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1884 Revival at the Savoy Theatre

From The Era (London, England), Saturday, October 18, 1884; Issue 2404.

"THE SORCERER"

Sir Marmaduke Pointdextre Mr. R. TEMPLE
Alexis Mr. DURWARD LELY
Dr. Daly Mr. RUTLAND BARRINGTON
Notary Mr. LUGG
John Wellington Wells Mr. GEORGE GROSSMITH
Lady Sangazure Miss BRANDRAM
Aline Miss LEONORA BRAHAM
Mrs. Partlet Miss ADA DOREE
Constance Miss JESSIE BOND

The revival of The Sorcerer at the Savoy Theatre on Saturday evening last must be pronounced a decided success. When it was first given at the Opera Comique, on November 17th, 1877, playgoers were hardly prepared for such a complete transformation of their operatic ideas as to be able to accept The Sorcerer with the enthusiasm displayed last Saturday. It was so entirely different from anything they had seen in the operatic way that many hardly knew what to make of it. But popular ideas have greatly changed in the last seven years, and a succession of comic operas of the Gilbert and Sullivan type have taught the public what to expect in them. Like the late Earl of Beaconsfield, Messrs. Gilbert and Sullivan "have educated their party," and now the elements which appeared so strange in The Sorcerer when first produced are accepted as a matter of course.

We shall not enter into the discussion as to which of these works is the best. We have to do with The Sorcerer, and to record that it was received with a degree of favour that promises a most successful run. The theatre has been crammed, and the comic situations and really charming music have exercised quite a fascination over the audience. The result was not altogether unexpected, for those who remembered The Sorcerer were well aware that it contained some of Mr. Gilbert's brightest and most whimsical ideas, with a plot of sufficient novelty and attraction to sustain the interest throughout, while in the pretty melodies and musicianly combinations of the composer were to be found examples of pure art which any musician might be proud to have written. It is singular also to note how completely composer and author are in accord in this work. What is wanting in the work of Mr. Gilbert is completed by the graceful melodies of the composer; and, on the other hand, music which would have less significance alone reveals its true merit when allied to the fanciful imagination and humorous conceptions of the author. Messrs. Gilbert and Sullivan are the Siamese Twins of operatic art, and long may their pleasant partnership continue to entertain the public.

Before remarking upon the representation generally we may comment upon some changes which have been made, tending to make the opera more effective from a spectacular point of view. The conclusion of the first act, where all the personages are supposed to be suffering from the effects of the love potion, introduces a novel scene. After appearing to be stupefied with the potion the various characters look at each other in a bewildered manner, as, we are told, the Chinese do after taking opium, and finally as the curtain falls they "flop" upon the stage, completely overcome by the mysterious draught so artfully and secretly mixed with the "cup that cheers but not inebriates." The new stage business is carried into the second act, for upon the curtain rising the characters are still seen under the influence of the magic potion. But gradually they awake, and in the ecstasy of their new emotions of love perform a song and dance, and thus the second act opens far more merrily than of old. A new song for the tenor is introduced, which, however, was omitted on Tuesday evening. Taken altogether the changes are but slight, and in fact no great alteration was necessary or advisable. The opera was unique of its kind, and with the exception of the dramatic effect gained by the elaboration of the finale to the first act, and the alteration in the opening of the second, there was little room for improvement.

Just a suggestion in the matter of costume may be made. The heroine appears in the fashion of the present day when she comes forth in her bridal dress, while the other ladies don the costumes in vogue some seventy or eighty years ago. This rather destroys the harmony of a very pretty stage picture, in which the gentlemen are seen in the top-boots and quaint pigeon-tailed coats of our grandfathers. In all respects the opera is placed upon the stage with the utmost brilliancy and completeness, and the excellent chorus deserved the warmest commendation throughout, singing with capital intonation and great spirit. When originally produced the following was the cast:–

Sir Marmaduke Pointdextre, Mr. Temple; Alexis, Mr. George Bentham; Dr. Daly, Mr. Rutland Barrington; Notary, Mr. Clifton; John Wellington Wells, Mr. George Grossmith; Lady Sangazure, Mrs. Howard Paul; Aline, Miss Alice May; Mrs. Partlet, Miss Everard; Constance, Miss Giulia Warwick. The chief personages in The Sorcerer have special characteristics of a very marked kind, and especially so with regard to
            MR. GEORGE GROSSMITH AS JOHN WELLINGTON WELLS.– The appearance of a weird necromancer in the top hat, frock coat, and grey trowsers [sic] of every-day life, representing a highly respectable tradesman who deals in "magic and spells" as prosaically as if they were lump sugar or soap, was sufficiently droll to excite the laughter of the audience, but Mr. Grossmith had such a fund of quaint mimicry at his command, and his singing is so clever and original in style that his efforts secured the most enthusiastic applause. His rapid enunciation of the opening speech of the dealer in necromancy has never been surpassed as an example of patter. The audience listened with intense delight as he said – "We practice necromancy in all its branches. We've a choice assortment of wishing-caps, divining-rods, amulets, charms, and counter-charms. We can cast you a nativity at a low figure, and we have a horoscope at three-and-six that we can guarantee. Our Abudah chests, each containing a patent hag who comes out and prophecies disasters, with spring complete, are strongly recommended. Our Aladdin lamps are very chaste, and our prophetic tablets, foretelling everything – from a change of ministry down to a rise in Turkish Stock – are much inquired for. Our penny Curse – one of the cheapest things in the trade – is considered infallible. We have some very superior Blessings, too, but, they're very little asked for. We've only sold one since Christmas – to a gentleman who bought it to send to his mother-in-law – but it turned out that he was afflicted in the head, and it's been returned on our hands. But our sale of penny Curses, especially on Saturday nights, is tremendous. We can't turn 'em out fast enough." To speak with such rapidity, and yet with such clearness that not a word or a change of tone is lost, is quite remarkable; and Mr. Grossmith is quite as effective in his singing of the amusing ditty "My name is John Wellington Wells." The lively music was rattled off with a vivacity impossible to resist, and the comic effect of the bassoon echoing one of the most whimsical ideas in the orchestra added to the fun. The talent displayed by Mr. Grossmith in the incantation was not only humorous but had real artistic effect as well. His extravagantly droll trot round the stage when the incantation ended was received with a positive shout of laughter.

MR. R. TEMPLE AS SIR MARMADUKE. – This admirable rendering of an ancient high-bred gentleman, imbued with all the courtly grace and punctilious ceremony of a past age, was when Mr. Temple first played it regarded as a most attractive performance, and again on Saturday Mr. Temple secured enthusiastic approval of a delineation most meritorious in every way. The finished ease with which he acted and sang in the quaint duet where he dances the prim gavotte with Lady Sangazure could hardly have been better, and the aristocratic formality contrasted with suppressed passion caused the scene to be as admirable an example of histrionic and vocal skill as it was amusing and novel in effect. Mr. Temple never lost sight of the character and the peculiarities belonging to it, and his success was complete.

MR. DURWARD LELY AS ALEXIS. – This gentleman had the advantage of looking the character of the enthusiastic young guardsman to the life. He may also be credited with speaking the lines – some of them extremely caustic and witty – with clearness and decision, so as to make them tell well with the audience. Mr. Lely sang the pretty music carefully.

MR. RUTLAND BARRINGTON AS DR. DALY. – When The Sorcerer was first produced the character of the smooth, silky, soft-voiced, sentimental vicar was naturally regarded as one of the most amusing features in the opera, and Mr. Rutland Barrington's clever embodiment speedily became talked about and has never been forgotten, he looked so thoroughly clerical. His round amiable face, his plump figure, his stately movements, his neatly trimmed whiskers, his irreproachable coat and spotless collar, his bland, persuasive accents all seemed to smack of a precise and saintly life, and the admiring reverence of a rustic congregation. The singing was as amusing as the acting, and the ditty "I was a pale young Curate then," with its flageolet accompaniment, was so full of drollery, and was so quaintly rendered, that it tickled the audience immensely. Greatly to our regret we cannot now speak so cordially of Mr. Barrington's singing. He looks and acts the character to perfection; but too frequently his intonation lacks the correctness to make his vocal efforts effective. We trust this defect is but temporary as it mars what would otherwise be a singularly attractive performance.

MISS LEONORA BRAHAM AS ALINE. – The merits of Miss Braham's Aline are very great indeed; she sings the pretty music with facility and expression, and her acting gives all possible interest to the character. Great applause was bestowed upon her first air, and her assistance in the concerted music was of the greatest value. The humour displayed in the incantation scene contrasted well with the mock supernatural element and half-surprised tone in which Aline accepts the whimsical situations of the second, and once more proved Miss Braham's capacity to fully carry out the intentions of the author, and to make them thoroughly acceptable to the audience.

MISS BRANDRAM AS LADY SANGAZURE. – In this character Miss Brandram gives a capital idea of the pompous grand lady of the old school, who yet remembers the days when her heart throbbed with passion and sentiment. To make this evident while still preserving the stiff formality of an old school of courtesy is a difficult art, but Miss Brandram succeeds completely.

MISS ADA DOREE AS MRS. PARTLET. – The figure of the persevering pew-opener is one of the most amusing in the opera. The idea of the "clean and tidy widow," so intent upon getting her daughter married, and, if possible, to the vicar, is very funny, and Miss Doree makes it very amusing. The resolute endeavours of the pew-opener and her resolve to try again when failing to hook the vicar as a husband, enabled Miss Doree to amuse the audience not a little by a well- sustained bit of character acting.

MISS JESSIE BOND AS CONSTANCE. – Miss Bond is a favourite at the Savoy, and deservedly so, for her sprightliness and vivacity greatly enhance the effect of the scenes in which she appears. As Constance she has to be demure and sentimental, and Miss Bond is quite equal to her task.

The entertainments concluded with

"TRIAL BY JURY."

The Learned Judge Mr. RUTLAND BARRINGTON
Counsel for the Plaintiff Mr. ERIC LEWIS
The Defendant Mr. DURWARD LELY
Foreman of the Jury Mr. ARTHUR KENNETT
Usher Mr. LUGG
The Plaintiff Miss FLORENCE DYSART
First Bridesmaid Miss SYBIL GREY

Miss Florence Dysart, a young lady of refined appearance and possessing a good voice, made a favourable impression as the Plaintiff. Mr. Lely appeared as the Defendant, and Mr. Rutland Barrington represented the Judge, and gained considerable applause in the "Judge's song." Mr. Eric Lewis as the Counsel for the Plaintiff displayed considerable talent, and Mr. Lugg acquitted himself well as the Usher. A laughable conclusion was made by the introduction of fairies in barristers' wigs, and the comic cantata, went merrily throughout.


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