. The Judge is instantly smitten with Angelina. Edwin offers to marry one lady today… the other tomorrow, and the Judge and jury find this reasonable until the Counsel (Gene Schneyer) argues that it is a crime to marry more than one woman. Having had enough of the lack of progress, the Judge offers to resolve the case by marrying Angelina himself, which appeases everyone.
THE SORCERER is a two act comic opera based on a Christmas story, “An Elixir of Love,” that Gilbert wrote for The Graphic Magazine in 1876. The opera opens in the grounds of Sir Marmaduke’s (Fred Ditmann) mansion as the villagers are preparing for the betrothal of Alexis (Peter Webb) and Aline (Meghan Curry), the lovely daughter of Lady Sangazure (Martha L. Smylie). Enter Mrs. Parlet (Mary Punshon) and her daughter Constance (Jen Chesterson), who is unhappy as she is in love with the Vicar (Frederick D. Wampler), who is many years her senior. Not only does he not understand that Constance is in love with him, but he fears that it is too late for him to marry.
Alexis, confiding in Aline that he wishes the entire village felt the kind of love that the two of them share, and obsessed with the idea of love leveling all ranks and social distinctions, he invites the proprietor of J. W. Wells & Co., Family Sorcerers, to brew a love potion. The spiked tea potion causes everyone in the village to fall in love with the first person they see, resulting in the pairing of comically mismatched couples. The only way to reverse the spell is through human sacrifice to Ahrimanes, the Spirit of Darkness. Through the creative use of pyrotechnics, Mr. Wells dramatically disappears.
The Savoy Company has mounted a production that would make any G&S lover proud. The performances were uniformly pitch perfect. Longwood Gardens Open Air Theatre proves to be the perfect venue as the ambiance is intimate and relaxed.
The musical direction of Peter Hilliard provides a strong underpinning for all who are presented on stage. The group of musicians was well paced and beautifully controlled and flowing without ever overwhelming the cast. The artistic direction of Beverly Redman was well managed and the crafty blocking, for example, the audience looking stage right for an actor’s entrance and having him enter stage left, was an amusing surprise.
The clear diction of the voices, namely Druker, who hit his notes effortlessly, and the crystal clear voices of Chesterson and Curry, grouped with a remarkable talented cast, unforeseen tricks, and endless comedy made these performances a perfect conclusion to a perfect day. We encourage visiting the Savoy Company’s website and plan to see an upcoming performance. If you choose a Longwood Gardens show, go early enough to walk the impeccable grounds.
TRIAL BY JURY and THE SORCERER
Musical Director: Peter Hilliard
Artistic Director: Beverly Redman
June 13-14, 2014
The Savoy Company
at Longwood Gardens Open Air Theatre