One is the Stanford Savoyards, combining campus and community efforts to present Gilbert and Sullivan operettas in Dinkelspiel Auditorium on the Stanford University campus twice a year. Still going strong after more than 30 years, this stalwart amateur group caters to the seemingly bottomless appetite of loyal "G&S" fans and has a great deal of fun in the process.
The Savoyards' latest offering, a Bollywood-ized rendition of "The Sorcerer," shows the strengths of the troupe and provides an enjoyable evening's entertainment.
Setting "The Sorcerer" in Victorian India is truly inspired silliness that actually enhances certain aspects of the book and livens up the dance numbers. The plot revolves around love — love unrequited, love unexpressed, and true love found, lost, then found again — all ubiquitous Bollywood themes.
Alexis and Aline (Jonathan Erman and Aumna Iqbal), two lovers destined for each other, are about to be wed, and the entire village is rejoicing for and with them. But on the eve of the wedding, Alexis has the bold idea to make everyone else as happy as he is by hiring a Sorcerer (Geoff Schaeffer), who will administer a potion that makes one sleep and then fall in love with the first person one sees on waking.
Of course the potion works in disastrous ways, mismatching couples and even challenging the pure love of Alexis and Aline. It takes a major leap of love and faith to set it all right and send the Satanic Sorcerer packing. While it's basically a silly plot, the story has deeper themes and even political metaphors, and the humor is decidedly adult. Too many people mistake G&S for child's play when it's really intended for a mature audience.
The strengths include the local talent who turns out for the chance to sing G&S. Erman and Iqbal have lovely, lyrical voices, crystal clear and pleasant. Erman soars in the beautiful "Love feeds on many kinds of food" in Act One, and their duets are definite highlights.
Other standouts include Paul Melville as Sir Mahadesh and Jenn Wheelwright as Lady Balrampur, whose comic duet "Welcome joy!" is indeed a joy. Alejandra Martinez makes a marvelous Constance, with a sweet voice and innocent demeanor. Rebecca Sacks, as Constance's mother, sings prettily, though she does some strange flouncing about.
Schaeffer, as Sorcerer John Wellington Wells, perfectly suits the part, and has a wonderful strong baritone. David Lapham, as the hapless Vicar Dr. Daly, turned in a decent performance, despite minor pitch problems.
The set and costumes aptly reflect the concept, although the Indian costumes definitely outrank the British ones — Constance's dress, in particular, is most unflattering. The lighting is also oddly spotty, so performers are sometimes in shadow in key moments. Music director Jeremy Erman gets a very capable sound from both the orchestra and the ensemble, but if the company had a few more resources, they might also invest in a miking system to help voices rise above the orchestra.
Where this production really shines is in the dancing, with absolutely delightful choreography by Ishika Seth that is at once authentic and parodic. In several ensemble numbers one feels transported into a Bollywood video, in the best way.
Director David Euresti has done a good job bringing all these elements together, working with an amateur company to deliver a creative production that amuses and entertains. The company's staying power is no mystery, given the timeless material and the supply of fine talent.
What: "The Sorcerer," an operetta by W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan, presented by the Stanford Savoyards
Where: Dinkelspiel Auditorium, Stanford University
When: Saturday, Nov. 18, at 8 p.m., and Sunday, Nov. 19, at 2:30 p.m.
Cost: Tickets are $10-$16.
Info: Call 650-725-ARTS or go to www.stanford.edu/group/savoyards.
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