G&S does a Yeoman’s job

There were plenty of fine performances by the Gilbert & Sullivan Society of Maine last weekend during the group’s staging of “Yeoman of the Guard” at the Grand Auditorium.

The unusually melancholy story – but still infused with the signature G&S wit – unfolded before a stolid and solid looking prison tower in London, where the hapless Colonel Fairfax had been imprisoned on a trumped up charge of sorcery.

Among those mourning his pending execution that very day was Phoebe Merryl, (Leslie Michaud) who had developed a crush on the handsome colonel while watching him pace the ramparts of the prison. In the opening song, she kvetched about her spinsterhood. Michaud, whose comic timing and facial expressions were sheer perfection, was a delight from the very start to the very end of this show, in which, uncharacteristically for a G&S operetta, she did not get the man of her choice.

Who she did end up with was the equally hilarious Roland Dube, who as head jailor and assistant tormentor Wilfred Shadbolt, somehow managed to be both odious and rather darling.

As Phoebe’s father Capt. Merryl, John Cunningham was, as ever, excellent and like Dube, demonstrated what 30 years of experience with this company looks like. The same can be said of Irving Hodgkin as a fellow Yeoman.

While Joe Marshall, who played Sir Richard Chomondeley, does not have quite the tenure of these other three gents, he made up for it by sheer natural ability. Joe was quite simply born to play the pompous and preening characters of the G&S oeuvre, which he carried off as convincingly as the subject of a Rembrandt portrait.

Also bringing years of experience to her role of Dame Caruthers was Margo Lukens. During the Saturday matinee, she seemed to be singing over a cold, and her upper registers were not as strong as they had been in rehearsal, but her body language was as stolid and weighty as the stone tower looming behind her. When she managed to get her man, the solid granite hilariously dissolved into a giggly bowl of mush.

It was great to see so many young faces in this Yeoman cast. Among them was the adorably Puck-like Pepin Mittelhauser as Jack Point, a comedia del arte-style itinerant comic who had come to town to earn a buck. Through a series of complicated events, he managed to lose his sidekick and secret love Elsie Maynard (Molly Abrams) to the condemned Fairfax.

Abrams, too, could be less diffident, but she used the secret weapons of her beauty and spine-tingling soprano to hold her own whenever she was on stage.

In terms of voices, the other heart melting vocals of the show were delivered by tenor Francis John Vogt as Fairfax. While he is perhaps a good 20 years older than his ingénue here, whenever he sang, the years melted away.

Maggie Machaiek also gave a notable soprano solo demonstrating some serious depth in the ranks of the younger G&S players.

Once again, Dede Johnson managed to maneuver her large cast about the Grand stage with grace and energy. Everyone, including a pair of really cute kids, sang well and maintained their individual characters throughout.

The costumes by Jean Porter and crew were simply magnificent. When the entire chorus was on stage, it resembled a painting by an old master.

The orchestra led by John Haskell was superb, managing to play softly in tune during the quieter arias and duets and making us forget this wasn’t a night at the Met during the rousing chorus numbers.

So, “bravo” to the G&S society of Maine and the Grand Auditorium, two fine old institutions that remind us again and again how fortunate we are to have both the talent and the venue to bring such excellent live theater to our community.


Nan Lincoln

Nan Lincoln

The former arts editor at the Bar Harbor Times writes reviews and feature stories for The Ellsworth American and Mount Desert Islander.

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