How do you take a stage production and turn it into a
black-and-white film? You do it by using only the four colors
khaki, moss, yogurt and bruise. This weekend, University of
Michigan Gilbert and Sullivan Society (UMGASS) answers this
question with production of “Ruddigore,” a stunning
musical full of love, honor, intrigue and ghosts that sing and
dance.

Janna Hutz
All smiles in this black-and-white world. (Courtesy of University Musical Society)

“Ruddigore” is a play that perfectly lends itself to
the genre of black -and-white film. Its storyline man and woman
fall in love, but then man inherits a castle and a curse which
causes him to have to commit one crime a day or die — is very
reminiscent of an old black-and-white horror flick. “It is a
parody of the melodrama of the time,” says artistic director
Jason Smith, and that is why the group decided to gray scale the
show.

As is noticeable as soon as the curtain rises though, the play
is definitely not devoid of color. In fact, there seem to be many
shades of browns and mauves that find their way into the costumes
of the cast, are as exuberant as the cast members themselves. Smith
explained, that, “as film starts to age, it starts to yellow
and fade, and that is the look we are going for. That gives us more
flexibility with the colors.”

Once past the pale pallor of the actors, the aspect of the show
that will steal your breath is the music. Both the musicians and
the singers are all of a professional timbre. Music director
Christopher Scheer explained how, for the first four weeks of
rehearsal, the only thing that was worked on was the music.
“The actors learned the music first before learning any of
the dancing or movement,” Scheer said, and the intense
practice is obvious from the moment the singers take the stage.

Margot Rood, the actress who plays Rose, expressed how the
Gilbert and Sullivan Society “was a nice way to be introduced
to a group of wonderful people.” And, as the actors and
musicians who make up the cast, crew and orchestra pit of this
production are from all over, this group is diverse as well. Some
of the members are students from the Music School, students from
all different departments, and some are members of the community
who simply wanted to get involved. “This Gilbert and Sullivan
Society is what you call a town and gown ensemble. We have people
from both the community and the university. We have everything from
doctors to lawyers to freshman,” stated Scheer.

After weeks of rehearsal, Ben Robinson (Richard), Margot Rood
(Rose) and Sarah Nisbett (Margaret) are all excited to perform the
play for an audience. Robinson said that, because the play is
rehearsed in separate sections right up until dress rehearsal,
coming together to run the entire show is a great feeling
“because than there is this sense of cohesion.” And
now, not only will the play be a unified whole, but the actors will
also get the added effect of audience reaction. Nisbett said,
“it’s been a challenge because there are little things
you don’t think about,” but all three agreed that the
mutually supportive environment of the group makes for a wonderful
show.

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