So, my month-long commitment to two shows is over. Both The Sorcerer and Jack and Rochelle closed Sunday afternoon, March 28. Obviously I wasn’t at both shows that day; I did my last run of J&R the night before, and played pit for The Sorcerer on Sunday while my replacement did projection at the JCC.
I hate to say it, but there’s no way I’ll miss running J&R as much as I’ll miss playing pit for The Sorcerer. Normally I really hate to close a show, but Jack and Rochelle is quite honestly rather depressing, despite its overtones of romance and destiny. It’s great to see a real-life love story blossom with the Holocaust as a backdrop, but the show kind of pulled me down every time even though the director tried to use as little Holocaust material as possible. To use the words of one man lured to the show by his companion with promises of hilarity, it was not a comedy. 1Thanks to my mother for picking up that gem while I was shutting down my equipment that night; apparently it was a good time for her to see the show. :D
By contrast, The Sorcerer is a comic operetta written in standard Gilbert & Sullivan style. Not a moment went by during those runs when I wasn’t chortling at a line of dialogue or a physical gag (thanks to the video monitors in the pit). The show is so over-the-top with word play, physical humor, and pop culture references that every performance seemed to end just as we were getting warmed up. The directors took more than a few liberties with the script. I wrote up a summary including some of the better gags from this particular staging below. (It was originally going to be part of the normal flow of this post, but then it got to be really long.)
However, I don’t mean to be unfair to Jack and Rochelle. That script has only been around for about five years (the show was originally workshopped at Stages Theatre Company in Hopkins, MN in 2005), and the director readily admitted that there were problems with it. (Some parts of the show were downright confusing because the dialogue and stage directions given in the script were grossly inadequate to describe what was happening.) The Sorcerer has had the benefit of over a hundred years to age and improve, and every production over the years has added new enhancements to the show’s “vernacular”. 2The score from which this production worked included many such enhancements, such as dialogue traditionally added but never put in writing and original versions of songs that were rewritten after the score’s original publication. J&R will probably evolve in much the same way.
Jack and Rochelle
In Jack and Rochelle, I spent the show in front of a computer. No, really. It was a full MacBook with all the amenities. The director brought his laptop for me to use before every show because he decided that the projections should be run from PowerPoint. His original idea was to create a DVD version of the projections that could be run from the existing equipment in the booth, but timing it out would have been problematical for the actors—no two shows went exactly the same, and a couple of the sound cues were already stretching the limits of timing sensitivity—and my equipment was switched from DVD player to laptop before any discs were even created.
Conveniently, using PowerPoint allowed me to add notes directly in the presentation interface. During tech week I used them to remind myself where things would happen as well as to give feedback and suggestions to the director, who was still revising the projections. Once the run started, he’d given detailed status information and cue lines in the slide notes, and I used my own sense of timing to revise a few of them. I also added some extra details for when I wasn’t there. That was the thing: I had to have good notes in place because previous commitments to play in The Sorcerer pit orchestra meant someone would have to do my job for four of the twelve shows. (The canceled matinée is included in that total.) So I added as many details as I could to the notes.
Despite having 70 slides, I still spent a good chunk of the show (about 40 pages straight, out of 66) doing nothing. (From page 22 through page 65, there were no projection cues at all, and so I had nothing better to do than watch the show. Again. I think the long stretch of having nothing to do was responsible for most of my boredom with the show. It was a great show for the first few runs, during tech week, but once I knew what was happening it got pretty uninteresting—not that I ever got bored of running the projection cues; a couple slide transitions had some rather challenging timing, and I came up with new ideas and notes during every run.
In The Sorcerer, my only responsibility was to provide as solid a rendition of the second violin part as I could. Yeah, “only” responsibility. Right. Arthur Sullivan certainly knew how to write intricate music. The rhythms in some of those pieces were, shall we say, demanding, and I must admit I fudged some of the higher notes—those above fifth position. (Who in their right mind would write a second violin part with notes in seventh position or above? That happened in Guys and Dolls too. Bah.) But hey, when you’re playing in an ensemble led by Courtney Lewis, assistant conductor to the Minnesota Orchestra, you’re on your very best fudging. 😀
The Twin Cities area makes for a very small world. Before my first performance of The Sorcerer, I ran into Mather Dolph, who played the sorcerer himself. Mather and I go back a long way; I sang in the Minnesota Boychoir with his son for about six years.
Given that I played only seven performances of The Sorcerer, it was still ridiculously difficult to find a night to actually go and see the show as an audience member. The night that I did, the last Friday, only happened because I begged off of a pit rehearsal for Cinderella (I just said I had “a conflict” and couldn’t go). That Friday was a good night, though. After the show, I ran into my former orchestra conductor from the local high school, as well as three more Boychoir parents. (One of the moms in the latter group sported an Android phone. Win.)
What’s live theatre without bloopers, right? There weren’t really that many compared with what usually comes up in productions involving my age group. (Actually, I shouldn’t imply that these were all-adult shows. Jack and Rochelle actually did have a couple high-school students in the cast, and The Sorcerer did have a fifth-grade cast member.)
In its last weekend, The Sorcerer did start to lose it a bit. First Mather’s voice started to go. The Friday that I saw the show was actually Mather’s last performance as his role; the final two shows had his character played by an understudy. Then the cast had to be shuffled around to cover the loss of a principal on Sunday. Dr. Daly couldn’t perform on account of a prior commitment. There was even some thought given to me stepping in for his understudy in the chorus, but the directors and I both agreed that that would have been a bad idea.
Jack and Rochelle provided a better blooper. There was one show, also the last Friday, when it seemed like a lot of things went wrong all in one performance. The audience that morning consisted of—as predicted—seniors. One of them wasn’t exactly present, mentally, and she once shouted “What?” at the stage by way of requesting a repetition of a hard-to-hear line. Also, a cell phone rang during the show, and the lantern that the actors used for the last 20 or so pages of the script was knocked off stage in its first scene; it remained on the floor of the house, visible to most of the seats on far house left, for the rest of the performance.
So, after a brief hiatus, I’ll be back to it in just a few days. (Nothing got scheduled during Easter week? Really?) Friday I have another Cinderella pit rehearsal—actually a sit-sing, so the actors will be rehearsing with us. Saturday is back to StageCoach and our cheesy musical adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew—codename Best Beware My Sting, and I have a booking at the JCC a week from Sunday for the Jewish Film Festival.
Not that I have next week free; it’s tech week for Cinderella, and the show opens on Friday. If they have a Sunday matinée that they haven’t told me about by now, well, too bad, ’cause they’re going to lose their second violin. 😛
Below, my overly footnoted, longer-than-the-rest-of-this-post summary of The Sorcerer, if anyone cares to read it.
Appendix: W.S. Glibert(ies)
No, I didn’t make a typo (and it’s not a reference to GLib). The Sorcerer‘s directors really did take a lot of liberties with the script, to great effect, and I thought I might include some of the better gags along with a summary of the show. For instance, in this production, Dr. Daly (the village priest, “dear old tutor” and “valued pastor” to Alexis, the male lead) comes out after the conductor takes his bow at the start of the show and sings what we called the “Cell Phone Song”:
Now that you’re at the the-a-ter,
You can call your mother later.
Please don’t try to text your mate
Or anyone else; just turn it off.
Please turn your cell phones off.
Turn them off and please don’t cough.
Please turn your cell phones off.
Dr. Daly, from the 2010 GSVLOC production of The Sorcerer
The song really sets the mood for the rest of the show. It should be quite plain which bits came from the text and which were rewritten, but I’ll note the less obvious ones. Larger quotes are footnoted to their sources, but indeed all quotes large and small from the show are either from the same online source or transcribed from a video recording I have of the sixth performance. Square brackets note alterations in the name of either truth to this performance or clarity.
The overture underscores stage action: Several couples move about the stage, courting, chatting, some failing in their attempts. Cupid perches on top of a large, nondescript set piece just in time to see a girl “hide” on the far side of her perch while a frustrated young man 3The youth is played by a man who appears to be in his thirties, but none of the actors are really that young, except for Cupid. moves to loiter on the other side (everything he has tried to gain her affection has had some ill effect on her). Somewhat forcibly, Cupid brings the two together behind the set piece to kiss. The two emerge briefly to reveal their newfound affection, and then duck back behind it; clothing is then thrown about above the set piece while Cupid hides her eyes to avoid the sight. 4It would have been funny in just about any circumstance, but this Cupid was played by a fifth-grade girl. After a beat, the couple emerge slightly rumpled, with veil and top hat, all ready for a wedding.
After more amusing but less remarkable comic action, a heart-opening recitative from Constance to her sister 5In the original score, Ms. Partlet is Constance’s mother. However, for the purposes of this production, the two actors were deemed too close in age to believably portray mother and daughter; thus, the relationship was altered and the associated lines rewritten. Ms. Partlet more or less confessing her love for Dr. Daly, and an elaborate betrothal ceremony—in which Alexis tries to surprise Aline (the female lead) but is foiled when she turns away from him every time he tries to reveal himself—lies the first real scene of the show. 6It should be noted that, for all intents and purposes, the overture and the first three numbers of the show are played practically back to back. Constant music means constant playing, which kept me from seeing most of the opening until I got a DVD and managed to actually see a live performance on the one evening I could do so. Alexis describes to Aline (but more for the audience’s benefit) his belief that pure and lasting happiness comes only from true love. He expounds upon his vision of a world where people can love and be loved without discrimination by (among others) wealth, education, age, rank, gender, religion, credit score, or investment portfolio—a subject on which he has campaigned from New Hampshire to Iowa, and “the citizens have all agreed that love should be for love alone.” 7Quotes directly excerpted from PDF libretto found at the Boise State Gilbert and Sullivan archive. Aline mentions that some people think Midwesterners are not open to argument; both agree, on that and that the farm hand is the highest intelligence (when he is quite sober). Based on his theories of happiness, he expresses his desire to distribute a love potion secretly among the villagers at an upcoming gathering, so that all may experience the happiness he feels at being in love.
To get a love potion, Alexis contacts a London sorcery firm and awaits the arrival of John Wellington Wells (“the sorcerer”, or the show’s title character). Reacting to Aline’s fear of meeting a real sorcerer, Alexis soothes her: “I trust my Aline will not yield to fear while the strong right arm of Alexis is here to protect her.” 8Quotes directly excerpted from PDF libretto found at the Boise State Gilbert and Sullivan archive. (He of course holds up his left arm, to great embarrassment a moment later.) When the sorcerer arrives, he introduces the various items carried by his firm’s shop at Number 70, Simmery Axe (St. Mary’s Axe, a London street). Among them are polyjuice potions, gillyweed, cloaks of invisibility, and all the latest broomsticks (including the all-new Nimbus 1800).
Mr. Wells agrees to sell the love potion to Alexis at a 25% discount in light of the latter’s MPR membership, after alleviating Aline’s concerns that many of the villagers are married people (“Madam, this [love potion] is compounded on the strictest principles. On married people it has no effect whatever.” 9Quotes directly excerpted from PDF libretto found at the Boise State Gilbert and Sullivan archive.), and a fearsome incantation ensues. Alexis puts the potion into the tea at the gathering, and the villagers unwittingly drink it. Everyone falls asleep just before intermission, many collapsing on stage and remaining until the start of Act Two.
‘Tis twelve hours since the villagers have unknowingly consumed the love potion, and at this mystic hour the magic drink will manifest its power. 10Shamelessly adapted from the first four lines of “‘Tis twelve I think”, the opening number of Act Two. :P Before the action of Act Two begins, Cupid makes as if leading all the women in sleepwalking around the stage, mixing them all up.
As they awaken, the men wonder aloud: “Why, where be oi, and what be oi a doin’, a sleepin’ out, just when the dews du rise?” And of course, the women answer: “Why, that’s the very way your health to ruin, and don’t seem quite respectable likewise!” 11Quotes directly excerpted from PDF libretto found at the Boise State Gilbert and Sullivan archive. Then everything goes haywire; the mixed-up couples see each other and fall under the love potion’s spell. Not that they care, of course, but there will be problems later.
The first sign of trouble arrives in the form of Constance, who has fallen madly in love with the Notary, a hard-of-hearing old 12Relatively speaking. Constance is “nearly eighteen” and the libretto pegs the Notary at “sixty-seven nearly”. He is not terribly old by modern standards, but this is the 19th century, after all. man, but is fully aware that her love for him has replaced the love she formerly felt toward Dr. Daly. She bemoans her cup “not of nectar”, flitting about the stage as before, with the Notary tottering along after her and asking that she repeat what she says in the faster sections of the song as he is “a very deaf old man”; the chorus oblige.
Behind them, Alexis and Aline have entered. As the others disperse, Alexis muses on the success of his plan. The world may consider the resulting matches ill-advised, but he and Aline are “far wiser than the world”. He points out the benefits: “The miserly wife will check the reckless expenditure of her too frivolous consort, the wealthy husband will shower innumerable bonnets on his penniless bride, and the young and lively spouse will cheer the declining days of her aged partner with comic songs unceasing!” 13Quotes directly excerpted from PDF libretto found at the Boise State Gilbert and Sullivan archive. But his desire that he and Aline also drink the elixir elicits anger from Aline: “Oh, Alexis, do you doubt me? Is it necessary that such love as ours should be secured by artificial means? Oh, no, no, no! […] If you cannot trust me, you have no right to love me—no right to be loved by me.” 14Quotes directly excerpted from PDF libretto found at the Boise State Gilbert and Sullivan archive. Alexis interprets this as an indication that Aline’s love for him is but fleeting, and concludes that “It is not love”. 15The number’s title.
Fortunately, Dr. Daly arrives to divert the couple’s attention. Men and women darting across the stage intermittently punctuate his lines as he muses on the strange happenings. The whole village has, after all, just come to him in a body and asked to be married with the least possible delay. It has spurred in him a longing for companionship, but before he can spend too much time puling 16Of which he accuses himself; basically, whining. he is interrupted by the arrival of Alexis’ father, Sir Marmaduke, accompanied by none other than Ms. Partlet (a pew opener 17In short, an usher in a church. and quite possibly the village’s poorest resident). She unintentionally throws Alexis’ philosophies of true love and happiness back in his face as she pledges to confer upon Sir Marmaduke “the great and priceless dowry of a true, tender, and loving heart”. 18Quotes directly excerpted from PDF libretto found at the Boise State Gilbert and Sullivan archive. All the while, Dr. Daly sighs wistfully at Ms. Partlet’s comeliness 19The script uses the word “comely” quite liberally for “attractive”; my usage follows from that. and finally he congratulates Sir Marmaduke on his newfound love. The quintet “rejoice that it’s decided”, 20The musical number, “I rejoice that it’s decided” briefly recognizing that Dr. Daly has “no one left to marry him”, and the two couples exit; Dr. Daly follows them with a sigh.
Mr. Wells enters, reflecting on the results of his cooperation: “Oh, I have wrought much evil with my spells! An ill I can’t undo! This is too bad of you, J. W. Wells—What wrong have they done you?” 21Quotes directly excerpted from PDF libretto found at the Boise State Gilbert and Sullivan archive. Lady Sangazure enters, her mood melancholy at being left with no companion. 22So perhaps there is someone left to marry Dr. Daly after all! This must have been intentionally overlooked when the show was written, to facilitate this scene and the next. This sort of plot device would most likely be categorized as a “plot oversight” by the venerable Phil Farrand, author of The Nitpicker’s Guide for Next Generation Trekkers. Still, she has been exposed to the potion, and so she falls in love with Mr. Wells. He is not amused. He tells her to hate him because he drops his H’s, has a room full of Elvis souvenirs, drinks beer from a can, and is a NASCAR fan—but Lady Sangazure will have none of it. She offers to go ice fishing with him (“No, you’ll catch a cold”) and shop at Wal-Mart, also to no avail. Finally, Mr. Wells lies that he is engaged “to a maiden fair, with bright brown hair, and a sweet and simple smile” 23Quotes directly excerpted from PDF libretto found at the Boise State Gilbert and Sullivan archive. who awaits him on a South Pacific isle. Lady Sangazure is so distraught at this that she pulls out a knife 24From the foam cut-out shrubs downstage, no less. What awkward blocking that was. and threatens to commit suicide in her family vault. Mr. Wells follows her, hoping to avoid tragedy.
Following Mr. Wells’ trouble, Aline reaffirms her love to Alexis: “Doubt me not, my loved one! See, thine uttered will is sovereign law to me! All fear—all thought of ill I cast away! It is my darling’s will, and I obey!” 25Quotes directly excerpted from PDF libretto found at the Boise State Gilbert and Sullivan archive. She drinks the love potion and tries to go and find Alexis, but her exit is blocked by Dr. Daly, who is lamenting that all the villagers are “Engaged to So-and-so”. 26The number’s title. He plays a tune using a synthesizer app on his iPhone (which displays a small keyboard when he shows it to the audience). 27The score calls for him to play a flageolet, but historically, most actors playing the part have not done so (according to the score’s preface). In this case the instrumentation was played by another actor on an electronic keyboard backstage, but Dr. Daly could just as easily have played another instrument had the actor been so inclined. Aline throws it off stage at the end of the song; 28Unfortunately, while I know for a fact that the prop table held two mock iPhones, I never did find out when the second one (displaying the home screen) was used. she is madly in love with him because of the love potion, 29Due to careless rewriting done for the 1884 revival, Aline falls in love with Dr. Daly almost immediately after drinking the potion. The original 1877 version has the potion take effect in half an hour, but the duration was lengthened to twelve hours for the revival—a change that was not reflected in the Act I finale or in this scene. and has been making every effort to get him to notice her during his song. Finally, after he finishes, Dr. Daly sees Aline and falls in love with her as well, also under the influence of the potion.
Alexis soon discovers the two of them together. At first he is happy that Aline has tasted the potion, as he wished, but his joy turns to anger when he learns that she has fallen in love with Dr. Daly instead. He calls the villagers, and when they have gathered he begins to publicly denounce Aline. Dr. Daly will not stand for it, and explains what has happened: “Hold! Be just. This poor child drank the philtre at your instance. She hurried off to meet you—but, most unhappily, she met me instead. As you had administered the potion to both of us, the result was inevitable. But fear
nothing from me—I will be no man’s rival. I shall quit the country at once—and bury
my sorrow in the congenial gloom of a Colonial Bishopric.” 30Quotes directly excerpted from PDF libretto found at the Boise State Gilbert and Sullivan archive. Alexis gratefully accepts his old friend’s sacrifice, but Aline will have none of it. Dr. Daly repeatedly pushes her toward Alexis, but she returns to him several times before giving up. (He finally resorts to placing a hand on her head to hold her off as she swings her arms wildly, reaching for him.) She moves off, upset; Alexis sees Mr. Wells and asks him what is to be done.
Mr. Wells thinks for a moment, and can think of only one possible solution: “Or you or I must yield up his life to Ahrimanes. I would rather it were you. I should have no hesitation in sacrificing my own life to spare yours, but we take stock next week, and it wouldn’t be fair on the shareholders.” 31This line was slightly modified from the libretto. Alexis stands ready to give up his life to set everything straight, but Aline won’t let him. “Mr. Wells, if he must die that all may be restored to their former loves then what is to become of me? I should be left out in the cold, with no love to be restored to!” 32This line was slightly modified from the libretto. Not having thought of that, Mr. Wells appeals to the others to decide which man shall die.
The villagers choose Mr. Wells. He hands his wand to Alexis, who attempts to kill Mr. Wells. When it doesn’t work, Mr. Wells takes his wand, whacks it a few times, and passes it back. Alexis tries again, and fails; Mr. Wells gives up on that wand and goes to his carriage to fetch another. While he is off stage, Alexis shrugs, with the wand, and finally succeeds. The spell is broken, and as Mr. Wells’ spirit rises up stage left, the villagers return to their former loves. Sir Marmaduke invites them all to another feast, and the opera ends with a joyful dance.
Notes [ + ]
|1.||↑||Thanks to my mother for picking up that gem while I was shutting down my equipment that night; apparently it was a good time for her to see the show. :D|
|2.||↑||The score from which this production worked included many such enhancements, such as dialogue traditionally added but never put in writing and original versions of songs that were rewritten after the score’s original publication.|
|3.||↑||The youth is played by a man who appears to be in his thirties, but none of the actors are really that young, except for Cupid.|
|4.||↑||It would have been funny in just about any circumstance, but this Cupid was played by a fifth-grade girl.|
|5.||↑||In the original score, Ms. Partlet is Constance’s mother. However, for the purposes of this production, the two actors were deemed too close in age to believably portray mother and daughter; thus, the relationship was altered and the associated lines rewritten.|
|6.||↑||It should be noted that, for all intents and purposes, the overture and the first three numbers of the show are played practically back to back. Constant music means constant playing, which kept me from seeing most of the opening until I got a DVD and managed to actually see a live performance on the one evening I could do so.|
|7, 8, 9, 11, 13, 14, 18, 21, 23, 25, 30.||↑||Quotes directly excerpted from PDF libretto found at the Boise State Gilbert and Sullivan archive.|
|10.||↑||Shamelessly adapted from the first four lines of “‘Tis twelve I think”, the opening number of Act Two. :P|
|12.||↑||Relatively speaking. Constance is “nearly eighteen” and the libretto pegs the Notary at “sixty-seven nearly”. He is not terribly old by modern standards, but this is the 19th century, after all.|
|15, 26.||↑||The number’s title.|
|16.||↑||Of which he accuses himself; basically, whining.|
|17.||↑||In short, an usher in a church.|
|19.||↑||The script uses the word “comely” quite liberally for “attractive”; my usage follows from that.|
|20.||↑||The musical number, “I rejoice that it’s decided”|
|22.||↑||So perhaps there is someone left to marry Dr. Daly after all! This must have been intentionally overlooked when the show was written, to facilitate this scene and the next. This sort of plot device would most likely be categorized as a “plot oversight” by the venerable Phil Farrand, author of The Nitpicker’s Guide for Next Generation Trekkers.|
|24.||↑||From the foam cut-out shrubs downstage, no less. What awkward blocking that was.|
|27.||↑||The score calls for him to play a flageolet, but historically, most actors playing the part have not done so (according to the score’s preface). In this case the instrumentation was played by another actor on an electronic keyboard backstage, but Dr. Daly could just as easily have played another instrument had the actor been so inclined.|
|28.||↑||Unfortunately, while I know for a fact that the prop table held two mock iPhones, I never did find out when the second one (displaying the home screen) was used.|
|29.||↑||Due to careless rewriting done for the 1884 revival, Aline falls in love with Dr. Daly almost immediately after drinking the potion. The original 1877 version has the potion take effect in half an hour, but the duration was lengthened to twelve hours for the revival—a change that was not reflected in the Act I finale or in this scene.|
|31, 32.||↑||This line was slightly modified from the libretto.|