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Arts & Culture

BUGS gets campy in ‘Ruddigore’

By
Staff Writer
Friday, November 19, 2010

“I’m modesty personified!” quips Sir Ruthven Murgatroyd (Phil Arevalo ’11 ) in the Brown University Gilbert and Sullivan production of “Ruddigore, or The Witch’s Curse” opening Friday night in Alumnae Hall. “Ruddigore” features great singing and a strong orchestra — accompanied by the soundtrack of the audience’s persistent laughter.

“Ruddigore” is “a parody on melodrama,” explained Director Kris Bergman ’11, campily listed as “Gilbert” in the program.

“The real message is not to take oneself seriously,” Arevalo said.

The cast of “Ruddigore” certainly does not seem to take themselves seriously, apparent in the overly dramatic facial expressions and the wide range of hilarious accents — some of which are apparently confused as to whether or not they should be British.

 “Ruddigore” is far more over-the-top than any other Gilbert and Sullivan show, explained pit orchestra conductor Matthew Jaroszewicz ’12, adding that Ruddigore has “more songs in a minor key,” giving a dark and somber effect to the music.

The audience follows Rose Maybud (Herald opinions columnist Sarah Rosenthal ’11), the town beauty of a village in Cornwall, who is waiting for a man to come along and sweep her off her feet. Enter Sir Ruthven Murgatroyd, the Baronet of Ruddigore. Due to a curse placed on all of the Baronets of Ruddigore — which forces them to each commit one daily crime until the day they die — Sir Ruthven Murgatroyd assumes the identity of Robin Oakapple after faking his own death in order to be rid of the curse.

When “Robin” enters, he is already love-stricken with Rose, but he is far too timid to make a move. Rose, who also loves Robin, cannot act first because she lives by a book which prescribes all social formalities — preventing woman from showing their feelings first. “Here I find it doesn’t do to speak until you’re spoken to,” Rose declares as she points dramatically to her book. The awkward tension in their duet early in the show, “I know a youth,” first elicited laughter from the audience.

The dominance of love over the constraints of social norms is a major theme in “Ruddigore.” As one character says, “For where true love is, there is little need for prim formality.”

Robin turns to his foster brother, the charismatic Richard Dauntless (Rob Volgman ’14), who falls in love with Rose rather than help his brother. The plot becomes even more convoluted with the introduction of the hilariously wicked Sir Despard Murgatroyd (Nate Stetson ’11). “Avoid an existence of crime, or you’ll be as ugly as I,” sings Sir Despard to a group of frightened townspeople. As the current baronet of Ruddigore, Sir Despard is subject to the curse — when it is revealed that “Robin” is truly Sir Ruthven the Baronet, the curse reverts to him and Despard runs off to live a life free of crime. Once it is revealed to Rose that “Robin” is actually Sir Ruthven, she quickly leaves him.

The most notable feature of the production is its eccentric and funny characters, from Mad Margaret (Maya Stroshane ’11) to a group of ghosts who play Robin’s disgruntled ancestors.

The singing is generally in tune. Rosenthal’s soaring soprano is well-embellished by her extremely quick, operatic vibrato. Arevalo strongly incorporates emotion into his singing, although a few of his lower notes become muddy when the orchestra is in full-blare. Several numbers, such as “When the night wind howls” and “There grew a little flower,” are stolen by Sir Roderic (Bryan Tyler Parker ’11), a ghost with an extremely powerful baritone and a positively wicked laugh.

Stroshane also stands out as Mad Margaret, with a strong voice and fantastic command of body language.

At certain moments, the singers fall out of sync with the orchestra but quickly recover. The sparse choreography, often exaggerated, adds to the parody-esque feel of the production.

“The integration of music and acting was much tighter than it had been before,” said Arevalo, acting in his third BUGS production.

The characters seem to become more comfortable in their roles as the production goes on. They begin the first act somewhat unsure of themselves but the laughter of the audience helps to alleviate any stiffness by the second act.

Bergman and music director Meghan Kelleher ’12 explained that they attempted to make the show as funny and appealing as possible. According to Bergman, Gilbert and Sullivan productions are often associated with an old, stuffy air — “Ruddigore” premiered in 1887 — but they wanted to modernize the show. “(We would) search through lines and make every line as relevant as possible, given when it was written,” said Kelleher. Audience members couldn’t help but laugh when a character continuously refered to himself as “Dick.”

Audience members will find the experience to be very welcoming and user-friendly, beginning with the “Glossary of Recondite Terms” in the program.

“Melodrama is silly,” explained Kelleher. Whether you go to Ruddigore for the silliness, the singing or the great set-design, it’s all there.

“Ruddigore” will run Nov. 19-21 in Alumnae Hall at 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. on Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday.

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