Gilbert and Sullivan Archive



BRUCE I. MILLER: It's a fine line in Wilfred's case, we came to realize in rehearsing him. He obviously is involved in comic moments, but then so is Sgt Meryll. If you make Wilfred too much the buffoon, with too low an I.Q., how does he figure out all that he does in his final dialogue scene with Phœbe?

We need to believe that he can be dangerous as well. When he says, in this same scene, "I'll make sure...I'll make sure" he should be a real threat to Fairfax's safety, requiring some quick thinking on the part of Phœbe (who realizes that if she doesn't pacify Wilfred, there could be real trouble). The trick is, I think, to find Wilfred's foibles (jealousy, conceit, brutishness) and play them strongly, and trust the text. If you go over the top with him, and leave him completely without redeeming qualities, he's not as effective. He is, at times, quite perceptive-not when distracted, of course.

RONALD ORENSTEIN: I agree, and would never play Wilfred as a buffoon. I did my best to show that Phœbe, at that moment (especially in the "lying little jade" speech) is in real physical danger from Wilfred, whom I see as a frustrated, angry character who cannot understand why he is not loved.

TOM GROVES: Shadbolt's character is indeed complex as I am coming to understand in rehearsal. Stiff, stolid and stupid is an easy way out, then any time he does a "funny" imitation of a dance, or does a slow take and scratches his chin they'll roar their ribs out. I think it's much more fun to play him a youthful, energetic, conceited, "clever" but not smart. His conceit, rather than his stupidity, allows him to be manipulated by Phœbe and Point. He is also an irrepressible force of nature, very strong and, I agree with Bruce, potentially dangerous. Line reading with Shadbolt is critical, i.e., "You used to like them" can be delivered as stupid and leering, or sincere and sympathetic-the latter is more effective, I think. The audience must like him, or they will quickly become bored.

HARRIET MEYER: Shadbolt reminds me of Judd in Oklahoma. Though things work out rather differently for the two, I think they have a similar dramatic presence and psyche.

TOM SHEPARD: The PHILIPS recording of Yeomen has Bryn Terfel as Shadbolt. He is incredible; this is the most beautifully-sung Shadbolt I have ever heard.

TOM GROVES: I had heard the same, also that their Shadbolt was definitive, so I ordered it. I admit I was somewhat disappointed and found it a bit stiff, but perhaps I've been sensitized by all the over-the-top G&S one tends to see in the U.S. these days. There were also several dropped lines and some very tentative musical attacks. I liked the Shadbolt though the adjective I would use would be traditional, not definitive. Perhaps my reaction comes from seeing it through the video, as those who were there sing it's praises.

WILLIAM FLORESCU: I love Yeomen-my third favorite behind Mikado and Patience (these three just happen to have my favorite roles also: Point, Ko-Ko and Bunthorne) Anyway, my favorite loose end in Yeomen is Wilfred in chains at the end of Act I, then free as a bird conversing with point at the top of Act II-However I love their scene so much, that I, to paraphrase Point, "let that pass"!!

BOB AND JACKIE RICHARDS: The reason that Wilfred is released from his chains, wethinks, is that deep down Sir Richard is really a softly. After all, he did give Point the job after what must be the worst audition in history.

HENRY M. ODUM: Regarding Wilfred being threatened with death at the end of Act I: (granted it appears the sentence was commuted during the intermission, but nevertheless..) that's always been more reason for me not to like Fairfax.

He has no qualms about another possibly being put to death in his stead. But then that's in keeping with the way he deals with other characters as well... He is, if nothing else, an interesting character!

RICHARD N. FREEDMAN: A little unfair, I think. It's not as though Wilfred is about to be executed on the spot. For all we know, his freedom after the intermission could be the result of Fairfax's intercession on his behalf. (I admit I don't know what a newly-joined yeoman could say that would carry weight, but he might have insisted the condition of the cell strongly indicated sorcery, for which Wilfred could hardly be held responsible.)

On the other hand, even if the execution were imminent, what was he to do? Speak up, admit his identity to save Wilfred, and thereby doom his friends the Merylls?

BRUCE I. MILLER: Wilfred may be free as a bird, but he's paid a high price nevertheless, having been fired as head jailor and assistant tormentor.

Page created 6 June 1997