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Theatre Review: ...The Sorcerer... Bewitches Audiences

MITGSP Puts on Magical and Funny Love Story

By Bill Andrews

“The Sorcerer”

MIT Gilbert and Sullivan Players

Nov. 10-12 and Nov. 16-18

Kresge Auditorium

There are those who believe fervently in love, who know that there can be no greater happiness and no more satisfying feeling. They quote Shakespeare’s Duke Orsino, “If music be the food of love, play on!” Then there are those who don’t believe in love, who feel that it’s either lust at first sight or just friends with super benefits; they know what the above quote really means. In “The Sorcerer,” the Gilbert and Sullivan Players’ current show, both aspects of love are revealed, with hilarious and (humorously) deadly consequences.

Young and wealthy Alexis Pointdextre (Len Giambrone ’92), newly betrothed to bashful and beautiful Aline Sangazure (Emily Petitt), decides to force the peaceful villagers of their quiet town to learn the joys and wonders of love. In typical Gilbertian fashion, he enlists the aid of J.W. Wells (Rosie Osser G), a scowling, fast talking, smooth sorcerer, whose surprisingly effective love philtre is all the rage. After everyone has drunk this potion, comical mismatches and lamentable spectacles ensue, resulting in a big, goofy, emotional mess. Will matters be set right? Will there there be four weddings, or a funeral? Will Alexis and Aline alight in altruistic ‘appiness (it is a British play, after all), or will Wells’ wickedness willfully wound the world? Without giving anything away, I can tell you it’s worth your while to find out.

There was pretty much nothing in this show I didn’t like. From Armen Babikyan to Cathy Zhang ’09, if you were in the program you did a great job. Let’s go in chronological order, then. The orchestra, large and in plain view, already won the show points before it even began, since I’m such a fan of expansive pit orchestras. Sure, there might have been a few out-of-tune notes, but the skill with which the musicians usually played made these minor flaws easy to overlook. Music Director Jimmy Jia ’02 did a great job of reigning in what could have been a large and unwieldy group and provided a great backdrop to showcase the singers.

Speaking of singers! I love going to G&S shows just for the singing; it’s operatic enough to make you feel smart and cultured, and funny and down-to-earth enough that you’ll actually like it (if you give it a chance). MITGSP shows typically feature amazing singers, and this cast was no exception. The chorus numbers were particularly delightful to hear, as whole masses of people were able to hit various chords perfectly, and in rapid succession, too — always a neat trick. And while the large numbers sharing the stage made some of the choreography a little difficult to interpret at times, it did give the eyes a fun workout trying to keep up with multiple couples (and later mis-matched couples).

Individually, the cast was even more impressive. First and foremost, Osser’s Wells completely stole the show: there was not a moment she was onstage that the eye wasn’t drawn to her. Whether it was her rubber-faced scowling or her ever-polite pinky jutting from a teacup, she would have made even a dreary show interesting, and instead served as icing on the cake for this fun romp. Keeping up the pace, Petitt’s performance as a demure and doey-eyed ing nue was sweet and convincing, as was her voice during songs; one gets the impression that there’s nothing she couldn’t sing. Likewise, Giambrone’s performance blended elegantly the nurturing lover and the arrogant meddler, his self-assurance providing a good counterpoint for Petitt’s apprehension. Their duets together were particularly beautiful, especially for fans (like me) of close harmony. Likewise were Adrien Packel, Carrie Lee, Nick Bozard, and Elaina L. Cherry ’07 (who had feature parts), who were fun to listen to and watch, as each was able to make the audience laugh or sigh, and harmonize perfectly while doing it. It was a shame they were featured so little, especially since Bozard and Cherry were a bit difficult to hear even from the front row.

In fact, if there’s a negative to the show, it would be that often it was difficult to understand what the cast was saying, either from a lack of projection or an overzealous orchestra. It’s a bit of a shame not to be able to hear Gilbert’s funny lyrics, but then I’d choose Sullivan’s music over them anytime. Apart from that, everything worked well in this show. The set, tastefully simple with very realistic trompe l’oeil rocks and a pretty little tent, served as an elegant way to divide the action onstage without hampering it. The costumes, a charming mix of classic Victorian and modern sensibilities, placed the show perfectly, establishing the setting as a long time ago and pretty far away. The lighting too was at times dazzling (almost, though not quite, to the point of distraction) , and at times subtle, always emphasizing the action just right.

So even if you don’t believe in love, even if you think Sullivan’s music is “too pretty,” as my fianc e once objected years ago, “The Sorcerer” is a show that’ll make you laugh and sigh. Just reading through the program one can see the effects of love potions and lovely ballads in the air: Katherine Drexel ends her bio by asking her partner, Noe Kamelamela ’05 to marry her, and I later heard she said yes. So should you say to this beautiful show. Congratulations to all!