Valley Light Opera, Academy of Music, Northampton, MA
through November 16, 2014
By Mary Ann Dennis
Gilbert and Sullivan’s "The Yeomen of the Guard," is a favorite of both author and composer, as well as the VLO family. Although the darkest of the G&S operas, pointed satire and punning one-liners abound. There are plenty of topsy-turvy plot complications and many believe that the score is Sullivan's finest. The plot involves ever-changing emotional balance of joy and despair, love and sacrifice.
It is said that the sign of a great director is in the casting. The VLO's perfect cast gives an almost perfect rendition of this masterpiece, giving full vocal and histrionic justice to both text and music. Jacqueline Haney’s direction is spot on and musical director Aldo Fabrizi shapes the decrescendos with great sensitivity including outstanding acapella pieces.
Phoebe, played by Kate Saik, opens the show with a solo and literally sets the tone from the start. Saik embraces this character from head to toe, moving about the stage through intentions, not just blocking. Jonathan Klate as Jack Point, in one of the most difficult roles, does a wonderful job as he plays a subtle account of this sad, lonely, self-mocking clown. Jonathan Evans, who performs Fairfax, sings some of his moments with such a sweet falsetto. He has a beautiful tone, especially in his wooing Elsie. Not only can Elaine Crane, who plays Elsie, sing, but she brilliantly “takes on” the emotions needed for this demanding role. The stunning contralto, Dame Carruthers, played by Kathy Blaisdell, has all the right stuff; a rich voice and a magnificent stage presence. Michael Budnick, who plays Wilfred the Jailer, is hilarious in his conflict. Although he doesn’t have the pipes of the rest of the cast, he makes it work.
The chorus is tight in their vocals and diction. The stunning set and lights complement the show perfectly. Elaine Walkerk and Laurla Glenn's set and costumes bring authentic early 1500’s to life. Seems like it would take years to make just the costumes.
For G&S fans and for those who are not, this production of "Yeomen" is a must see.