LIVE: The Sorcerer @ Valley Light Opera, Amherst [GailSez]
Forgive me, gentle readers, for it is impossible for me to be objective about the work of William S. Gilbert (1836-1911) and Arthur Seymour Sullivan (1844-1900). I try to see the Savoy operas through the eyes of a virgin, to pretend I do not know every note and every lyric, but it is no use. I am way to close to this particular forest to see the trees. And that’s why I just love the Valley Light Opera and drive all the way over from Williamstown to Amherst (inevitably right after daylight savings time has ended) to see their productions. They have presented all fourteen Gilbert & Sullivan operettas – including the one that has no score. Now that’s MY kind of people!
This year’s offering is The Sorcerer, the duo’s problematic third collaboration. Like all the other wildly successful and oft-produced operettas that came after it, The Sorcerer is tuneful and funny, but the humor is solidly British and Victorian, so it is almost inscrutable to a modern American audience. If a director approaches it as a purist, s/he is doomed flame out and perish like the title character in the final scene.
Now there is no such thing as a bad production of The Sorcerer simply because it is done so seldom that any glimpse is a welcome treat for true Savoyards – I haven’t encountered it since I directed it myself in 1984 – but if I were going to quibble with Chris Rohmann’s fine production I would fault it for being a little too by the book, but then I am NOT a purist. Purists – and there are those who consider any deviation from Gilbert’s original promptbooks to be sacrilege – should be warned that Rohmann has cast a woman, the charming and talented Heather Davies, in the title role, who is now Jane (rather than John) Wellington Wells. (Quick! Get the smelling salts!)