“Ruddigore” is a parody of the Victorian melodramas popular in late Victorian England, but set in the Regency period, at the beginning of the 19th century. It shared not only the costumes but many other similarities with the novels of Jane Austen. The plot revolves around the courtships, and permutated engagements of four couples, with Gilbert’s flair for absurd logic added to spice things up.
The sets and costumes were visually stunning. The opening act, set in a country village was positively breathtaking and facilitated the rather complicated staging. Technically complicated, the Act II set was a tour de force of special effects, costuming and singing. One advantage of the Regency costumes was that it was easy for the dancers to move, so the choreography was simple yet elegant and joyful. One song in particular, which was staged with a Maypole was particularly appealing.
The best performance was by Seattle Gilbert and Sullivan Society’s veteran, Alyce Rogers, whose singing and acting, as Dame Hannah was extremely entertaining. The duet with Sir Roderic Murgatroyd, played by William J. Darkow, and Dame Hannah was the best of the show. Dave Ross’s performance as Sir Despard Murgatroyd, the villain, was very funny. Although John Brookes’ performance as Robin Oakapple (the disguised Sir Robert Murgatroyd) when he soloed was very good, his diction was not up to the pattersong “Matter” so that the audience could not understand the words, so much of it fell flat. Fortunately Dave Ross’s contribution to the “Matter” song was understandable and engaging.
Jenny Shotwell, as Rose Maybud, sang and acted brilliantly; however, Hollis Heron as Mad Margaret was uninspired. Derek Sellers’s performance as Richard Dauntless was effective but the inconsistent accent was distracting. Since the play took place in Cornwall, a Cornish version of West Country should have been used; instead the accent verred towards Southern Irish with some Cockney thrown in, which made things a little confusing. In general the accents of the cast who spoke and sang RP ( Received Prounciation or Standard English) were consistent and far above what one usually hears on Seattle stages.
This show is a must see not just for G& S devotees but also for anyone who needs some light, fun entertainment.
“Ruddigore-the Witch’s Curse”, produced by Seattle Gilbert and Sullivan Society. Bagley Wright Theatre, Seattle Center July 15-17, July 22-24, and July 29-30 at 7:30. Matinees are Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are available at Brown Paper Tickets (800) 838-3006, or at www.brownpapertickets.com or through the Society’s website www.brownpapertickets.com. Tickets are $40 with discounts for seniors and young people.