Review by Judith Caldwell
The Bach Elgar Choir, plus soloists Julie Ludwig, soprano, mezzo Jennifer Enns-Modolo, Thomas Macleay, tenor and baritone Jesse Clark presented a wonderful, fun evening of Gilbert & Sullivan at the Cotton Factory on Sherman. The evening began with accompanist Krista Rhodes and conductor Alexander Cann playing the Overture from the Mikado as a piano duet. This established the bare bones approach, high lighting accomplished musicianship, which characterized the evening. Rhodes is often overlooked when it comes to accolades because she is frequently not noticed, so it was a real treat to hear her in the duet.
* The choir then proceeded in with Macleay as the defendant who got short shrift from the jury in that scene as they were ‘upstanding men’ who would not lead a girl on! Of course everything turns out well in the end. Scene II from HMS Pinafore was next. This opera proved so popular that G & S realized they had to copyright their work in future. Clark was absolutely brilliant as the Admiral. There is definitely an art to singing a patter song and breathing at the same time. Clark made it look easy as he sang ”I am the ruler of the Queen’s Navy”and he managed to ham it up in the process. Choir member Kathy Garay gave a suitably reedy sound to the “sisters, cousins and aunts” of the Admiral. Scene III from The Pirates of Penzance gave Macleay another opportunity to show his vocal range, but it was Ludwig’s version of ”Poor Wandering One” which completely stole that specific scene.
Clark and the men of the choir then hammed-it-up again in the Policemen’s chorus from scene IV. The first half wrapped up with the choir doing the Act I finale from Iolanthe. There were no sets, but soloists and some choir members wore costumes supplied by Theatre Aquarius.
After intermission the gentry from Ruddigore were welcomed, followed by scene I from the Gondoliers that gave all four soloists a chance to interact, sing and dance. Not only were they good, they all seemed to have fun and the choir joined in with gusto. The remainder of the program consisted of three Acts of the Mikado, probably G & S’s most popular opera which premiered in 1885. Members of the choir aided the soloists in songs such as ‘Three Little Maids From School’ and ‘The Flowers that Bloom in the Spring’ showing off voices and quite a bit of acting talent.
Once again Clark got the choice patter song as Ko-Ko where he was making a list of those –who would not be missed– and therefore could be executed. The very funny list included millennials who bragged about downloading apps to their phone, those who said the LRT would not disrupt traffic on Main Street, Patrick Brown and just for good measure –Galen Weston too. Very politically incorrect but that is exactly how Gilbert and Sullivan were known in their heyday.
As an encore choir-member Chris Palmer led with an excerpt from Iolanthe. Upon leaving audience members were heard to say that this presentation was better than they had seen in Toronto or Stratford. The next concert is May 26th.