MONMOUTH — Who, but Gilbert and Sullivan, could conjure up such a delightful mix of ghostly baronets and “professional bridesmaids” as may be seen in “Ruddigore,“ their witty and tuneful comic opera now on the Cumston Hall stage?
The Theater at Monmouth’s fall musical production hits all the right notes of comedy, satire, song and dance. Richard Sewell, founding artistic director of TAM about 45 years ago, returns to this historic venue with a delightful show that’s true to the time-honored conventions of G&S theatrical presentations.
A fine cast of professional actors, augmented by numerous talented members of the community, give a spot-on rendition of this lesser-known piece of Savoyard tradition.
From soprano to bass, the vocalists’ performances are excellent. The choreography by Adam P. Blais is remarkable, including an agile example of a British sailor’s high-stepping hornpipe.
Standouts in this show are Laura Whittenburger as Rose Maybud, Matt Anderson as Richard Dauntless, Connor McAndrews as Sir Ruthven Murgatroyd/Robin Oakapple, and David Handley as Old Adam Goodheart.
Whittenburger and Anderson make noteworthy debuts with TAM, and McAndrews returns after playing the Duke in TAM’s 2013 production of “Patience” by Gilbert and Sullivan. Handley, an eight-year veteran with TAM, is a Monmouth resident with a long list of memorable musical performances.
McAndrews and Handley are well-paired for their comical roles. McAndrews, who sings the essential G&S patter songs, is very nimble and he displays plenty of flexible facial expression. It’s just right for his portrayal of the shy youth attempting to escape his “bad baronet” heritage. Handley’s part displays some amusing puppetry to go with his role as Robin’s loyal, but aging, farmer friend.
Whittenburger and Anderson have several of the show’s best musical numbers. Anderson backs up his character’s extreme braggadocio with outstanding vocals and dance. Whittenburger’s impressive soprano talent is coupled with some fine understated comedic ability.
Late in the second act, there’s a notable duet sung by Joe McGrann, first season with TAM, and Sabrina Yocono, sixth season. It’s a beautiful rendition of “There Grew a Little Flower.” McGrann, who has extensive regional and national theatrical credentials, plays Sir Roderick Murgatroyd, one of the ghostly baronets. He is an impressive “great oak tree” to Yocono’s Dame Hannah, the faithful “little flower.”
Jamie Beth Weist, who played Aline in last year’s TAM production of “The Sorcerer,” displays dramatic skills edged with appropriate humor as Mad Margaret. Her love for Sir Despard Murgatroyd, played by Timothy Madden, reaches a hilarious accommodation. This is Madden’s TAM debut, and it’s an excellent comic performance.
Members of the capable “professional bridesmaids” and men’s chorus are Ann-Marie Caron, Carol Griffiths, Karen Lipovsy, Cynthia McGuire, Ellen O’Brien, Peggy Kane, Jeff Fairfield, John Lipovsky, Joe McGrann, Rick O’Brien, Stefan Pukulski and Andy Tolman.
This marks Sewell’s first return in 20 years to TAM where he directed classic plays including works of Shakespeare and Tom Stoppard. A distinguished actor, director, teacher and playwright, Sewell has written more than 16 plays and three adaptations.
Remaining performances of “Ruddigore,” which conclude TAM’s 46th season of summer repertory shows, are at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturdy, Sept. 24-26; and at 1 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 26-27.
For tickets, contact the TAM Box Office at 933-9999 or go online to www.theateratmonmouth.org.