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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, July 29, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 30
Gilbert & Sullivan Society stages rare Ruddigore
Arts & Entertainment
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Gilbert & Sullivan Society stages rare Ruddigore

by Milton W. Hamlin - SGN A&E Writer
Ruddigore Bagley Wright Theatre Through July 30
The Seattle Gilbert & Sullivan Society has been a major player on the Emerald City arts scene for 57 years. Committed to producing all the G&S operettas from Victorian England, the annual summer production of the wildly popular troupe is always a fun return to the theatrical land of yesteryear. Some of the most popular works of the G&S canon return in new productions every five, six, or seven years. Other, less well-known titles - like this year's Ruddigore (subtitled 'The Witch's Curse') - return less frequently. Ruddigore, receiving its sixth production since 1959, was last staged in 1995.
The welcome staging is ending its three-week run with final performances tonight and tomorrow night, plus tomorrow's Saturday matinee. While the production has some slow spots, it also has many bright moments. Those - and the rarity of the show's productions - put it high on the must-see list for this final weekend. Tickets are readily available for all three performances at the Bagley Wright Theatre at Seattle Center.
As always, the Society ends its plot summary with a tongue-in-cheek note in the program. 'Attempts at a detailed, literal analysis of any Gilbert & Sullivan opera will only upset you and annoy your friends and others seated near you.' Considering Ruddigore's convoluted plot, the annual warning is amazingly topical. Best advice: read the plot summary and then forget about it. The fun is in the music and in the staging.
While none of the musical numbers are in the top 10 of the G&S best-known list, the show has some standouts - and the hard-working Society cast and orchestra make the most of many of them. A late Act Two trio, 'My Eyes Are Fully Open,' is a triple patter song highlight. An early ballad in Act One, 'I Know a Youth,' is a highlight between the two mismatched lovers who, of course, fix the mix and match up for life by the end of the show. 'You Understand,' toward the end of Act One, is another musical highlight.
Strong performances by Jenny Shotwell as 'village maiden' Rose Maybud, John Brookes as Robin Oakapple, Derek Sellers as the egotistical Richard Dauntless, and the ever-popular Dave Ross as Sir Despard Murgatroyd anchor the large cast. The character names - Maybud, Oakapple, Dauntless, etc. - reflect popular Victorian literature, where characters are named after their chief traits. All of this historical overlay simply adds to the subtle - and often not-so-subtle - humor. One of the best lines of dialog: 'He combines the manners of a monarch with the morals of a Methodist.' Ron Gangnes as Old Adam Goodheart and Hollis Heron as the over-the-top Mad Margaret add to the fun.
Act Two, 'The Picture Gallery at Ruddigore Castle,' is the technical highlight of the show. Paintings of the characters' ancestors come to life and their past family members enter into the action. While it is technically very demanding, the Society stumbles now and then in keeping the 'frozen' actors frozen. The special effects must have cost a fortune, and have only mixed success.
Music director Bernard Kwiram guides the orchestra and chorus with a steady hand. Less successful is the stage direction by Christine Goff. So many scenes seem unrelated to any overall style that the program might well substitute the word 'assembled' for 'directed.' Quibbles aside, Ruddigore has many fun moments - and it might be 15 years before it returns to Seattle. Check it out.
Complete ticket information is available at the cleverly titled www.pattersong.org.

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