MIT'S RUDDIGORE: Of the three productions of RUDDIGORE I have seen or performed in, this one had some of the most special moments, both technically and performance-wise, that I can remember. Unlike so many productions, it was refreshing to hear strong singing voices for all the principals, and voices that were both expressive and on pitch, not always things to be taken for granted.
Alida Griffith, as Rose Maybud, projected the persona of the naive ingenue of "sweet Polly" fame (that's from the Dudley Do-Right cartoons, for those too young to remember them!). Her constant references to her book of etiquette, including extended forays into the index in the back of the book to find where in her book to look, brought chuckles to the audience and smiles to faces. Her singing was bright and clear, and carried well in the hall. Her melodramatic scene, biting the knuckle of her hand and staggering back four paces, then conveniently fainting into the waiting arms of the crowd, was very funny - you know where it was going, you knew it was corny, but it was damned funny! Alex Panayi, as Robin Oakapple, did an outstanding job vocally and in his acting. His falls to the floor, as the bumbling Robin, were both funny and so realistic that folks didn't think he was acting. Alex is an exceptional talent; you should catch him in performance to appreciate his work.
Jim Meyers, as Richard, wore his heart on his shirt sleeve, sang and danced well, and made the audience identify and come to sympathize with his plight. While he steals Rose from Robin in the earlier scenes, he is just being true to himself, and the audience loved him for it. Michele McVeigh, as Mad Margaret, had everyone convinced she really was "mad." John Fesenko, as Sir Despard, was sometimes difficult to hear in his dialog, but was fine when he sang. His interaction with the townspeople, stamping his feet to scare them away, and putting on his mustache in order to be "evil," had some very funny bits in it. The column of chorus members who turned to face Sir Despard as he moved about the stage, and who fanned out in their replies, was again corny, but you loved every minute of it.
The remaining principals were all good in their roles, and the chorus had some great bits. The opening of parasols, just as the women had something to say, and then closing them when they were done - was really funny. The individual personalities of many of the chorus members came through very clearly, so that the stage was set with people set to a purpose - which clearly gave the show direction.
The technical effects and lighting amaze me. The picture frames, sketched on scrims that transformed by changing the lighting, were pure magic, the best I have seen. MIT works with minimal sets, but their lighting and effects are as good as you will see anywhere, on any budget. This is largely due to the work of Mike Bromberg, who simply works magic with light.
The orchestra played well, under the direction of Bob Weingart, who kept a clear beat and tempos that were largely traditional - they never detracted, and the music was pleasantly there in just the right dynamics, the way I believe it should be (unobtrusive).
The show was produced by Lon Williams, and stage directed by Peter Atlas. When everyone on stage look like they are doing the right things, that usually means the direction was good - and I believe this was a well directed show. The productions at MIT are worth a trip into Cambridge; you will always see a quality show with creativity at every turn, and one which is technically top notch.