|The Sorcerer > Reviews > Review of the 1878 Touring Company in Liverpool
Liverpool Mercury etc. (Liverpool, England), Tuesday, March 12, 1878; Issue 9409.
PRINCE OF WALES THEATRE.
The comic opera of "The Sorcerer" (the libretto of which has been written by Mr. W. S. Gilbert and the music by Mr. Arthur Sullivan), was produced for the first time in the provinces at the Prince of Wales Theatre last evening. The play has had a magnificent run of months at the Opera Comique in London, and bids fair to rival the wonderful success which has attended the representation of "Our Boys" at the Strand Theatre. So intensely has it secured metropolitan favour, that a duplicate company has been formed for its representation in the provinces; and those who have had the opportunity of comparison are bound to admit that the present localised company is but little inferior to that of the great centre.
The public were able, from the representation of "Trial by Jury,' to form some estimate of the ability of Mr. Sullivan to utilise an extravaganza for musical purposes, and it scarcely needed the prestige which "The Sorcerer" has gained to command an anticipation which was certainly not disappointed. Good as "Trial by Jury" is, and having at its introduction all the merit of freshness in the English theatrical world, it must give way to "The Sorcerer" in originality of design and an amount of classical working-up, musically speaking, that will ensure more than an ephemeral fame.
There is, and it is not saying much, about the same amount of plot which usually belongs to opera. The design on the part of the author has been to create a series of ludicrous incidents based upon a most extravagant idea – the engagement of "Mr. Wells," of the firm of J. W. Wells and Co., "Sorcerers," St. Mary Axe, to disseminate at a rustic party in the village of Ploverleigh his widely advertised "Love Philtre," which has the potent effect of causing young men and maidens, old and young, to became enamoured of the first person he or she meets. An extraordinary state of things is thereby created. The old become coupled with the young, and the young with the old. The "Sorcerer" (Mr. J. H. Ryley) himself becomes entangled against his will, and cannot escape the too-endearing attentions of Lady Sangazure (Miss Rosina Brandram). Her ladyship's daughter Aline (Madame Pauline Rita), who has previously been betrothed to Alexis (Mr. George Bentham), the son of Sir Marmaduke Pointdextre, is smitten by the robust but somewhat elderly vicar of Ploverleigh (Mr. Furneaux Cook), and "Mr. Wells" finds that his "philtre" has had an effect far in advance of the wildest-conceived intention on his part, and has no antidote to remedy the intricacy of matters excepting that he or the young guardsman must die. The guardsman is naturally reluctant to accept the fatal situation, and "Mr. Wells," to relieve himself of the incubus of an elderly female, albeit a baronet's widow, proffers his own extinction, and as he descends midst crimson fire, original lovers become united and all ends gaily and comfortably.
The music is all that might be expected from Mr. Sullivan. Every bar has a delightful piquancy, and occasionally from out of a light fantastic air or chorus blooms a passage almost Mendelssohnian in character, or possessing the refinement of Verdi. The concerted portions (and particularly the chorus which closes the first act) are excellently scored, and in many instances are models of harmony and contrapuntal work.
Speaking of the impersonation of the several characters, it would be not only invidious but absolutely impossible to discriminate among all that was good. The "Aline" of Madame Rita was perhaps a trifle too staid in character, but her airs were almost faultlessly sung, and with the true ring of a good stage vocalist. The "Lady Sangazure" of Miss Brandram was rendered with much carefulness, and with the dignity which should belong to one of the upper classes. The duet between herself and "Sir Marmaduke Pointdextre" (Mr. Arthur Rousby) was one of the most enjoyable incidents of the night, and fully merited the encore it received. Mr. Rousby's delineation of the character was a perfect study and a splendid example of the gallantry of the olden times. Miss Harriet Coveney as "Mrs. Partlet" was as becoming and prude (excepting in one instance, which "brought down the house”) as should be "a clean, tidy widow" having a very pretty daughter, "Constance," a pupil teacher (Miss Douglas Gordon), who plays her part with much grace and ease. The "make-up" of Mr. Cook as "Dr. Daly," the vicar, was so perfect in every detail that he might have been imported for the occasion from the ruridecanal conference sitting at the time at St. George's Hall. But his garments and the wear of them were not his only credentials. He possesses a good voice and knows how to use it, and was particularly effective in a lament that the marriageable portion of his flock were all engaged to "Mr. So-and-so." What we have said of Mr. Cook is equally true of Mr. Cummings as the notary: for a legal and musty appearance he could only he equalled by a real live barrister in Lincoln's Inn. Mr. Bentham's fine figure did him good service in the character of "Alexis," the guardsman; but to Mr. J. H. Ryley as "Mr. John Willington Wills" (sic) is due the credit of promoting the farcical attraction of the play. As the purveyor of every kind of demoniacal contrivance, of blessings and curses, ready at a moment's notice with a reduction in price if a quantity be taken, as a supplier of Aladdin's lamps, and, above all, of the famous love "philtre," his performance was unique; and a patter song was received with shouts of delight.
It only remains to be said that most of the airs are exceedingly catching, that the chorus was exceptionally good, and that the orchestra, which was considerably augmented, rendered its portion of the music with much care and precision (an instance or two excepted) under the able baton of Mr. Hamilton Clarke; and that the general mounting of the piece did great credit to the management, the scenery (painted by Mr. C. D. Leigh) considerably tending to the success of the piece. We venture to anticipate for this new Gilbert-Sullivan operetta a very successful run during the three weeks' engagement of the clever company. A morning performance of "The Sorcerer" will be given on Saturday.
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