The Sorcerer

March 2013


Cast and Crew

Mrs Partlet Susan Bradley
Constance Jennie Henshaw
Dr Daly Ken Brook
Sir Marmaduke Ken Rees
Lady Sangazure Wendy Henshaw
Alexis Danny Shaw
Aline Eleanor Molloy
Notary Stephen Gent
Hercules Ben Lewis
J Wellington Wells Bob Wardle
DIRECTOR Hannah Carolan
previous arrow
next arrow
previous arrownext arrow

For all photos of this production, go to www.johnmcgibbon.com/newrosemere


 Winner/Runner-up  Award Person Organisation
 RUNNER UP Best Musical   BATS



'A real treat (and) a thoroughly enjoyable evening'

'The Sorcerer' is a little gem of a show which is often overlooked in the G&S canon and certainly receives far fewer airings on stage than it should: a great plot, some of Gilbert's best characters, marvellous music and lashings of wit make it one of my favourites from the pen of the masters of musical theatre. For let there be no mistake: I firmly believe that there is no greater coming together of the English language and music than in the works of Gilbert and Sullivan and as far as staging a musical/ theatrical entertainment goes, you cannot do better than G&S. The main reason for the relative dearth of productions of 'The Sorcerer' is perhaps the show's flaws in construction: far too many ponderous recitatives remind us that this is an early work from G&S and the pair hadn't yet gained the confidence to put across quickly with dialogue what acres of recitative achieve more ponderously. Also, the pacing of the show suffers in comparison with other works, again marking this show as something of an apprentice piece for the pairing but despite this. 'The Sorcerer' still ranks as a great little show which, with interesting and thoughtful direction, can take its place alongside the best shows musical theatre has to offer.

The curtain opened to reveal a charming set – West Yorkshire Savoyards once again on form here! - lit sympathetically and with the villagers of Ploverleigh in fine voice, setting the show off to a great sounding start. Susan Bradley and Jennie Henshaw as Mrs Partlet and her daughter Constance were again in fine voice and did their best to breathe life into the rather languid opening section - those aforementioned ponderous recitatives come thick and not-so-fast at the opening of the show - and greet the arrival on stage of Dr Daly as played by Ken Brook. A solid performance from Ken - his Doctor Daly was every inch the dithering old fogey - full of sympathetic humour and bringing a slightly sardonic touch to his musical numbers. Ken Rees as Sir Marmaduke exuded a solid dignity and was vocally strong and Lady Sangazure was essayed with a quiet calm and grace by Wendy Henshaw. Danny Shaw brought youth, vigour and enthusiasm to the role of Alexis and if there were signs of a tiring voice by the end of Act Two, it is hardly surprising as Alexis is a tough 'sing' for any tenor. Eleanor Molloy soared beautifully as Aline in a series of impressive vocal displays and her take on the character was just right - an excellent performance. Stephen Gent as the Notary gave a charming twinkle to his unlikely pairing with Constance when the love potion had taken its effect and Ben Lewis gave excellent value as Hercules: a young man with great stage presence, his frequent appearances with the ensemble demonstrated an easy confidence: someone to watch for the future here I think. The titular Sorcerer, Mr J Wellington Wells as played by Bob Wardle, really impressed. Here was a performance of confidence and power, wit and charm, completely dominating the stage on his every appearance, instantly lifting every scene he was in: Bob really stood out as a performer whose presence really lifted the show.

Musical numbers were performed with great precision, with chorus and soloists in fine voice creating a wonderful sound on stage. I did feel however that the tempo was slightly uneven at times: the comical duet between Lady Sangazure and Sir Marmaduke was rather sluggish, losing some of the impact of the juxtaposition between courtly politeness and fevered outpouring; on the other hand, the opening of Act Two went at rather too much of a lick for me, galloping along at such a pace that some of the humour was lost. The addition of an extract of the previously excised Act Two incantation scene was an excellent touch, giving the audience a clue as to why JW Wells has to forfeit his life at the end of the show rather than it just fly in from nowhere for the purposes of plot resolution: a nice touch which it would be nice to see other societies take on board in future productions. High points of the show included the incantation scene. J.W. Wells' patter song - beautifully done - the Act Two quintet and Aline's solo. The Act One finale bounced along merrily and the love potion worked its magic to great effect with ensemble numbers being well sung but I did feel that on a few occasions, with regard to movement, the ensemble weren't quite sure what to do with themselves: although one was aware that they were intending to do 'something', it was unclear on occasion what they were intending to do, when they were to start or stop doing it, or if they were supposed to be doing it all at the same time. Also, there were times when dialogue seemed to be declaimed at the audience, as opposed to being understood and really 'acted', losing some of the humour of Gilbert's pen along the way...

However, these are minor quibbles in what was an otherwise splendid production which had a large audience thoroughly entertained. A Gilbert and Sullivan audience can be a slippery beast: often populated with D'Oyly Carte diehards who approach a G&S production with something akin to holy reverence (think Wagner and Bayreuth but with extra bus passes and Werther's Originals) they can be a tough bunch to please yet if a director isn't given the freedom to put his or her stamp on a production the rest of the audience go away distinctly underwhelmed and the performances of G&S grow fewer and fewer in number as a result. It was a real treat to see a production at the Albert Halls from such a clearly committed society: an enthusiastic and talented cast, technical proficiency - with particularly good sound from Lea Royce and team - a large orchestra, an appreciative audience and a good production of a criminally neglected show all going towards making a thoroughly enjoyable evening.

David Slater