Gary Briggle, Director (he/him)
Dr. Randal Buikema, Music Director (he/him)
Stephen Hage, Producer, company member, cast member (he/him)
What inspired the decision to produce The Sorcerer at this particular time?
“It was The Sorcerer’s turn to be staged! The Gilbert & Sullivan Very Light Opera Company's unique mission in the Twin Cities theater community is to produce all of Gilbert and Sullivan’s operettas. While many theater companies occasionally stage Gilbert and Sullivan, they inevitably stage the best-known works, such as H.M.S. Pinafore and The Pirates of Penzance. Our company’s goal is to bring the delightful humor and beautiful music of all of Gilbert and Sullivan’s operettas to our audiences. Our company does so by staging the shows in a general twelve-year rotation, selecting the specific show that we’ll do next by a company vote. For this year’s production, the company voted overwhelmingly to stage The Sorcerer. We were all particularly happy about this selection as The Sorcerer is a charmingly “magical” operetta, well loved by those of us who’ve done it before.” - Stephen
How did the creative team approach the challenge of bringing The Sorcerer to life in a modern context while still honoring its Victorian-era roots?
“With The Sorcerer, written in 1877, I felt a responsibility to honor the revised version as performed by D'Oyly Carter's Comic Opera Company in 1884. Except for a few anachronisms sprinkled in, for clarity of meaning as much as comic effect, we're presenting that version. There are obscure period references we've tried to elucidate, and admittedly a few edits intended to move the piece along. It is a lavish Victorian entertainment! I particularly wanted to explore the operatic conventions that Sullivan so deftly parodies to comic and dramatic effect. And there's no denying that Gilbert loved a melodramatic encounter, as do I. The acting style of the period is great fun to play with, and in this tipsy-turvy genre, the more seriously you play it, the funnier it can be.” - Gary
“Gary, our wonderful director, who has a deep respect for the original material, has helped the cast create relatable and likable characters. Modern audiences will have the sense of being transported to the Victorian era, and they will see many of the themes are still relevant today.” - Randy
“I asked Gary to direct our production of The Sorcerer because of his knowledge and understanding of both Gilbert and Sullivan as a unique genre of theater and the Victorian era out of which it came. It’s critical to understand any artistic work’s origins and what that work was trying to communicate to its original audience in order to be able to stage it as meaningful theater to modern audiences. Our company doesn’t want to stage a museum piece, but to create a theatrical experience that speaks to our audiences today. Gary’s done that successfully with this production, so that in addition to the ageless humor and beautiful music of the piece, our audiences will clearly hear the same messages about the follies of classism, privilege, and human vanity that Gilbert and Sullivan’s audiences heard in their time.” - Stephen
What do you think modern audiences will appreciate most about The Sorcerer?
“I want to call special attention to the delightful choreography of Penny Freeh. Sullivan wrote several charming rustic dances, and Penny has made them high points of our production. And certainly, the gorgeous, hand-painted, authentic 19th century "model theater" set design of Wendy Waszut-Barrett is captivating visually, while giving fascinating variety to the scenic locations. The opera only calls for a single setting, so her artful design is rare and remarkable. I encouraged the cast to make their characters real, to behave naturally and to explore the "back stories" that make small town/village life interesting. Each member of the ensemble has a different occupation and social status- so rigid in Victorian England, which makes their responses and interactions interesting to watch. Our brilliant music director, Randal Buikema, always gets such a beautiful sound and splendid diction out of the cast, and we are fortunate to have so many superb singers. Not to mention a live orchestra- a luxury indeed. Jean Orbison Van Heel is the cornerstone, playing piano for both rehearsals and performances with impeccable musicianship and stylistic command. I want to gratefully acknowledge the excellent preparatory work done by our Covers. They are superb, and their dedication and hard work provide a "safety net" in these uncertain, "post-Covid" times. They're all heroes in my book.” - Gary
“Good music, performed well, is timeless. I LOVE Gilbert’s lyrics, so it is a top priority to make the lyrics as clear as possible. I work to interpret Sullivan’s music in a way that enhances the drama, and at the same time remains true to his vision.” - Randy
“I’m always delighted when we surprise people with their experience of our productions! There are always those who attend our shows who tell us afterwards that they didn’t think that they were going to enjoy an opera, but really enjoyed our show! There are those who tell us that they were amazed by the quality of the cast members’ performances, both as actors and singers. Still others say that they didn’t realize that the show would be performed with such an amazing, full orchestra, or with such a powerful chorus that filled the theater with sound, or on such a beautiful set and wonderful costumes, etc. It’s always such a pleasure to have given people far more than they expected and to hear them say that they’ll be coming back for our next show!” - Stephen
“The primary challenge we faced as members of the cast was that we had to push ourselves to perform at the level expected by Gary, our Director, Randy, our Music Director, and Penny, our choreographer. They expected more from us that many of us thought we could do … and that’s exactly what we wanted! It’s a thrill to be pushed beyond what you think you can do, and be expected to act, sing, and dance at a level you’re not sure that you can achieve … but then to do it! As cast members, we are deeply grateful to Gary, Randy and Penny for every challenge they led us to achieve and are excited that we’ll have the opportunity to present the results of those challenges to our audiences!” - Stephen
How did the team work to create a safe and healthy environment for both performers and audience members during the COVID-19 pandemic era?
“We were all deeply saddened with the loss of live theater for the first two years of the pandemic and our company is truly thrilled to be back with this production of The Sorcerer, our third staged show after those two years of waiting. We understood, of course, that to return to the stage successfully when COVID-19 hasn’t gone away, we needed to have an effective Health and Safety Plan in place. One of my GSVLOC Board colleagues, Malka Key, and I developed a Plan for cast, crew, and staff, as well as one for our audiences, based on CDC recommendations, that we followed successfully during our spring 2022 production of Ruddigore. We updated the plan based on the changing circumstances of the pandemic, and revised CDC recommendations, for our fall 2022 production of The Pirates of Penzance and did so again for our current production of The Sorcerer. The results have been two successfully staged productions, with no cancellations, and we’re confident that we’ll be as successful with our upcoming production of The Sorcerer.” - Stephen
What do you hope audiences take away from their experience seeing The Sorcerer?
“I think of The Sorcerer as a kind of Cautionary Tale: "The road to hell IS paved with good intentions!" Alexis' naïve philosophy, and his belief that " the means justify the ends" bring temporary pleasure as well as real heartbreak to everyone in Ploverleigh, especially to his beloved Aline. I'm not sure that the "happy ending" required by the authors is well-earned or fully deserved.” - Gary
“In addition to the joy of having seen a wonderfully staged production, with a hilarious storyline and beautiful music, I expect that our audiences will leave with a clearer understanding of the folly of one’s doing for others what we might think is best for them, based on our own “superior” judgment, rather than what those individuals might want or truly need. The Sorcerer reminds us that we’re just likely to get it wrong and make things worse for everyone!” - Stephen
“We have two casting choices that distinguish this production: Sifryn Cinaed Magnolia Oberon in the title role, and Joe Andrews as Mrs. Partlet. Both singer- actors are doing an absolutely marvelous job with their challenging assignments, and bring great imagination, commitment and nuance to their highly entertaining performances. I'm so impressed by their contributions to this production, as indeed I am by each member of our cast. GSVLOC is a very inspiring company, and I'm grateful to have this opportunity to direct a G&S with which I was previously unfamiliar. I've gained a much deeper appreciation for the evolution of the "Savoy Operas" by working on their first major collaboration.” - Gary
“For this production, Gary had the idea to have a handbell choir for the opening Chorus, “Ring Out Ye Bells.” I wrote a handbell part, and we have a delightful group of ringers. The bells add sparkle to that chorus. It’s my understanding that the actor who played Dr Daly in the original production played the flageolet during his Act 2 aria. Since then, performance practice has had the actor pantomime playing, while the part was played in the orchestra. Both of our actors playing Daly are working on playing the part themselves.” - Randy
“I have to say that I appreciated Gary’s giving Penny Freeh, our wonderful Choreographer, the opportunity to incorporate as much English country dance into the production as has been done. Penny’s delightful choreography appears throughout the production, always as a natural expression of the characters’ celebration of the events taking place in the story and not as something that was simply added into the show.” - Stephen
How does The Sorcerer fit into the overall mission and artistic vision of the Gilbert & Sullivan Very Light Opera Company?
“As I noted above, the GSVLOC’s mission is to bring the works of Gilbert and Sullivan to life for modern audiences, from life-long Gilbert and Sullivan fans to those who are seeing their operettas for the first time. One way that we succeed in this mission is when the cast, crew, staff and our audiences truly enjoy our shows and understand that they’ve seen something unique and extraordinarily special.” - Stephen
“As a senior member of the company, someone who appeared in his first production of The Sorcerer before the majority of his fellow cast members in this production were born (!), it’s such a pleasure to see these younger cast members enjoy, for the first time, the delightful humor of The Sorcerer and to see them singing the beautiful music, with expressions of joy and awe. My hope and expectation is that our audiences will have something of the same experience and realize that Gilbert and Sullivan’s works … even the less well known works … are as wonderful as I believe them to be!” - Stephen
Can you talk about any upcoming projects or plans for the Gilbert & Sullivan Very Light Opera Company?
“Since our company was founded over forty years ago, we’ve traditionally staged only one mainstage show year in the spring. We’ve often discussed, however, our desire to be a company that would produce two shows a year. Our few attempts to stage a fall show in the past, however, haven’t been particularly successful, primarily due to the fact that we did less well-known works that drew smaller audiences. Last year, we tried a different strategy and staged a fall production of The Pirates of Penzance, believing that one of Gilbert & Sullivan’s most popular shows would draw the audience we wanted. The strategy worked! Our fall production was the success we’d hoped for and now we plan to stage another very popular show this coming fall, Gilbert and Sullivan’s H.M.S. Pinafore. We expect it to be as successful as was The Pirates of Penzance. Assuming that’s the case, we’ll have achieved our goal and redefined ourselves as a company that stages two shows a year. Doing so will provide us with twice as many opportunities for new, young talent that join our ranks to perform and to experience, along with our growing audiences, the joys of Gilbert and Sullivan.” - Stephen
March 10-April 2, 2023
Children (under 12): $18.00
Preview Performance: $18.00 (Preview performance is general admission seating)
There is a $2.00 fee ($1.00 for the Preview Performance) for ordering tickets online.
Typically performances sell out, advance reservations suggested.
Historically, Friday evening performances and performances early in the run have been those that are most likely to have rush tickets available. Rush tickets will be available for $16.00 at each performance on a “first-come, first-served” basis. Rush tickets are sold ten minutes before the performance.
We recommend arriving at the theater a half-hour before a performance to be put on the Rush List. Check the ticket availability to see if rush tickets are likely to be available.
If you would like to be notified of The Gilbert & Sullivan Very Light Opera Company volunteer opportunities, please join their mailing list.
1900 Nicollet Avenue
Minneapolis, MN 55403