The Sorcerer is one of the early works in the collaboration of W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan, premiering in 1877, some 141 years ago. Alexis Pointdextre is recently betrothed to Aline, the daughter of Lady Sangazure, and has a vision to instill the happiness of romance to the entire town. To accomplish his goal he enlists the services of John Wellington Wells, of J. W. Wells & Co., Family Sorcerers, to provide a potion that, once taken, will cause one to fall in love with the first person she or he meets. Naturally, this inevitably backfires with some amusing consequences.
Max Taylor, the Director, has re-orchestrated the whole opera, using an instrumental ensemble more suited to the style of the society, as well as including a poignant solo sung by Lady Sangazure, that now survives only in words, by re-setting the lyrics with new music. The performance area at the Medway Centre is extremely small and doesn’t lend itself to elaborate scenery and props but what there was, depicted the setting quite adequately - I loved the white picket fence and gate.
A vibrant overture was followed by the great opening and lively number “Ring forth, ye bells”. Everyone was happy and joyful all except Constance Partlet as she tells her mother of her love for Dr. Daly, the Vicar of Ploverleigh. Helen Booker was delightful as Constance and her singing is so beautiful. Chris Hannant was amusingly wry and soulful as the timid Dr. Daly and Cathreen Henwood was ideally suited to the role of Mrs. Parlett, her facial expressions are wonderful.
Liz Mckenzie was extremely elegant as Lady Sangazure carrying off the role with great aplomb in both singing and acting. Over the passage of time her feelings for Sir Marmaduke have not lessened as was apparent when they charmingly sang “Welcome joy!” Nic Wilson was imposingly dashing as Sir Marmaduke and what an excellent portrayal he delivered.
A very lively, amusing and entertaining characterization was delivered by Les Small as The Sorcerer. His singing voice is not that powerful and sadly some of the lyrics of “My name is John Wellington Wells” I couldn’t quite hear. Maybe the orchestra could have been a little more accommodating towards this.
Alexis and Aline, the betrothed couple, complemented each other wonderfully. The excellent vocal prowess of Lizzy Blades made light work of Aline’s solos and she was totally charming and enchanting. Alexis was played by Chris Blackshaw and he was every inch the young, handsome and debonair husband to be. I was blown away by his amazing tenor voice, his singing is so natural, pure and seemingly effortless and he put so much feeling into his songs, it was truly an outstanding performance.
Strong support came from Susan Devaney as The Notary and Max Taylor obviously enjoyed every moment as Methusalah. He couldn’t believe his luck when, after taking the potion, he met and fell in love with the very young Constance. His facial expressions totally expressed his lascivious thoughts as he proceeded to drag her off!!
The harmonious chorus of Gentry and Villagers were in excellent voice and definitely added to the whole ambience. I loved the animated trio of bandsmen, the special effect from the ‘teapot’ was spectacular and the costumes were fabulous. Congratulations to Max Taylor (Director), to Melanie Gilbert (Musical Director), to a terrific orchestra and cast and to everyone else involved in this thoroughly enjoyable show.