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G&S troupe brings tragedy, humanity to Yeoman

THE YEOMAN OF THE GUARD

By Gilbert & Sullivan.

The MIT Gilbert & Sullivan Players,

Directed by Karen Mueller.

Conducted by Jeffrey Bellin.

La Sala de Puerto Rico

Nov. 7 & 8 at 8 pm, Nov. 9 at 2 pm.

By JONATHAN RICHMOND

DAVID HARRISON STOOD at the helm of this production by the MIT Gilbert & Sullivan Players of The Yeoman of the Guard. As powerful and professional a performer as one could hope for anywhere, Harrison turned the operetta into the kind of tragic opera Sullivan yearned to write. When his character, Jack Point, falls lifeless as the performance comes to an end, the effect is all the more horrifying for having built on the tensions Harrison had developed all evening.

Jack Point is the archetypical Jester who must always generate laughs when his eyes would more naturally be saturated with tears. Harrison made Point an engaging character from the first moment, full of life and with a humor which brought genuine smiles, even while pivoting on the edge of pathos. Every movement was full of zest, and his expressions were characterful, too.

Vocally, Harrison has a wonderful way of drawing meaning from each word by the careful placing of stresses, and his sound is melodious as well as dramatic. His first "I have a Song to Sing-Oh" was moving. His last reprise of the number -- with his intended wife lost to another -- was devastating: his ensuing death has the impact of a crucifixion. Brilliant.

There are other good performances, too. Kathleen Keegan brings out all the calculating meanness of Phoebe Meryll, with some nice singing, too. Thomas Andrews brings crustiness to the Head Jailor and thumbscrew operative par excellence, Wilfred Shadbolt. Keegan and Andrews were at their best when on stage together.

Ginny Briggs -- as Elsie Maynard -- lay in the shadow of Harrison's Jack Point, but was not without her moments. Deborah Kreuze '91, as Dame Caruthers, had her moments, too.

Thomas Chadwick Jr. '93 was unfortunately miscast as Colonel Fairfax. This is a demanding role, and Chadwick's voice collapsed under the strain. Michael Hoch also came across as rather dull, as Sir Richard Cholmondely.

The choral performances took a bit of time to pick up, but were splendid at times, especially as they invoke the fate of the prisoner coming to meet his doom. We could have been in the middle of a Greek tragedy at that point.

Karen Mueller's direction was static at times, but articulate enough to carry the action along. The lighting, by Mike Bromberg '70, was nicely done.

Orchestral playing had its rough touches: strings were sometimes on the thin side, and all was not completely precise or on target. Music Director Jeffrey Bellin nonetheless drew some wonderful rhythms from his band, and there were many passages of engaging playing. The woodwinds were especially felicitous. Most importantly, Bellin evoked the essence of Gilbert & Sullivan, and this production delivered it with a sense of tragedy and humanity, while allowing its natural humor to shine through.