The Sorcerer

The Gilbert & Sullivan Society's latest show may be lesser known, but it still prompts plenty of smiles

As I sat listening to the overture that opens Gilbert & Sullivan's The Sorcerer, I noticed out of the corner of my eye a hint of movement in the row in front of me. Glancing over, it became clear that a budding conductor was in our midst. The child waved her pencil in tandem with maestro Jeffrey Jones-Ragona's baton (and quite well, I might add), quietly internalizing the buoyant quality of Sir Arthur Sullivan's music. A couple of seats to her left sat a woman with a similar response. During a section of music in triple meter, her head bobbed happily with the downbeat. As the overture came to its final cadence, she instinctively provided a small cutoff with her hand at the appropriate moment.

Live music – there's nothing quite like it. And there's plenty of it to behold in this Gilbert & Sullivan Society of Austin production, with its 19-piece orchestra and expansive company of onstage voices. A formative (if somewhat obscure) installment in the Gilbert & Sullivan canon, The Sorcerer follows the philanthropic plot of Alexis Pointdextre (portrayed here by Holton Johnson) to instill the happiness of romance in all the citizens of his native Ploverleigh. To accomplish his goal, Pointdextre enlists the services of John Wellington Wells (of J.W. Wells & Co., Family Sorcerers) to provide a potion that, once ingested, will cause one to fall madly in love with the first person she or he encounters. It doesn't take magical powers to predict the twists and turns this premise sets in motion.

The GSSA cast features some lovely voices, particularly those of the aforementioned Johnson, and Alexandra Reilman as Pointdextre's dramatically betrothed Aline. Arthur DiBianca is especially comical in the title role, as is Janette Jones as the highly heightened Mrs. Partlet. I don't personally find The Sorcerer to be as witty or riotous as many of Gilbert & Sullivan's subsequent and better known collaborations, but there are still many smiles to be had from it, for sure. As a friend I bumped into at intermission remarked, "It'd be hard not to have fun."

I get the biggest smile, though, when I think back to those two patrons in the row in front of me – generations removed from each other yet both exhibiting a shared joy for Sullivan's overture. Each felt the strains of music in her own way, and neither was afraid to imagine what it would be like to raise a baton and take part in the music making. With one of the largest orchestras in a pit around town, the Gilbert & Sullivan Society provides its patrons, cast and crew members, and instrumentalists the opportunity to experience classic light opera fare in a variety of ways, as it has for 39 years. And that's something to sing about.

The Sorcerer

Brentwood Christian School, 11908 N. Lamar, 512/474-5664
Through June 28
Running time: 2 hr., 15 min.

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Gilbert & Sullivan Society of Austin, The Sorcerer, Ralph MacPhail Jr., Jeffrey Jones-Ragona, Holton Johnson, Janette Jones, Alexandra Reilman, Arthur DiBianca

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