The Sorcerer at the Howard Conn Fine Arts Center

Anna Maher as Aline, Seth Tychon Steidl as Alexis, Sif Oberon as John Wellington Wells, the Sorcerer, and Maggie Benham as Aline  Photo by Stephen Hage.

The Gilbert & Sullivan Very Light Opera Company (GSVLOC) latest production is The Sorcerer. GSVLOC only performs the works of Gilbert & Sullivan and has been doing so in rotation since 1979. Clearly GSVLOC is passionate about the works of G&S and I hope they continue to produce them for many years to come. Unlike what we usually think of when we say “Opera”, for these productions there’s no need for captions to understand what everyone is singing. Firstly, they are in English and it’s not so stylized so as to be unintelligible. Secondly, they have a wonderful sense of humor, in fact it’s rather remarkable how modern the humor feels despite being nearly 150 years old. It’s the sort of Opera you can safely bring the whole family to as the humor is universal. This latest seemed a little shorter than the previously productions I’ve reviewed, The Pirates of Penzance and Ruddigore, and not quite as good, I’m not actually referring to the production quality which is excellent, but the Opera itself.

Like all Opera’s, it’s recommended that one arrive early and read through the plot synopsis, it’s less crucial in this case because it’s really quite easy to understand the vocalizations in a G&S production. But the plots are also comically convoluted, so, yeah read the synopsis:

The Sorcerer’s plot involves an engaged couple, Alexis and Aline, the son and daughter of the community’s two aristocratic families. The couples wish is that everyone could be as happily in love as they are. In addition, Alexis believes that love should level all ranks and social distinctions. To achieve both goals, Alexis hires John Wellington Wells of J. W. Wells & Co., Family Sorcerers, to put a love potion into the tea that the villagers will drink at a celebration in honor of the couple. The love potion causes everyone in the village to fall in love with the first person they see, regardless of rank or social distinction. This results in the pairing of comically mismatched couples … including Alexis and Aline’s parents. All is made right in the end, when a sacrifice is made to break the spell.

From the GSVLOC website

What is always amazing about the GSVLOC productions is the size of the cast, there are over 30 performers in The Sorcerer and the Howard Conn Fine Arts Center is not a large theater or stage. Somehow they make it work. Most of the performers are villagers and aristocrats and the sound they all make together is superb. Music Director Randal A. Buikema is certainly an asset to the company, both the vocals of the cast and the musical performance of the orchestra are wonderful. The performance I saw, the role of John Wellington Wells the Sorcerer, was played by the cover Sam Vinitsky, he was good in the role, so no worries if you attend and he’s on for Sifryn Oberon who is scheduled to perform the role at all other performances. Seth Tychon Steidl plays Alexis, he has a real talent for G&S, a wonderful voice, and a gift for the comical. Other highlights of the cast were Anna Maher, he played Aline at this performance. J.R. Andrews as Mrs. Partlet is a hoot and Kaoru Shoji as her daughter Constance had possibly the best voice of the female cast.

Gary Briggle directs the show finding ways to make the size of the stage and cast somehow work smoothly, that’s no small accomplishment. The Set Designer & Scenic Painter is Wendy Waszut-Barrett and it has that classic G&S look to it. I really enjoy what they do with this limited space, the sets are all about pulling back layers to reveal something different whether it’s the landscape in the background or the inhabitants of Hell. The Lighting Designer Carl Schoenborn plays a key role in that last variation and the lighting throughout is very effective. The other thing that usually impresses at GSVLOC is the Costumes, which were designed by Barb Portinga. It really is amazing the quality of these productions and that they take place in such an intimate space, it makes them a real treat.

I enjoyed The Sorcerer, though I imagine it’s considered lesser G&S, it doesn’t have the reputation of The Pirates of Penzance or the intriguing classic Hollywood angle they used for Ruddigore. But it still is an evening filled with laughs and greta musical performances. The Sorcerer runs through April 2nd, for more information and to purchase tickets go to

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