Review: NYGASP's TRIAL BY JURY and THE SORCERER Hit the Right Notes

The New York Gilbert and Sullivan Players brings operettas to life for future generations

By: Apr. 08, 2024
Review: NYGASP's TRIAL BY JURY and THE SORCERER Hit the Right Notes
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A comedic commentary on society, class, respectability and values sounds  more like something that could come right out of Monty Python or even Saturday Night Live. But alas no; instead, such evergreen ideals happened to be the main course on the menu for the full house audience at The New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players’s double presentation of The Sorcerer and Trial By Jury at The Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College on April 7, 2024.

These Victorian Era performances became the entertainment of choice amongst the upwardly mobile industrial middle class, which resented the hereditary aristocracy with their austere and exacting rules and regulations. W.S. Gilbert’s witty lyrics and composer Arthur Sullivan’s catchy tunes set the tone for their comedy operettas, written in English for the British Victorian population. These two creative geniuses created obscure "topsy-turvy" microcosms of society within each storyline of their productions.   Here were wonderous worlds where anything could and usually does happen to those who populate it.  Fantastical creatures fraternize with high society, gondoliers become kings, and even a pirate can be a sword wielding long lost nobleman.  Nothing was too bizarre to be “true” in a Gilbert and Sullivan show. Plot twists and turns are par for the course which characterizes each and every one of the tales.  Thus it was for today’s shows, where a spurned woman can take her lover to court in Trial by Jury and a sorcerer can turn a village upside down with a love potion in The Sorcerer.  

The New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players, which has been giving New York City the famed operettas for forty-nine years, lives up to its renowned reputation.  The costumes were beautifully designed and quite accurate to the English Victorian original attire of the time.  Men were outfitted in waistcoats, frock coats with top hats with a few accompanied by the popular 19th Century mutton chop sideburns.  While  the women sported the true to history hooped skirted dresses and small bonnets, which epitomized the fashions of the  early part of the Victorian Period.  The dark stage was painted with lights giving patrons the idealized view of the action, but some were a bit stark for the audience, such as the extreme purple lights which portrayed the “night sky.”  The scenery, even though merely a backdrop to the action, could have been a bit more realistic as to enhance the production.  

Most importantly, the multigenerational diverse cast of players showed their amazingly powerful operatic voices.  This reviewer was completely in awe of such talent!  These masters of opera can sing it all.  The musical numbers made the audience laugh, cry and definitely applaud loudly.  It is the uniquely rapid tempo with the scintillating lyrics of many of the standard songs which are the glue that binds a Gilbert and Sullivan opera together as a masterpiece.  Standout musical performances included Rebecca L. Hargrove (Angelina -the plaintiff) “I Love Him, I Love Him”, James Mills (John Wellingon Wells -the Sorcerer) “My Name is John Wellington Wells”, Laura Sudduth (Constance) in “Dear Friends, Take Pity On My Lot” and Michelle Seipel (Aline) “Alexis! Doubt Me Not My Loved One”, to name but a few.

The New York Gilbert and Sullivan Players bring these over a century old operettas to life for the next generation modern 21st Century audiences (yes, they do add a few modern references in here and there).  What a joy it was to hear such fabulous sonorous performers!  This reviewer looks forward with great anticipation for the 50th Anniversary presentations of the classical repertoire by The New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players beginning in the Fall of 2024.

The New York Gilbert & Sullivan Player’s  presentation of The Sorcerer and Trial By Jury featured David Auxier, Sam Balzac, Adam Bashian, Caitlin Borek, Michael J. Connolly, Hanna Eakin, Daniel Greenwood, Katie Hall, Rebecca L. Hargrove, Amy Maude Helfer, Jonathan Heller, Maurio Hines, Hannah Holmes, Alexandra Imbrosci-Viera, Sabrina Lopez, Patrick Lor-Remmert, David Macaluso, James Mills, Monique Pelletier, Logan Pitts, Michelle Seipel, Nathan Seldin, Cameron Smith, Laura Sudduth, Sophie Thompson and Matthew Wages.  Founder / Artistic Director / General Manager is Albert Bergeret.

Find more out how to support the New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players and sign up for their mailing list to find out when their next show is on their website here.

[Header photo credit: Danny Bristoll]


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