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New G & S troupe acquit themselves with flying colors


By Gilbert & Sullivan;

Orchestral works by Elgar and Sullivan.

The MIT Gilbert and Sullivan Players.

Room 6-120, February 11.



USUALLY, A FLEDGLING GROUP like the MIT Gilbert and Sullivan Players finds it difficult to attract an audience or field any support in the community. Fortunately for these "die-hard Savoyards," as they call themselves, they have received tremendous support in the MIT and Harvard communities, and if Saturday's performance was any sort of litmus test, they will continue to get it.

After the traditional singing of "God Save the Queen," the afternoon's program began with Sir Arthur Sullivan's first major work, Music to "The Tempest," which fell a little flat in the opening passages, but soon picked up and displayed a good sense of balance and dynamics, particularly in the violin section. While the second movement was dismal and uneven in tone, the third movement was strengthened by the performances of Albert Lew '91 (violin), Benny Weintraub '90 (clarinet), and Edward Norton G, whose flute playing was outstanding. A recurring problem in this piece was a general weakness in the quieter portions offset by an uncommon strength in the louder sections, a problem which can easily be corrected.

The two complementary selections by Sir Edward Elgar, Chanson de Nuit and Chanson de Matin, were much more together -- the second piece sweet, light, and pleasant. Chris Moore '90 offered a fine, moving French horn solo in Chanson de Nuit that set the tone for the entire piece. Once again, the orchestra weakened in the quieter sections, almost sounding out of tune.

The final orchestral selection was the Overture to "Thespis," music from Gilbert and Sullivan's first and least successful effort. The music was strong and bright, bringing to mind some of the duo's more well-known work, The Pirates of Penzance and HMS Pinafore. Louis Toth '89 played his oboe solo smoothly, but the entrance of the rest of the orchestra was ill-timed and not at all together. They played like more of a unit later in the piece, but this lack of cohesiveness is definitely the orchestra's biggest problem. They show great potential, but they still need work.

As for the performance of Trial by Jury? To quote GSP President Andrew Marc Greene '91, "If you like L.A. Law, you ain't seen nothing yet." It requires great effort and talent to adequately perform Gilbert and Sullivan operettas if one has neither an English accent nor a powerful voice, and if the players lack the former, not a single one is lacking in the latter. Michael D. Mendyke '89 (the Usher) had both a formidable stage presence and voice and was one of the outstanding performers. Lisa Ann Kummerow, "Angelina," has a crystalline soprano ideal for further work in either classical or light opera. Best of all, the entire cast enunciated strongly. In a modern American musical, enunciation may not be of absolutely crucial importance, but to mumble through Sir William Gilbert's brilliant, tongue-twisting lyrics would be unforgivable. Even if copies of the libretto had not been handed out beforehand, the lyrics would still have been comprehensible, quite a feat for a relatively untried company.

The Gilbert and Sullivan Players are planning a spring production of Patience, or Bunthorne's Bride. If their performance of Trial by Jury is any indication, Patience should be a spectacular production indeed.