An ancient curse. A well-mannered, blushing maiden. A would-be Baronet masquerading as a farmer. A village lunatic. An elderly spinster. Mix all of these elements together with a troupe of professional-and equally blushing-bridesmaids, add a chorus of dead Baronets, toss in a generous pinch of satire and a large dash of energetic singing and dancing, and you have none other than Ruddigore, or the Witch's Curse, presented by the Harvard-Radcliffe Gilbert and Sullivan Players.
Ruddigore was originally intended as a satire of the gauche melodramas popular in Victorian England, according to Brian C. Gatten '01, the Gilbert and Sullivan Players historian. Ruddigore certainly manages to fulfill its role as a mockery, as it pokes fun at the Victorian cult of good manners through the character of the overly-virtuous village beauty, Rose Maybud, whose comical reliance on a book of ladies etiquette is played to the hilt throughout the show. Callan Barrett is perfectly cast as Rose, exaggerating all of her ultra-feminine gestures, right from the outset of her tiptoeing, eye lash-batting and basket-carrying entrance. Rose's inward pureness is further demonstrated by her costume of nothing less than a sparkling white wedding dress, complete with a lace veil.
Ruddigore satirizes the notion of marriage in other ways, most notably through the chorus of Professional Bridesmaids, led by Susannah Graves '03 in the role of Zorah, who are all desperately waiting for Rose to get married so that they, too, can soon partake in wedded bliss. For the meantime, their engaging singing and dancing relieves them of vain longings for marriage, although by the end of the show Zorah seems to have found herself a mate, and one assumes that the other seven Bridesmaids will soon follow. The Bridesmaids shine in the ensemble numbers, such as their opening song "Fair is Rose," as well as in "Welcome, gentry," "Oh, why am I moody and sad?" and of the course the showstopping finale "When a man has been a naughty baronet."
Kevin Angle '03 surpasses himself in the role of Rose's love interest, Sir Rutheven Murgatroyd, an inheritor of the Murgatroyd family curse, which causes the holder of the title of Baronet to perform one evil deed each day until he will invariably refuse to commit the crime and then die, in agony, at the hands of his ancestors. Sir Rutheven has faked his own death and has disguised himself as the sweet, disarming young farmer Robin Oakapple, who has such low self-esteem that he cannot confess his love to Rose without the help of his long-lost foster brother, the entertaining sailor Richard Dauntless (Francis Crick '03). Angle is ideally cast as the naive, helpless Robin, who becomes even more inept at doing his daily evil deed once his true identity is revealed, although he is creative in his short-lived crime spree, managing to disinherit his unborn son and forge one of his servant's checks. Crick is extremely convincing as the overly emotional, yet big-hearted sailor Dauntless, although occasionally he tends to swallow some of the song lyrics. But what Crick sometimes loses in verbal communication is more than made up for by his farcical facial expressions and physical stage antics, such as having funny conversations with his heart and breaking into a sailor's two-step.
Two side characters are truly outstanding. Sol Kim '02-previously seen on the Harvard stage in the Lowell House Opera production of The Beggar's Opera-in the role of Dame Hannah, Rose's spinster Aunt, puts so much comic energy into her part that she lights up every scene in which she appears. Furthermore, it is easy to realize that Kim is enjoying herself on stage and having a great time as Hannah, allowing her to avoid succumbing to potential silliness, as sporadically happens to Karoun Demirjian '03 in playing the village lunatic, Mad Margaret (although it seems to have more to do with the nature of her part than her actual performance). Kim's vibrancy is not to be missed; each of her humorous and irreverent facial expressions enhances her performance and draws the audience in to her plight as the one-time fiance of the now dead Sir Roderic Murgatroyd (Robert Hughes '01). Hannah is a feisty woman and Kim is wonderfully cast; it is with much relish and glee that she pulls a knife (from a glittering red garter) on Robin, in one of Ruddigore's many comic twists.
As Old Adam Goodheart, Robin's faithful servant, Sean McGrath '02 also steals all of the scenes in which he appears. With his deadpan manner of speaking and almost robotic posture and carriage, Adam is the total antithesis of all the energetic, lighthearted singing going on around him, and his performance is outstanding. Other noteworthy performances include Neil Davidson '03 as Sir Despard Murgatroyd, Robin's younger brother, and the five men who make up the Chorus of Gentry and the Chorus of dead Baronets, the latter appearing with some unexpected special effects in the second act.
Indeed, director Sarah Meyers '02 has managed to put together several large ensemble numbers that do not suffer too much from the lack of stage space in the Agassiz Theatre. As previously mentioned, the talented cast and the special effects in Act II, combined with the eye-catching costumes of Sara Newbold '00 (as well as a very good use of pastels) and an excellent performance by the orchestra, render Ruddigore a bloody great evening of British musical theater.
THE WITCH'S CURSE
Sir Arthur Sullivan