Quote of the Day: I’ve drawn from classic films of the 30s, 40s, and 50s to bring our Ruddigore to life; hard-boiled detective dramas, screwball comedies, and ebullient MGM musicals all get a nod. Joe Andrews, director of Ruddigore, performed by The Gilbert & Sullivan Very Light Opera Company (GSVLOC) at the Howard Conn Fine Arts Center in Minneapolis, MN. 

Company of Ruddigore. Promo photo from GSVLOC

Going back to the remount of GSVLOC’s Ruddigore felt like a reset from two years ago. Ruddigore was the last show that my sister and I attended before the lockdown and the pandemic changed our lives. In my review from March 15, 2020, I wrote: It was relaxing to escape into the world of Ruddigore as imagined by director Joe Andrews. He used a 1940’s-ish Film Noir motif. I like old movies, but I’m sure I missed many of the references. Still, I knew what they were doing with characterization, the damsel in distress, the gallant hero who must complete tasks (in this case a crime a day, but not always very serious), a villain with dramatic facial expressions and the ever present cigar, and the scheming sidekick, or wing man. Everything was so clever. It was a joy to watch. 

All those things are still true. They kept the set and costumes, and most of the cast returned, with a few changes, as with many of the shows that are finding their way back after this long hiatus. Seth Tychon Steidl still shines as Sir Ruthven Murgatroyd. His voice is as polished and strong as ever as he brings his character to life with a glint in his eye and many physical antics. They kept one of my favorite scenes where he seems to be controlled by the Cruciatus Curse, where he flails around like a puppet, or a spider, on a string.

Sarah Wind Richens is also back as Rose Maybud. She gives her character whimsy as she flits from one suitor to the next. Her lovely voice rises to the rafters with pure, sweet tones. Joe Allen plays a delightfully sinister wicked Baronet, ala the film noir detective, and we enjoyed watching him bring out the humor as well as the curse of the Murgatroyed family. They must commit a crime a day or be sentenced to death. Paul Willis, Jr. has stepped into the role of Richard Dauntless, Ruthven’s foster-brother, and has fun trying to woo the girl and create his own drama. 

We enjoyed the choreography (Penelope Freeh) in several scenes. The Hornpipe was fun, as well as any time the bridesmaids came out, and the dead relatives (ie zombies) were terrific. They kept the set – outdoor scene in Act I and inside the castle in Act II – the projections, and the smoke. The strobe light effect went on a bit too long, but everything else was wonderful. The orchestra, lead by Randal A. Buikema, was excellent.

I’m so glad that GSVLOC was able to remount this fun show. It was heartbreaking to shut it down after only two performances in 2020. They are an enthusiastic company with many talented singers who, at times, fill the stage and envelope us in sound. All the leads are strong. Lara Trujillo as Mad Margaret gives the character and her songs wonderful animation. Deb Haas as Dame Hannah and Scott Benson as Sir Roderic Murgatroyd are delightful. Too many remarkable moments to mention.

Go see Ruddigore at the Howard Conn Fine Arts Center, playing through April 3, 2022 – a full run this time! For tickets and showtimes, visit the website for The Gilbert & Sullivan Very Light Opera Company. Please note their Covid safety protocols. 

Go. Create. Inspire!

Journaling Prompt: What are some events that are coming back, or rebooting, as we ease out of the pandemic?