Reviewed by Tony Villecco
While W.S. Gilbert and Sir Arthur Sullivan’s operetta ‘Ruddigore’ may not have as many familiar “hits” as some of their other collaborations, the Summer Savoyards’ opening night performance on July 8 proved both a delight visually and aurally.
Now in its 50th season, the local troupe proved once again why it has lasted so long and continues to produce exceptional community theater. The Savoyards traditionally present the fas- paced, comedic and melodious shows with community residents, almost all amateur performers, but very strong actors and singers to boot.
While the story may be a bit hard to swallow for today’s audiences, from broken curses to mixed identities to family portraits actually springing to life, this community theater had no difficulty in its quest to entertain.
John Starks as the love-smitten Robin seemed as if he had been parented by both Gilbert and Sullivan, so fine was his acting. His gestures, accent and expressions were spot on, and he was delightful to watch. He also is a very good singer though a shade less effective than some of the other principals.
Gregory Keeler had one of the finest tenor voices and his cockney accent was helpful in delineating the role of sailor Richard Dauntless. A fine actor, he too has a flair for the comedic, and his enjoyment with the role was evident throughout.
As the fair maiden Rose Maybud (you know, always the bridesmaid and never the bride), soprano Caitlin McNichol sang with a lovely, clear and true soprano. A strong actress, she was very funny when consulting her “book on etiquette” especially when dealing with the men in her life.
As this community is blessed with a lot of local talent, it was of no surprise that all secondary roles were equally as strong. Kathy Starks was delightful as Mad Margaret. Not only was she totally convincing as the more than slightly delusional but likable crazy lady, she has a very unique voice which lacks in tonal beauty but certainly not in strength.
Rebecca Houghton returns to the area after some time. (She was a former voice student at Binghamton University as well as with Tri-Cities Opera.) Her gentle portrayal of the virginal Dame Hannah was a lesson in restraint. But a true standout was Nicholas Tyler as Sir Despard. His very energetic and funny nastiness made him almost likable. A fine actor, he also sang well depicting the epitome of evil as one will only see in Gilbert and Sullivan.
Other roles done well included Joan Raube-Wilson’s Ruth, Jana Kucera sprightly Zorah, Edward Houghton’s Sir Roderick and Samuel Westover’s Old Adam.
Special mention needs to be made of the fine chorus of bridesmaids, which carries a lot of the show’s first act, and the very fine community orchestra led with aplomb by Barb Fuller, the show’s music director. As always, the clever staging was devised by Wm. Clark Snyder with lovely period costumes by Stephen M. Dell’Aversano and Vincent Majka.
The colorful and welcoming sets were designed by Elisabeth Coolidge with some soft and stunning lighting by William Osborne. David P. Wiktorek did a masterful job as technical director. The show continues through Sunday at the Anderson Center Chamber Hall on the Binghamton University campus.
SHOWTIMES: 8 p.m. Friday, July 9, and Saturday, July 10; 3 p.m. Sunday, July 11. Tickets: $18 (Friday is Family/Alumni night with all seats $2 off). Tickets may be charged online, and a full cast list may be seen at www.SummerSavoyards.org, or call the box office at (607) 777-4237.
(Funding for the Summer Savoyards production of “Ruddigore” is provided in part by a Project Grant from the United Cultural Fund, a program of the Broome County Arts Council. )