Theatre Mirror Reviews - "The Grand Duke, or The Statutory Duel"

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note: entire contents copyright 2006 by Carl A. Rossi


libretto by W. S. Gilbert; music by Sir Arthur Sullivan
directed by Paula Moravek
musical direction by Stephen Malionek

Rudolph (Grand Duke of Pfenning Halbpfennig) ... Tony Parkes
Ernest Dummkopf (A Theatrical Manager) ... Michael Belle
Ludwig (his Leading Comedian) ... Dennis O'Brien
Dr. Tannhäuser (A Notary) ... Ed Fell
The Prince of Monte Carlo ... Marco Bonito
Ben Hashbaz (A Costumier) … David Owen Herald ... Art Dunlap
The Princess of Monte Carlo (betrothed to Rudolph) ... Elaine Crane
The Baroness von Krakenfeldt (betrothed to Rudolph) ... Tambre Tarleton Knox
Julia Jellicoe (An English Comédienne) ... Kathy Lague
Lisa (A Soubrette) ... Stephanie Mann

Gretchen ... Mary A. Finn
Bertha ... Cavalyn Galano
Elsa ... Julie Kingman
Martha ... Laurel Martin

John Covert; Rollin Jeglum; David Lopshire; Neil McCormick;
Roy Paro; Jon Saul; Ted Sullivan

Debbie Crane; Beth Fowler; Marcia Goldensher;
Fred Hughes; David Kehs; Rich Olsen

Featured Dancer … Sara Williams

Russell Adams; David Baldwin; John Covert; Debbie Crane;
Janice Dallas; Arthur Dunlap; Meryl Eisenstein; Ed Fell;
Beth Fowler; Marcia Goldensher; Beth Goldstein; John Gorgone;
Fred Hughes; Rollin Jeglum; Bill Johnson; David Kehs;
David Lopshire; Laurel Martin; Linnea Martin; Neil McCormick;
June McKnight; Rich Olsen; David Owen; Roy Paro; Tom Porcher;
Karen Powers; Nancy Powers; Jon Saul; Ellen Simmons;
Heather Sliney; Paul Sliney; J. Donald Smith; Ellen Spear;
Ted Sullivan; Stacey Teman; Marla Zucker

Conductor … Stephen Malionek
Violin I … Alan Whitney (Concertmaster); Lois Whitney; Dwight Breen
Violin II … Dorothy Linsner; Eric Chi; Jake Bergman; Jagan Nath S. Khalsa
Viola … Dale Hall; Jane Goodman
Cello … Elizabeth Kinney; Marsha Turin; Beverly Bowman
Bass … Ben Stevens
Flute I … Susan Caplan
Flute II & Piccolo … Marianne Leonard
Oboe … Katie Tibbitts
Clarinets … Patrick Kinney; Elizabeth Tringali; Don Walker
Bassoons … Diane Zolnaski; Jason P. Caron
Horns … Joeth Barlas; Molly Bergmann; Jeanne Paella
Trumpets … Glen Leavens; Jim Wallace
Trombones … James Nollet; Sam Reynolds; Bill Aitken
Bass Trombone … Jim Battell; Bill Aitken
Percussion … Ben Clark

In 1896, W. S. Gilbert wrote, “I’m not a proud Mother, and I never want to see this ugly misshapen little brat again.” He was referring to THE GRAND DUKE, his fourteenth comic opera in collaboration with Arthur Sullivan; the “brat” proved the final offspring of the G&S team and was rarely performed during the last century; only in recent times has it been brought back into the repertoire. How bad (or good) is THE GRAND DUKE? For starters, the original version is overly long and the plot, overly complicated: in the Grand Duchy of Pfennig Halbpfennig, a theatrical troupe plots to overthrow the tyrannical Grand Duke Rudolph and elect its manager Ernest Dummkopf to the throne. When Ludwig, the leading comedian, unintentionally leaks the plot to a spy, he and Ernest save their skins through an obscure dueling custom where they draw cards and the man with the lower card is declared legally dead, thus becoming the scapegoat. Ludwig “duels” with both Ernest and Rudolph and twice draws the higher card, becoming manager of the troupe and Duke of Pfenning Halbpfennig, but now he cannot wed the soubrette Lisa as the law requires that the winner inherits all of the deceased’s responsibilities; thus, he is claimed by Julia, the troupe’s temperamental leading lady, and Rudolph’s two betrotheds: the Baroness von Krakenfeldt and the nouveau-riche Princess of Monte Carlo. The topsy-turvydom is sorted out and four couples pair off, accordingly. Mr. Gilbert’s formulaic libretto ignites only when Ludwig finds himself a husband in demand and though Mr. Sullivan produced no recognizable tunes, there is lovely music throughout in jolly and/or satirical vein.

The Sudbury Savoyards have mounted their first production of THE GRAND DUKE which, carefully trimmed, proves an amusing-enough entertainment, after all. Michael Belle, in a welcome Savoyard debut, makes a bright, ringing Ernest; Dennis O’Brien’s Ludwig is a study of a Ham being born compared to last year’s Ko-Ko which was nimble and Ham-free. Kathy Lague was a matronly Mabel, two seasons ago; as Julia, she is handsome and commanding in true diva fashion, especially in her Mad Scene --- her lower register may wobble but her coloratura is secure and she floats some lovely, honeyed high notes. Onstage, Tony Parkes is all Vulcan solemnity yet such woodenness makes his sourpuss Rudolph rather endearing and he effortlessly fills the house with his crystal-clear diction. Happily, the numerous Savoyard choruses now stay stock-still when they are not the focus of a scene rather than engage in a mugging free-for-all, and they continue to sing gloriously (their hushed utterance of the word “broken” is a marvelous Act Two moment); on the debit side, they remain leaden in their movements and a goodly handful still cannot make it offstage in sync with a song’s closing strains --- next year’s offering is IOLANTHE and they will have to work at “tripping hither, tripping thither.”

"The Grand Duke, or The Statutory Duel" (24 February - 4 March)
Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School, Corner of Concord Road and Lincoln Road, SUDBURY, MA
1 (978) 443-8811

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