Yeomen at MIT: I regard Yeomen as a masterpiece, but some productions of this opera work, and some do not. (An example of the latter was a 1976 Harvard production in which Phoebe was costumed as a princess, Wilfred Shadbolt looked like Robin Hood, and Jack Point was exuberantly cheerful.) In spite of a checkered cast, the MIT G&S Players' production (performed 1-9 November, 1991) worked.
One major reason it worked was the superb Jack Point of David Harrison. Always alive and convincing, with a lithe, musical voice perfectly suited to the patter song, Mr. Harrison proved to be one of the best Points within memory. With the core of the show thus secured, effective performances by others (Jane Curtin-look-alike Kathleen Keegan as Phoebe, Thomas Andrews as Shadbolt, and Erik Harder as Sgt. Merryll) established the essential intertwined relationships.
Another major source of enjoyment was the orchestra, conducted by Jeffrey Bellin, a newcomer to the MIT organization. They sounded a bit tentative during the overture, but once the show was underway, they played with responsiveness and immediacy, doing full justice to Sullivan's wonderful score.
The physical production was better than in previous MIT shows, which were performed in a lecture hall. This one was in an adapted room in the Student Center, a change which allowed lighting designer Mike Bromberg greater resources with which to work his magic.
To produce a show with the emotional impact of Yeomen, the director - Karen Mueller - must have been doing a great many things right, but there were many minor annoyances (people always seemed to be gesturing with the wrong hand) and two major blunders: 1) Dame Carruthers (Deborah Kreuze) was positioned up-stage against the backdrop, eavesdropping, all during the critical scene between Phoebe and Wilfred in which he deduces the identity of her "brother;" Carruthers was in such a strong spot it was impossible to concentrate on the scene Gilber wrote. 2) In the first-act finale, a couple of beats were inserted between the end of the flirtation between Phoebe and Fairfax (..."he freely grants that boon") and the tolling bell that introduces the headsman; this greatly reduced the effectiveness of this shocking transition from farce to tragedy, which, properly done, invariably gives me goose-bumps.
But the show worked. When it ended, my 7-year-old son was in tears at the plight of Jack Point. And my whole family has been singing the songs ever since.
-- A. Noble Lord