From The Enterprise - Upper Cape Cod News and Information

‘Sullivan And Gilbert’ At Cotuit Center For Arts

Posted in: Entertainment
Jul 1, 2008 - 2:15:08 PM

     “Sullivan and Gilbert,” directed by Rich McKey, is a must-see for those who love Gilbert and Sullivan comic operas and a delightful introduction for those who may not be familiar with this dynamic duo. The musical, playing at the Cotuit Center for the Arts, Route 28, Cotuit, through July 13, is about the complicated and often conflicted relationship between William S. Gilbert and Sir Arthur Sullivan, as they reunite at the Savoy Theatre in London for a command performance for Queen Victoria.
     The story line is a great excuse for offering up a wonderful assortment of Gilbert and Sullivan songs sung by the very talented cast, as the theater company rehearses for the big show. Favorites include “Poor Wand’ring One” from Pirates of Penzance,” “Never Mind the Why and Wherefore” from “H.M.S. Pinafore,” “Three Little Maids,” and “The Lord High Executioner” from “The Mikado,” as well as songs from “The Yeoman of the Guard,” “Patience,” “Iolanthe,” “Ruddigore,” and “The Gondoliers.”
     A playwright, Gilbert wrote the witty and literary lyrics (libretto) for the comic operas, often in satiric style, mocking Victorian English society, while Sullivan composed the often lively and catchy music, though he yearned to write serious opera. They collaborated on 14 comic operas in the late 1800s, most of which remain popular to this day.
     Gilbert and Sullivan were supported in their efforts by producer Richard D’Oyly Carte, who brought them together and built the Savoy Theatre to present their joint works, also known as the Savoy operas.
     In this humorous play, written by Ken Ludwig, preparing to the big performance is complicated by Sullivan’s attraction for the star soprano and Gilbert’s disapproval of her, Sullivan’s insistence that Alfred, the Duke of Edinburgh, the son of the Queen, join the cast at the last minute, and several ongoing disagreements between the two friends and collaborators that threaten to sabotage the show.
     In real life, as in the play, Gilbert and Sullivan had different personalities and different visions for their art, and each thought that the other was playing too dominant a role in the partnership and not fully appreciative of the other’s brilliance. Yet, in the midst of the arguing, the characters do show genuine respect for the work of the other, and they know that the whole that they have created together is more than the sum of the parts.
     Casting for this play is excellent (as are costuming and make-up). Daniel Fontneau plays the demanding Gilbert, pushing his cast to improve their performances, and rushing about, hobbling a bit because of his gout, to make sure that everything is ready for the performance. Michael Ernst plays the more laid-back Sullivan, blissfully in love, and happy to heap praise on the cast, while calmly directing the musical accompaniment. Both Mr. Fontneau and Mr. Ernst look very much like photographs of the men they bring to life.
     To demonstrate a tricky rhythm to the cast, Sullivan and Gilbert perform “When I Go Out of Door,” a duet between rival poets from “Patience.” Both performers are energetic and endearing, making this a highlight of the play and a real audience-pleaser.
     Other talented cast members include Jennifer Perrault-Minshall, who plays the lovely star soprano Violet, and her real-life husband, Robert Minshall, who does an outstanding job as the gawky, but enthusiastic, semi-talented Duke of Edinburgh.
     Katie Lynch-Koglin is charming as Sybil, Laura Garner is funny and sweet as Rosina, and Kim Mitchell is good as Jessie. Their singing, and the selection of songs, are delightful, and the colorful costumes, designed by Karen Billard, are entertaining in themselves. Susan Sard White plays Kitty Gilbert, who, with good humor, tries to bring the feuding collaborators back together in time for the opening curtain.
     The male singers include Stephen Andrew Spillane, Steven Koglin, Glenn Starner-Tate, and Bill Mock, with Jefferson C. Post playing the anxious producer, Richard D’Oyly Carte. All are enjoyable to watch and bring their own special touches to the evening.
     Music direction is by Geraldine Boles, who also plays the onstage role of Cellier and accompanies the singers on piano, a demanding job in this music-filled production. The set is simple, yet creative.
     The play can be seen Thursday through Saturday at 8 PM through July 13 and Sunday at 4 PM. There will be no performances on Friday, July 4. Tickets are $20; $18 for seniors and members; and $10 for students with ID. Tickets may be reserved by calling the box office at 508-428-0669.
     There is a special benefit performance of the play on July 13 at 2:30 PM. All tickets for that performance are $50, which includes a pre-show reception, guest speaker Royston Nash, and a 4 PM matinee. All proceeds benefit the Cotuit Center for the Arts.
     There is also a Sunday matinee workshop on Sunday, July 6, from 4 to 6:30 PM, for children ages 9 to 11, designed to introduce students to the music of Gilbert & Sullivan and basic performance techniques, while their parents watch the show. The cost is $20 per child, with the purchase of a ticket to the play. For more information, call 508-428-0669.

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