During the last dress rehearsal on Wednesday night, University alum and Ann Arbor resident Jason Bitman said, “this is the first time we’ve had the whole cast on stage.” Bitman is the director of the University’s Gilbert and Sullivan Society’s production of “The Sorcerer,” which runs through Sunday at the Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre. Although not encouraging at first glance, the opera showcases the enduring quirks and qualities of one of the country’s oldest theatre groups dedicated to Gilbert and Sullivan.
The Sorcerer is a typical Gilbert and Sullivan opera, with lighthearted romantic dialogue (“Love should live for love alone!”) and sassy, sometimes-obnoxious British witticisms. A tight pit orchestra directed by Rackham student Clinton Smith complements the artful score.
John Wellington Wells is a card-carrying sorcerer hired by Alexis Pointdextre to make the entire town fall in love with one another by means of a magic potion. But events spin out of control when old men croon for little girls and the town’s priest, Dr. Daly, falls in love with Alexis’s fiancee, Aline Sangazure. The spell will only break when Wells or Pointdextre surrenders his soul to the kingdom of hell.
Perhaps the production’s most sparkling feature is the set design designed by CLASS year Laura Strave. Its simplicity belies its creativity and near-perfect construction. During the opera’s finale, when the gates of Hell open, Strowe masterfully transforms the elegant, English-style pavilion in mid-scene with seemingly little effort.
“The Sorcerer” marks Stowe’s 14th UMGASS production, and according to her, the experience has always been positive. “It’s always fun for everyone involved. (The shows are) always full of energy and ideas.” In her first production as set designer, Stowe had to do without a trap door to lower down the condemned. But she had a vision, and “Jason was happy to go along with it.”
In a cast with so much experience, it’s surprising that a freshmen earned the lead role. Aline is played by LSA and Music freshman Rebecca Nathanson. But she dimisses all doubt as soon as she takes center stage and fills the theater with a clear, well-controlled voice – easily the strongest in the cast. Her solo, “Oh, happy young heart,” and the duet “Oh my adored on” with Alexis, played by DePauw University graduate David Kozisek, exemplify her maturing voice.
The show begins at 8 p.m. today and will run through Sunday.