~~ SORCERER AT MIT Following the set crisis during last fall's IOLANTHE, it was good to walk into La Sala da Puerto Rico and see Jean Kanjanavaikoon's handsome multi-leveled country estate set for this fall's SORCERER. And following the updated and not always flattering costumes for last spring's IDA, it was a relief to see that the updating chosen for this production included Felix Rivera and Sarah Ellis's tastefully attractive and appropriate costumes, which provided clear indications of very different personality types and social strata among the matched and mis-matched denizens of, and visitors to, Ploverleigh. Despite my misgivings, this was an updating that remained respectful and made sense while allowing for plenty of comedy.
I knew we'd be in good hands with the musical direction of Alan Yost, and was not disappointed. I'd been warned that the stage director was inexperienced - this was his first go at directing a full-length production, after directing a short non-musical one-act last summer. I think Brian Bermack is a promising new addition to the directorial pool, and look forward to seeing more of his unusual, intelligent and thoughtful choices. That said, I wish he did not go in for the "stand-and-sing" view of aria singing -- one soloist after another stepped up to the plate, as it were, and delivered his or her aria straight to the audience, avoiding all interaction with fellow performers. This can get pretty boring, and misses a lot of opportunity for character development.
One notable exception to that "stand-and-sing" delivery was J. W. Wells (the talented Jonathan Weinstein), who gave his opening speech as a sales pitch over a cell phone to a client other than Alexis, and delivered his patter song as a magic-powered Power Point presentation, his small assistant Hercules having lugged in and set up the screen. That cell phone came back in the second act, when Wells called upon Ahrimanes - over the phone - and proceeded to perform the often-reconstructed duet as dialog spoke over Sullivan's Act I incantation music - which worked very nicely.
Constance (Kate Torbert) and Aline (Ann Rhodes) were both lovely girls with lovely voices, who drew layers of characterization and growth out of their roles. (I enjoyed Constance's obvious interest in Dr. Daly's reading material during their opening dialog - here was a girl who would clearly make a good wife for this studious man! And Aline, although towering in her high heels over her suitor, the charming Brendan O'Brine, showed a fondness for her fianci which clearly leveled all differences.) Randi Kestin, usually an unmistakably sparkling presence on the stage, was such a staid and elegant middle-aged Lady Sangazure that I did not recognize her at first glance. Mary Finn, as Mrs. Partlett, was hysterical and very much a 3D character. She chose to sing, however, in a voice which was admittedly very funny, but was very ugly - I hope she has not ruined her voice forever!
David Daly is a low baritone with a remarkable high extension - I prefer his low notes, but he used his attractive voice well in this high baritone role, and as a characterization his Dr Daly could not be faulted. And how could he be blamed for taking a role that he was obviously born to perform? Sir Marmaduke (Evan Xenakis) was excellent all around - I hope to see and hear more of him.
The chorus was lively & full of individuals - a great strength of most MITG&SP shows. It is delightful to watch young folks discovering these wonderful operettas and falling in love with them, as old fogies like me did in bygone days.
For pictures of the production, visit:
http://sheldonbrown.net/sorceror00/ [And for another review, visit http://www.iolanthe.cjb.net/ - mlc]
-- LADY POINTDEXTRE