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Published on October 6th, 2012 | by RLn Staff

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It’s Good But Not Great G&S: Review of Ruddigore or The Witch’s Curse

By John Farrell

Following the success of last year’s production of Yeomen of the Guard by Gilbert and Sullivan, the Sierra Madre Playhouse has revived Ruddigore or The Witch’s Curse, the English duo’s wonderfully satiric look at 19th century melodrama.

Though Ruddigore is not one of G and S’s best-known works, it should be. Filled with a dozen or so memorable songs, entertaining characters and a wonderfully Gilbertian ending, it has been reset to Morro Bay circa 1950 in this production, apparently because surfer costumes are cheap. But that doesn’t make much difference, though having a bad Baronet in California is a bit of a stretch.

The story is about Robin Oakapple, secretly Sir Ruthven Murgatroyd, (Nick Molari) who had escaped his family’s curse of committing a crime a day by pretending to be dead. He’s in love with Rose Maybud (Maria Elena Altany) but is betrayed by his best friend Dick Dauntless (James Simenc). He is confronted by Sir Despard Murgatroyd and a painting gallery of spooks before the cheerful ending.

The production has plenty of musical heart and the characters, especially Molari and Altany, have great presence. But the result is less than satisfying.

Director Eugene J. Hutchins, the program claimed, did a big re-write of Gilbert but the truth is otherwise. He left all the songs and changed the chorus from bridesmaids to cheerleaders, which might not be all that important. And he gets his cast to singing tunefully. But clarity is sacrificed for tunefulness, and the very rich book that Gilbert created is often forgotten in the action. There are about a dozen great lines that are spoken into the scenery, and it’s hard to follow what’s going on onstage, even with the $5 program they were selling outside. If you know and love Ruddigore, this is a great chance to hear the songs and imagine the story. It is not great G and S though.

Tickets are $25, $22 for seniors 65 and older and students 13-17, $15 for children 12 and under. performances Friday, Oct. 5 at 8 p.m. with American Sign Language interpretation and Audio Description for the blind, Saturday, Oct. 6 at 8 p.m., Sunday, October 7 at 2:30, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 2:30 p.m. through Saturday, Nov. 10.

Details: (626) 355-4318, www.sierramadreplayhouse.org
Venue: Sierra Madre Playhouse
Location: 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre

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