Gilbert and Sullivan’s world-renowned comic operas were written in the late 1800s and are credited with influencing our modern-day musicals. The Chatham Drama Guild highlights five timeless works from this great Victorian-era theatrical partnership in the original production “Gilbert and Sullivan in Chatham.”
Librettist W.S. Gilbert (1836-1911) and composer Arthur Sullivan (1842-1900) created 14 operettas together during their famed partnership. Their light operas have absurd plots with quirky twists that resolve all conflicts by show’s end. Often satirizing Britain’s obsession with social rank and duty, lovers are separated by class, but are ultimately united by last-minute confessions of truth, such as a nursemaid admitting she switched babies at birth.
Director Eric Spitz (he also sings a few solos) conceived of this entertaining musical anthology, which is a bit like CliffsNotes for five of Gilbert and Sullivan’s operas — the well-known “H.M.S. Pinafore,” “Pirates of Penzance,” and “Mikado,” and the lesser known “Yeoman of the Guard” and “The Gondoliers.”
The two-hour musical is narrated by the articulate Scott Hamilton. He introduces each opera, and appears between scenes, filling in important details. There are four to nine songs from each show.
The Guild is true community theater, with actors of varying abilities and ages coming together for a common passion. A note printed in their play program states the musical is “produced with the general understanding that we are not perfect…” With this in mind, the show takes on some very difficult music and rises to the challenge with many impressive numbers.
Out of the cast of 14, there are many strong leads. James O’Neill, who recently played “Shrek” at the Cape Cod Theatre Company, plays the young male lover in most of the five operas. In “Pirates of Penzance” he is the duty-bound Frederic, who has been apprenticed to tenderhearted pirates for most of his life, never having seen another woman besides his nursemaid. In “H.M.S. Pinafore,” he plays a lowly sailor in love with the captain’s daughter. In “The Gondoliers,” he’s a gondolier who finds out he might be of royal blood. Only having sung on stage for the past three years, O’Neill’s strong voice is all the more noteworthy and the comic subtleties in his acting are truly delightful.
Rachel Solomon is the captain’s daughter in “Pinafore” and her voice is beautifully operatic, with its rich vibrato, hitting many a high note with ease in “Sorry Her Lot.”
Rebecca Banas, well known to Academy of Performing Arts and Guild theatergoers, plays the love interest opposite O’Neill in “Pirates.” Always a professional, she sings an exquisite staccato-filled solo, “Poor Wandering One.”
Allan Brooks skillfully plays one of Gilbert and Sullivan’s most recognizable characters, the General from “Pirates.” In the famous, fast-paced, tongue-twisting song “I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major General,” Brooks does not miss a beat while perfectly articulating every syllable.
Thom Dutton confidently sings “Take a Pair of Sparkling Eyes” in the role of the other gondolier.
In Mikado’s “Behold the Lord High Executioner,” Len Solomon is very funny, as is his wife Lyn Solomon, playing the dimwitted nursemaid in “Pirates.”
Musical director “Pirate Moll” accompanies expertly on the piano. Pam Banas is a notable member of the chorus, but she also deserves credit for the fabulous, period-piece costumes, with changes for all five operas, producing a striking image against the bare stage.
Rounding out the dedicated cast are Dawn Spitz, Josette Goff, Joseph Theroux, and Ellen Veinotte.
The Guild has been specializing in original musical revues for the past few years, and “Gilbert and Sullivan in Chatham” has taken them to new heights.
“Gilbert and Sullivan in Chatham”
At The Chatham Drama Guild
Through July 10
Reservations and information: 508-945-0510