a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Posts tagged ‘Cello’

“Ruddigore” Delights w/star turns of David Macaluso & Caitlin Burke

Ruddigore

I’ve really becoming enamoured of the enterprising New York Gilbert & Sullivan players. Esp. when they delight by bringing back (from the dead in this case, literally) one of the more obscure operettas like “Ruddigore.” This was scheduled as a special Hallowe’en Trick or Treat, and it was!

In this case I was only scared that the sets would fall down again. Like they did so charmingly when I caught their also-little-seen gem “Patience” last winter. But there was no fear of gaffes like that in their new home at NYU’s sparkling Skirball Center.

They only do three performances each so you have to catch them quick. And I do. And you’ll never see these lesser known works of the G&S canon anywhere but with the NYGasp as they like to abbreviate themselves. I think they can be found at NYGasp.com on the Internet. They also regularly do their ever-popular classics, “The Mikado”,”H.M.S.Pinafore”& “Pirates of Penzance” which alternate with the “Patience”s and the “Ruddigore”s.I love it!

The Skirball Center has a wide stage and a deep pit for the orchestra, and the seats were comfortable too! I hope they stay there for awhile. And it’s their 40th season! Imagine that!

And do they make those old ghostly ditties of “Ruddigore” dance! The plot is too complicated and silly to even reiterate here. But I have to say, the book by my idol William Schrenk Gilbert actually had me laughing up a storm in Act One! When do you encounter a BOOK, 19th century BOOK of a musical, that’s actually that witty. And well delivered by the excellent David Macaluso, who is as adept with slinging one-liners and physical comedy as he is with singing the vocally demanding, tongue-twisting score. He strikes 19th century acting poses with the command of a Booth.

I was also delighted to see their buxom Brunnilde, Caitlin Burke return in the low comedy part of Mad Margaret. There’s also a Mad Margaret in Shakespeare’s “Richard III” but she’s almost always cut out of it. Olivier didn’t have Mad Margaret in his famous film, and neither did Mark Rylance in his recent “Richard III” on Bway. But you can’t cut THIS Mad Margaret out of “Ruddigore”. She’s the whole bloody show!

Ms. Burke blew me out of the water last year in a fat suit with a cello in last season’s “Patience”. Here she’s chewing up the scenery literally as a woman driven mad (and homeless) by love.as she wails “Cheerily Carols the Lark,” a recitative that is also an aria. Long may she wail!

And in the Second Act, Macaluso and she are teamed(pictured above) for a rather unbelievably peppy rendition of “My Eyes Are Fully Opened”, a trio( veteran Richard Alan Holmes joins them) as their patter song gets faster and faster and faster until they can no longer speak the copious, tricky lines.And are basically spouting gibberish. Hilarious! Gilbert is saying here that even his own lyrics are nonsense! And in this case, he’s right!

And the comic punch line in this dizzying fandango is the word “Basingstoke”. Which I was told was Gilbert’s sly dig at the residence of D’Oyly Carte(G&S legendary manager/maestro)’s mistress.

Basingstoke was always seemed one of those accidentally comical-sounding British locations, like Chipping Sudbury. But it was never funnier than it was last night at “Ruddigore.” Hats off to the hysteria that Macaluso and Burke create!And to their resounding back-up troup of Bucks, Blades,Ancesters, Professional Bridesmaids and Villagers. I’m still giggling.

Gilbert & Sullivan’s “Patience” Delights at Symphony Space

I had a truly magical, joyous experience stumbling in to the Gilbert & Sullivan Players production of the little-seen “Patience” at the Symphony Space in the deadening cold that New York is now experiencing. I didn’t think I could ever laugh or respond, it was such a frigid night. But “Patience” rewarded my patience by having me laugh myself warm and silly at the lyrics’ surprising, sharp, satiric wit. It was the essence of camp, and an utter delight.

The G&S Players are a group of very dedicated Savoyards,as the ardent admirers of Gilbert & Sullivan’s marvelously giddy operettas are called. And these super singers have dedicated large portions of their life to appearing in, and TOURING, these wonderful masterpieces of wit and nonsense.

“Patience” is rarely done and may be the least known of the G&S canon. It was first produced by the  Richard D’Oyly Carte at the Opera Comique in London on April 23, 1881 and on October 10 it transferred to the Savoy Theater which Carte had just built.  Hence, the term Savoyards. “Patience” was also the first production to be entirely lit by electric light. It ran and ran.

I had seen a production of it by the English National Opera in London in the early 70s, but though magnificently sung, it wasn’t funny at all. I don’t think those tres serieux opera singers got the joke. But the Gilbert and Sullivan players sure do. I couldn’t stop laughing.

The character of Bunthorne, “a fleshly poet” was thought to be based on Oscar Wilde himself, and it was a satire of the whole Aesthetic Movement, which was all the rage in England at the time. But Wilde himself took no offense at its’ depiction and joined with D’Oyly Carte to go on a publicity tour to promote “Patience” and the Aesthetic movement all across America, where it hadn’t really ever caught on.

Oscar knew great PR when he saw it, and seized the opportunity, arriving in America and stating famously to customs “I have nothing to but my genius.”

The plot of “Patience” has two rival poets, one Reginald Bunthorne, the other Archibald Grosvenor, who in this production looks like Lord Alfred Douglas, Wilde’s young, notoriously blond and good-looking young lover, sought after by a chorus of “20 Lovesick Maidens We”, who reject the 20 Dragoons they are supposedly engaged to, because of their adulation of Bunthorne. Then in Act II the fickle maidens switch their affections to Grosvenor, played & sung marvelously by David Macaluso. The slim James Mills camped himself dizzy in the role of Bunthorne, not a “fleshly” poet, but an athletically lithe, hilarious one. His “Magnet and the Silver Churn” was terrific fun.

In the reduced scope of this  production on the tiny stage of the Symphony Space on Upper Broadway, I counted only about 14 maidens, and the pit orchestra was also ONSTAGE. Supposedly hidden behind a black-draped panel, which at one point fell down, revealing the suitably embarrassed conductor and musicians. As I said, it was the essence of camp. And the aesthetic of camp allows for this.

Patience is the virginal village milk-maid whose affections, both poets vie for. In this production, however it was the basso profundo contralto actress/singer playing the plain, aging, massive Lady Jane ,Cáitlín Burke,who really knocked my socks off. She has the wonderful Act Two opening aria, accompanying herself on a cello, and lamenting her fate as she ages and “more corpulent grow I,” as she waits for Bunthorne to return her unrequited love.”There will be too much of me  in the by and by.”

We can all relate. I haven’t laughed so much in a theater in years!

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