Gilbert and Sullivan Players Carry Forward the Guard

April 19, 2011
For the last half of March, the Aggasiz Theater was the domain of the Harvard-Radcliffe Gilbert & Sullivan Players and their spring production of “The Yeomen of the Guard,” directed by Devon Dunn ’12 and music directed by Ethan Addicott ’14. Audiences enjoyed following the quandaries of Colonel Fairfax (Ian Clark ’12), who is approaching his eminent beheading with bravery and comic ambivalence when the curtain rises.  Unsurprisingly, he avoids his fate, but not without involving a slew of quirky allies and villains.

Clark’s voice is piercing and lovely. His every word is understandable and every note has direction.  Although Cassandra Rasmussen ’13 presented a quiet Phoebe Meryll, both in voice and character, the von Trapp-like family number featuring Phoebe, her father, and her brother, is executed beautifully by Rasmussen, Eric Padilla ’14, and Dylan Nagler ’14.

When Jack Point (Daniel Erickson ’14) and Elsie Maynard (Marit A. Medefind ’12) enter as traveling performers, they reinvigorate the second half of Act 1.  Erickson is magnetizing.  He has taken his lines, sung and spoken, and somehow made them believable to himself, while still fantastical and absurd to the audience.  The comic duo of Erickson and Ben Morris ’09 is perhaps the highlight of the show: each actor, made for Gilbert and Sullivan, has met his match, and the result is magical.

Matthew Warner’s (’13) re-imagination of the 16th century Tower of London provides a beautifully detailed backdrop to Yeomen’s musical numbers and comic scenes.  Warner’s set, enclosed by tower walls and a grand set of doors, is reserved but versatile.  In different scenes, the textured stone walls serve to suggest both interior and exterior spaces.  At the beginning of the second act, the doors are opened to broaden the space and lend a darker atmosphere to one of the show’s most memorable scenes–a farcical exchange between Shadbolt and Point that balances witty advice with creative uses of torture implements.  Colorful lighting is skillfully employed throughout the show to accentuate both comedic and dramatic moments, but occasional oddly-timed transitions and rapid shifts are somewhat jarring.

With two Gilbert and Sullivan operas a year, and only fourteen to choose from in total, the Harvard-Radcliffe Gilbert & Sullivan Players must seek vitality and nuance in each of their productions: having a clear “take” on a show is imperative if the end result is going to resonate with an audience strongly and without redundancy. “Yeomen” lacked distinctiveness in this respect, sometimes feeling more like a concert than a coherent piece.  However, Dunn succeeded in selecting cast that could carry the show, creating characters with whom the audience could laugh and empathize.

The Harvard Art Review Theatre Board



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