BWW Reviews: Gilbert and Sullivan Society Magically Presents THE SORCERER
THE SORCERER is a comic opera that, on the surface, seems to be about love, but is actually about class distinctions. The story line of THE SORCERER is based on a Christmas story, "An Elixer of Love", that Gilbert wrote in 1876. An idealistic young man, Alexis, is obsessed with the idea of love levelling all ranks and social distinctions. To create a more equal society, he invites J. W. Wells to concoct a love potion. This causes everyone in the village to fall in love with the first person they see and results in the pairing of humorously mismatched couples. Like all Gilbert and Sullivan writings, it has an effervesence and lightness, even when, maybe especially when, characters are singing about their broken hearts. Houston's Gilbert and Sullivan Society's production of THE SORCERER is vocally transcending, with first-rate singing and gorgeous harmonies. The company has a lush, unbelievable balance to their sound. Music director and conductor Dr. Brian Runnels does an impressive job of leading these gifted singers and musicians. The orchestra is lilting and magical, and, again, there is a marked sense of balance and blend here.
Alistair Donkin does double duty as the stage director of THE SORCERER as well as playing the title character. Donkin is a skilled director, as this production is extremely professionally rendered. His staging is interesting and every scene has a feel of purpose and exactness. As an actor he wields considerable stage presence and is awe-inspiring with his tongue-twister tune "My Name Is John Wellington Wells".
Megan Stapleton, playing the ingenue Aline, has a crystalline, ethereal voice. She sings purely and seemingly effortlessly, even when delivering high notes that seem pulled from another realm. Her voice is never shrill, always confident and pure. And she's funny, too. Stapleton has a lyrical physicality; she is adept at using posturing and body language to make the most of the comedic moments.
Alexis Pointdextre is played with energetic flair by Alex Bruce. Bruce has a very pleasing tenor voice and harmonizes beautifully with other singers, but much of what he says in his humorously effeminate falsetto is hard to understand. The Mickey Mouse speaking range inhibits clarity, especially for people sitting farther afield.
Lady Sangzure is played by Sarah L. Lee, she of velvet voice and mahogany tones. Lee offsets the soprano leads with her rich alto and creates balance vocally. Brian Kosior plays Dr. Daly with self-depracation and nervous charm. Kosior is well-cast in the role and is completely committed to the character. His engaging baritone is satisfying and character-driven in "Time Was, When Love And I Were Well Aquianted". (Yes, that's really the name of the solo.) Harrison Moore (Sir Marmaduke Poindextre) fills Wortham Theater with his plummy speaking voice and skillful bass-baritone. The part calls for comedy chops and Moore fits the bill with surety. Julia Swindle is funny and eccentric as Mrs. Partlet, and Sarah Santos (Constance) is appropriately naive and petulant. Santos' glorious high note at the end of "Dear Friends" is reason enough to applaud her performance.
Everything in this production is vocally exceptional, but some of the highlights include "I Rejoice", "With Heart And With Voice", "Welcome Joy", and "If You'll Marry Me".
Tom Boyd's set is sensuous and beautiful. The backdrop is a gorgeous forested scene, in shades of green evoking a fairytale. The special effects used in the "potion" scenes are fun and exciting.
Dena Scheh is a highly respected costume designer, and deservedly so. Her costumes are fun to look at- it's as simple as that. She employs beautiful gowns, jackets, and delightful hats to make this production a visual festival.
The Gilbert and Sullivan Society began in Houston in 1952. It is quickly becoming an internationally-recognized thespian group, and rightfully so. It is shocking that all artists involved in the productions are 100% volunteers! This is top-notch talent with impressive production values. This group deserves long production runs and packed houses. The Society has generous scholarship programs, as well, which have assisted over 100 students in their collegiate endeavors.
The Gilbert And Sullivan Society's production of THE SORCERER is magical and legitimate. Get your tickets now at http://www.gilbertandsullivan.org/index.cfm
Photo Credit: Michael Starghill Jr.