Review by Hannah Fredriksson
The Gilbert and Sullivan Society of WA are back with another classic opera from the prolific musical duo - Ruddigore is their tenth collaboration, originally opening in 1887 with a story set in the early 19th century.
Ruddigore is a parody of stock Victorian melodrama. In true Gilbert and Sullivan fashion, it involves a series of star-crossed lovers bound by societal rules, a case of mistaken identity and just a hint of supernatural activity, until a technicality restores order in the world, all couples are restored and the townsfolk are at peace once again.
Director Alan Needham has chosen to present this production in the context of the 1920s, so the costumes are about as vintage for the present-day audience as they would have been for the original run. And indeed the costumes are marvelous - particularly the sparkly beaded flapper dresses of the troupe of bridesmaids. The ghostly baronets have costumes spanning an even larger time period, reflecting the varied generations and careers of cursed ancestors.
When the curtain was raised to the gallery of baronet portraits for the second act, the audience was so impressed by the transformation of the stage with stately artworks that they broke out into applause.
Nika Classen (Rose Maybud) looks right at home in the 1920s context. This is her first experience in a leading role with the Society, and she portrays Rose with a sweet demeanour. Her wonderfully clear voice is an asset to the role.
Zac Porter plays the lead role of Robin Oakapple, also known as the Baronet Ruthven Murgatroyd. Having previously played roles in the chorus of previous Gilbert and Sullivan Society shows, he has great presence and excellent comedic timing for the peaks and troughs of this role.
Gilbert and Sullivan Society of WA regular Belinda Butler appears to be having the best time in the amusing role of Mad Margaret, who experiences a range of varying states, from rambling with reckless abandon to attempting poised self-restraint. Belinda has the acting chops to pull it all off.
Tim Longley plays Sir Despard Murgatroyd, perfectly embodying the internal conflict of being fearsome to the townsfolk, yet revealing to the audience that he is a reluctant criminal who tries to counter his misdoings with good deeds.
Chad Henderson plays Richard Dauntless with incredible ease, having played many a sailor in Gilbert and Sullivan operas. He brings a cheeky energy that is appropriate for the character who goes against his word to his friend Robin to put in a good word for him with Rose, instead confessing his own feelings to her.
Michael Cummins (Sir Roderic Murgatroyd) is well-cast as the most prominent of the baronet ghosts. His booming presence is perfectly set against the reluctant Ruthven Murgatroyd.
Stephen Hastings plays Old Adam Goodheart with excellent comedic timing, while Sadé Stella-Joy portrays the older character of Dame Hannah with a sprightly energy.
Musical Director Michael Brett has once again led a brilliant crew of musicians in performing Sullivan’s music.
While there were a couple of forgotten words during this opening night performance, the joy and energy of the entire ensemble ensured the production was a delightful experience overall, a wonderful interpretation of the Savoy opera by Gilbert and Sullivan. Catch it at the Dolphin Theatre at UWA until October 14.