Opening Nights: Ruddigore

There's much to enjoy in Gilbert and Sullivan's melodrama.

By now I've seen the Seattle Gilbert & Sullivan Society's splendid core actors often enough that I know that if any joke or bit doesn't come off, it's more likely Gilbert's fault than theirs. There's only so much even veterans like Dave Ross, John Brookes, William J. Darkow, and Alyce Rogers can do with the challenging script for Ruddigore, unique in the G&S canon in that its satire, for the most part, is turned inward at theatrical conventions rather than outward at social institutions. There's fun to be had in this production, as always, but, unavoidably, less zing than in those shows where the humor's more pointed. Among the highlights are Rebecca Foster's luscious costumes and a fine orchestra led by Bernie Kwiram, assembled to play Sullivan's trickier-than-usual score. (The Society's shows have had problems in the pit in the past.) The speedy "My eyes are fully open" trio is practically worth the admission price itself, with Brookes, Ross, and Hollis Heron delivering some of the most expert patter singing you'll likely hear anywhere. There's also a neat solution to the awkward business of the portraits in a gallery coming to life (Gilbert, unusually, not only asks for a daunting theatrical special effect, but bases most of Act 2 around it). Do you need to know why these portraits come to life? Oh, very well: Sir Ruthven Murgatroyd (Brookes) is condemned by an ancient curse to commit a crime a day or die, and his ancestors step out of their paintings to ensure he does so. If the tempo of the spoken dialogue were goosed a bit (or a lot), the performers could probably pare 15 minutes from the run time (about two and a half hours, with intermission), which would benefit the show greatly. But overall, the Society does excellently by Ruddigore, thanks to its admirable commitment to all their namesakes' operettas, the problematic ones as well as the surefire hits.

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