A DePauw Opera production directed by the guest stage director Cara Consilvio, “Gilbert and Sullivan: A Musical Extravaganza!” premiered on Thursday, Feb. 9, and was performed throughout the weekend. As an audience who is not familiar with opera, I can say the production was very enjoyable and accessible.
The opera follows a group of college students whose plan is to spend Spring Break in an old English country estate for “an authentic Downton Abbey type of experience.” As it turns out, the house is haunted by dramatist W. S. Gilbert and composer Arthur Sullivan, as well as the actors who starred in their shows. Although scared and intimidated by the ghosts at first, five college students eventually join in the musical madness and sing their way through the stay.
The opera introduces fifteen musical numbers, namely “Poor Wandering One,” “I Cannot Tell what this Love May Be,” “In a Contemplative Fashion,” and so on, from seven Gilbert & Sullivan shows. Although I walked into Morre Theatre without any knowledge of Gilbert & Sullivan’s musical legacies, I was immediately captivated by the first song, “Death to the Invader.” In this performance, the ghosts encountered a student in the group for the first time and threatened to kill him. The ghost performers did an elegant job introducing the audience to the melodic atmosphere of Gilbert & Sullivan, and I kept smiling because of the actor’s hilarious postures as he was being “tortured” by the ghosts.
Overall, the opera has a lighthearted and fun mood. I felt like I could stand up and sing along with the performers, but of course, I didn’t do that, because that would have disturbed their beautiful voices. I was also impressed by the actors, knowing that they wrote their dialogues and had to practice both singing and acting.
If there is one thing that I could change about the show, it’s making the plot more coherent. While the opera didn’t really have a “plot” in its traditional sense, and that’s because the musical numbers originated from seven different shows, there were some points where the songs felt disconnected from each other. Nevertheless, I appreciate the crew’s wonderful work of bringing together a lot of Gilbert & Sullivan legacies, and I’m glad I’ve got to learn more about these significant theatrical figures.