|– by Elyse Cook (08/27/11)
The Yeoman of the Guard is the darkest, and perhaps most emotionally and musically powerful, of Gilbert and Sullivan’s operettas. Set in the Tower of London the plot revolves around Colonel Fairfax, who is wrongly accused of sorcery by his cousin and sentenced to death. Within an hour of his execution, Fairfax hatches a plan to avoid letting his estate fall into the hands of his treacherous cousin by secretly marrying Elsie Maynard, a strolling singer. Elsie agrees to be blindfolded during the ceremony and soon expects to be a wealthy widow, leaving her free to marry the jester Jack Point. However, Fairfax escapes, leaving Jack and Elsie horrified that she is now the wife of an unknown fugitive.
While I commend the Sierra Madre Playhouse for tackling one of Gilbert and Sullivan’s works for the first time, the production seemed to be cluttered up with conflicting styles of singing, movement and direction. The set and lighting design by Edward Haynes, Jr. and Wes Chew, respectively, were well done and used to good effect. The Musical Director and Accompanist, Brian Asher Alhadeff, managed to play and conduct from his position in the audience without overpowering or distracting from the performances onstage.
Joseph Gárate (“Fairfax”) has a pleasant tenor and was engaging in his courtship of Elsie (Michelle Caravia). Matthew Welch (“Jack”) has a good full baritone and deftly waded through Eugene J. Hutchins’ choreography (Hutchins is also the Stage Director). Unfortunately, Welch adopted a cockney accent and a good deal of Jack’s dialog was lost.
Luis Marez Ordaz (“Wilfred Shadbolt”) stood out in the cast as the loutish head jailor. Act 2 brought the musical highlight of the evening with the quartet, “Strange Adventure!”, which was beautifully sung by Gárate, Michelle Holmes (“Dame Caruthers”), Michelle Taylor (“Kate”) and Ryan Reithmeier (“Sergeant Meryll”).
The Yeoman of the Guard is performed Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00pm and Sundays at 2:30pm through September 24, 2011. The Sierra Madre Playhouse is located at 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre, CA 91024. Tickets: $25. Reservations: (626) 355-4318.