Gilbert & Sullivan Put on Trial!

by Kevin T McEneaney

On a rainy afternoon last Sunday, there was much overflowing laughter in Great Barrington at St. James Place, as Crescendo, directed by Christine Gevert, put on stage two hours of raucous charm and wit which was so clever that few could understand where they were or what century they were living in. Who knew what was going through their minds over the past two hours?

Being slightly confused, I asked twelve people in the audience after the performance of Trial by Jury to serve on a new impromptu jury. Each juror that I interviewed took their task with serious solemnity. I regret to say that I found the results disappointing and shocking.

The verdict of GUILTY on all counts was unanimous: guilty of appropriating other people’s work from a foreign country across the Atlantic Ocean; guilty of not importing actors from Hollywood; guilty of renting costumes instead of sowing their own; guilty of singing with excessive expressive excellence, whether solo or in a segregated chorus (by sex); guilty of unpredictable and surprising comic gestures; guilty of mocking the difficulties of sexual relations; guilty of gleefully presenting the triumph of a corrupt judge over plain common sense; and lastly, guilty of inducing supercilious facial contours on both performers and members of the audience who paid for this unusual depiction of despicable and immoral comedy….

And that conviction was for only the first third of the show!

Stephen Quint, baritone, as the narcissistic and opportunistic mop-headed judge, indulged in facial antics and unmannerly gestures that evoked more hand-clapping than smirking approval. Soprano Rebecca Palmer nailed too many high notes to be sung in a de-consecrated cathedral. Igor Ferreira had an oversupply of tenor notes that lingered in air. Christine Olson tossed silvery soprano notes as if they were fairy dust. Kevin Ray appeared so decent a man that one feared he was not an actor when he sang tenor. Mezzo-soprano Sarah Bleasdale made one feel that she was singing from the top of the Tower of London. Gabriel Garcia was such a moving bass-baritone that I felt self-pity for my inadequate voice. I wondered if bass-baritone John-Arthur Miller might have been kidnapped from a medieval monastery. Soprano Margret O’Brien made me think something was missing in my musical education.

And there was much more: more singing and acting from a chorus of twenty desperate women who longed for the company of a man, even if he was a blood-thirsty vampire; a chorus of men, mostly over sixty, who made me feel younger than I am, as they sang of scrubbing the bloody deck or dreaming of escaping their underclass status.

The show continued with excerpts from “The Trials of Love in the Spring!”, Ruddigore, H.M.S. Pinafore, Iolanthe, Patience, The Pirates of Penzance, The Mikado, Princess Ida, and an encore from the Gondoliers.

Gordon Gustafson and John-Arthur Miller provided simple, serviceable sets. Kathleen DeAngelis provided costumes, props, and fresh flowers.

On piano, David Baranowski delivered the jaunty rhythm of one who seems to have spent his life laughing at the foolishness of folly.  

The audience erupted in delirious delight, demanding many bows as they chanted for Christine Gevert to be elected Queen of Fairyland!

P.S. When the concert was over, I heard the rumor that President Biden had offered to send the whole troupe over to Vladimir Putin to thaw the ice in diplomatic relations, yet the US Intelligence community discovered that while Putin heartily welcomed the show and planned a banquet to fête the troupe, he had also prepared a new radioactive poison as a gift for all as he would depart the table and building. Christine Gevert would be spared the horrible poison and instead gently tossed out of an eleventh-story window for the finale as a native Russian chorus of nine-year-old girls sang of the joys of heaven.

It now appears that Gilbert & Sullivan will be banned in Russia and that they will be at the top of the list for his new committee to recommend the arrest of dissidents who promote foreign propaganda and improper sexual orientation in literature while maintaining financially high-quality pornography for intellectual, international export.

Kevin T McEneaney

Author of Hunter S. Thompson: Fear, Loathing. and the Birth of Gonzo, and other books