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Gilbert’s Eyes and No Eyes, Sullivan’s The Zoo, and Gilbert & Sullivan’s Trial by Jury Review - Savoyaires 47th Year of Gilbert and Sullivan

By Barbara Keer

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The 1999 movie, Topsy Turvy tells the story of how Gilbert and Sullivan came to write The Mikado. Although the movie focuses on how their careers were saved by The Mikado, much is told about the personality clash between these two and their resistance to working together.  It is hard to imagine a better demonstration of the value of their collaboration than the three works presented by the Savoyaires, the Evanston based Community Theater devoted to producing the works of Gilbert and Sullivan.  For 47 years cast, chorus, and orchestra members have volunteered their time in order to bring high-quality, affordable Gilbert and Sullivan performances to Chicagoland audiences. Miller and Lilias Circle cofounded the Savoyaires in 1964 and for the past 18 years they have performed at Chute Middle School in South Evanston.

Seeing a work of Gilbert, then Sullivan and finally Gilbert and Sullivan, one could only delight in the fact that despite many odds they did work together and they did give the world enduring, enjoyable operettas.  In its annual production the triple bill consists of three one-acts that all premiered in the same year – 1875 but have never before been performed together.  I can only wonder, why not?  Eyes and No Eyes is a Midwest premiere and the first production anywhere with orchestra.  Evanstonian, Frances Lynch, orchestrated this score as well as producing new piano-vocal scores for both Eyes and No Eyes and The Zoo.  This is also the Savoyaires first-ever production of The Zoo and the first production of Trial by Jury since 1979.

On our way to the performance, my husband and I speculated about the sound quality and comfort at a middle school auditorium.  But when we arrived, we were impressed with the attractiveness of the venue and found the seats comfortable and the sound quality good.  The water fountains, however, required some extra bending.  We were also very impressed by the size of the orchestra warming up. We were even more impressed when they began to play.

Eyes and No Eyes with Libretto by William S. Gilbert and Music by Florian Pascal, began the program. The set, costumes, lighting and performances could not be faulted. However, the work itself left much to be desired. There were clever and funny moments, but, compared to those that followed, it lacked depth, and range and the music did not “carry me away”.   The chance to see this work in juxtaposition to the others provided an opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the strength and weakness in Gilbert without Sullivan. (Cast: Kingsley Day, Laura Kimmel, Ruth Brown, Roberto Quintanilla, Kevin R. Siembor and Jennifer Thampson)

The Zoo with Libretto by Bolton Rowe and Music by Arthur Sullivan was an absolute delight.  The music was wonderful as was the costuming, lighting, sets and staging.  It was a cute love story and the entire cast held their own with strong voices and acting.  Matthew Dingels and his love, Kristin Lutzeier, were charming.  But with all this the wonderful clever rhymes we associate with a Gilbert and Sullivan production just weren’t there.  Once again, this was instructive. (Cast: Matthew Dingels, Adrianne Blanks, David Craven, Kristin Lutzeier, and David Laub)

Finally, Trial by Jury with Libretto by William S. Gilbert and Music by Arthur Sullivan concluded the program.  This simply “took off”.  I can’t imagine a more enjoyable production.  It was perfect.  There were the funny rhyming words and the music that makes you want to sing, too.  Each of the characters were well acted and the voices were very good and orchestra outstanding.  Again, costuming(Ursula Rivera), sets (Matthew Kollar), staging and choreography (A.J. Wester) and lighting (Linda Bugielski) were just right.  What fun!  One slight problem was that it was harder to hear all the words when most of the females sang and easier to hear the intricate words when the men sang. (Kingsley Day, Olga Bojovic, Kevin R. Siembor, Matthew Dingels, Christopher Skyles and Noel Taylor).

After hearing about the Savoyaires for many years, we felt very fortunate to see this and charming production.  I also think the glossaries in the program were fun and helpful.

You still have a few opportunities to see this remarkable production: October 14th-15th at 7:30p.m and Oct 16th at 3 p.m.



Chute Auditorium

1400 Oakton Street

Evanston, IL


Phone: 847. 563.0155

Photos: Alan Teller

Published on Oct 04, 2011

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