Reviewed by Julius Novick
Presented by the New York Gilbert and Sullivan Players at Symphony Space, 2537 Broadway (at W. 95 St.), NYC, Jan. 4-14.
The works of Gilbert and Sullivan are kept alive in America by gallant enthusiasts with more talent than money, and sometimes, more dedication than talent. The New York Gilbert and Sullivan Players, who have held high the G&S banner since 1974, are currently offering a double bill of two early works: the one-act "Trial by Jury," followed by "The Sorcerer." Both, though not the best of G&S, feature numerous small treasures of wit and melody. But NYGASP has not done them justice.
Albert Bergeret, the company's indomitable artistic director, conducts both works with spirit. The good-sized orchestra and chorus (unusual in G&S productions) make a good-sized sound, and the solo voices are appropriately legit. Granted, the walls of the courtroom in "Trial by Jury" sway a little in the breeze, and black masking drapes loom behind the mansion of Sir Marmaduke Pointdextre in "The Sorcerer" (both designed by Lou Anne Gilleland); but that is part of the charm. It is the directing and the acting that could use some rethinking.
The staging of "Trial by Jury" by Stephen Quint and Mary Lou Barber is untraditional in a wearily traditional way—updated for no particular reason to the 1920s, and crammed with unfunny, extraneous comic biz. One of the jurymen, for instance, is played as a red-nosed drunk, endlessly staggering and lurching in the most hackneyed and tiresome fashion. (Mr. Quint himself, however, capers quite pleasantly as the Judge.)
"The Sorcerer" is staged in period by Mr. Bergeret, but performed with more enthusiasm than spontaneity, in self-conscious, artificial, operetta style. Stephen O'Brien in the title role dispatches his patter-song with practiced efficiency, Kimilee Bryant and Laurelyn Watson are two pretty sopranos, but only Michael Harris as the tenor hero manages to summon up any urgency, any feeling, any sense of life.
Interestingly, he is the only principal whose program bio reveals no previous experience in Gilbert and Sullivan.