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.