So far this year, the most fun that I have had in the theatre was yesterday at Victorian Lyric Opera’s (VLOC) sensationally entertaining production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s 1888 Yeomen of the Guard, or, the Merryman and His Maid, directed with overflowing frivolity by Catherine Huntress-Reeve. Two hours and forty-five minutes had never sped by so fast for me in the theatre, and at the end – like Oliver Twist – I wanted more!
Filled with a giddy cast, a silly and entertaining story, a cast of exceptional singers, gorgeous costumes, and a 28-piece orchestra comprised of 28 fabulous musicians, conducted by the enthusiastic Musical Director Joseph Sorge, I knew I was in for an exceptional performance after the orchestra ‘nailed’ the overture. It displayed some heavenly playing – especially from Oboist Gwen Earle and bassoonists Steve Weschler and Betsy Haane, and I couldn’t wait to hear them play the rest of one of my favorite W.S. Gilbert and Sir Arthur Sullivan’s melodic masterful score. And they played it beautifully until the final curtain bow and until the final note was played.
And what a fabulous group of singers VLOC cast in this production. Amanda Jones (the overly touchy-feely sister Phoebe) sang angelic versions of “When maiden loves, she sits and sighs” and “Were I thy bride.” The dashing Michael Marano (the almost-decapitated Colonel Fairfax) sang gorgeous renditions of “Is life a boon?” and “Free from his fetters grim.” Blair Eig was hysterical as Wilfred Shadbolt, the jealous and keyed-up Head Jailer, and had the audience roaring with his “When jealous torments rack my soul” and “Hereupon we’re both agreed” with Jack Point (Gary Sullivan). This hysterical duet received the loudest applause all afternoon. I would have loved a reprise or two!
Which brings us to the two performances I added a couple of “Bravos and Bravas” for at the curtain calls: Amy Broadbent (Elsie Maynard) and Gary Sullivan (Jack Point) – two travelling players who get caught up in a marrying scheme that goes afoul. Sullivan ias the ‘Buster-Keaton-ish’ Fool and Broadbent as the victim of a pile of coins and a punny and crazy Gilbert and Sullivan subplots.
Sullivan and Broadbent were joyous in their duets “I have a song to sing, 0!” and “Here’s a man of jollity.” Sullivan’s “I’ve jibe and joke” was a lesson in pitter patter and fine acting while Broadbent’s gorgeous voice shimmered on “Tis done! I am a bride!” and she and Sullivan were joined by Chuck Howell (Seargent Meryll) and provided lush harmonies on “How say you, maiden, will you wed?”
I could go on and on but this would be the longest review in my career. Suffice to say that the rest of the cast was also having a great time with all the tongue-in-cheek lyrics and everyone contributed to the silliness and success of the production: Maureen Roult (Dame Carruthers);Joanna Jones (her niece);Andrew Pardin (Sir Richard Cholmondeley);James Carpenter (Leonard Meryll);Kevin Schellhase (First Yeoman) and Rand Huntzinger (Second Yeoman). And kudos to the excellent harmonies of the ensemble: Helen Aberger, David Berkenbilt, Harper Denhard, Ellen Sherfey, Lena Goldweber, Tara Hockensmith, Laura Hubbard, Ralph Johnson, Carl Maryott, Jane Maryott, Josh Milton, Rowyn Peel, Debbie Peetz, Bill Rogers, Barbara Semiatin, Stephanie Shade, Rusty Suter, Ed Vilade, George Willis, Maria Wilson, and Kent Woods.
Amanda Jones provided simple, yet elegant and humorous choreograph and Scenic Designer Catherine Huntress-Reeve built a simple yet effective set: two small residences with doors where all the ‘going-ons’ and going-offs’ of the show occurred. And there were many of them!
But what I couldn’t take my eyes off were the gorgeous and visually stunning technicolor-multi-colored costumes designed by Denise Young-more colors than that Webber musical about a Biblical coat. They were a “WOW!”
Lighting Designer Andrew Dawson Smith gave everyone a special glow and Makeup/Hair Designer Renée Silverstone did Yeoman’s work with the large cast. There is no credit in the program for the excellent sound-so kudos to you -whomever you are.
I didn’t want to give away the story for those who have never seen this under-produced (which is a darn shame!) gem. But for those who aren’t satisfied by this explanation, here you go – read the synopsis.
There is one more weekend for this superb production, so run and get some tickets and march over to Victorian Lyric Opera’s divine Yeomen of the Guard. But be on guard – thy tummy may hurt after all the laughing and thy hands will ache after all the applause.
Note: There are very helpful surtitiles.
The Yeomen of the Guard or, the Merryman and His Maid plays on Friday, February 28th and Saturday, March 1, 2014 at 8 PM, and Sunday, March 2, 2014 at 2 PM, at F. Scott Fitzgerald Theatre in the Rockville Civic Center Park – 603 Edmonston Drive, in Rockville, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (240) 314-8690, or purchase them at the door, or online.
Victorian Lyric Opera’s Production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s ‘The Yeomen of the Guard’ Opens on Thursday, February 20th by Felicity Brown.