Join us for our 2020 Show: Ruddigore (or, The Witch’s Curse).

The scene opens in the pretty little Cornish fishing village of Rederring, showing the harbour and Rose Maybud’s cottage. The village possesses an endowed corps of professional bridesmaids, who are languishing in idleness, there having been no weddings for at least six months. The village beauty, Rose, will have none of her many suitors, and, in desperation, the Bridesmaids, fearful of losing their endowment, endeavour to persuade Dame Hannah, Rose’s Aunt, to marry old Adam, Robin Oakapple’s faithful servant.

Hannah is, however, pledged to eternal maidenhood. Years ago, she was betrothed to a youth who woo’d her under an assumed name, but on the day when they should have been married, she discovers that he was no other than Sir Roderic Murgatroyd, one of an accursed race. She tells the girls how his ancestor, Sir Rupert Murgatroyd, employed his time in persecuting witches, and that one of his victims, in mortal agony at the stake, laid this curse on him: “Each lord of Ruddigore, despite his best endeavor, shall do one crime, or more, once every day, for ever.” The penalty for defying the curse is death by torture on the day the crimes cease, and each lord of Ruddigore has so died.

Hannah chides Rose for not returning the love of “some gallant youth,” and Rose explains that her difficulty is that the youths of the village are bashful, and it would not be becoming for her to make advances. Rose is a foundling, and bases her ideals on a book of etiquette which, with a change of baby linen, were her only possessions when she was discovered in a plated dish cover suspended to the knocker of the workhouse door.

Robin enters and would fain consult Rose on the predicament of a friend who is in love with a maid, but is too diffident to tell her. Rose similarly wishes to ask his advice as to her friend, and they “consult” accordingly in a charming duet, without, however, mending matters.

Robin Oakapple is really Sir Ruthven Murgatroyd, but in horror at the prospect of inheriting the title and the curse, he had fled his home and taken an assumed name. His younger brother Despard, believing him to be dead, had succeeded to the title. Old Adam enters and informs Robin that his fosterbrother Richard is home from sea. This news is quickly followed by the entry of Richard himself. He kisses all the girls, spins them the yarn of the “Bold Mounseer,” and dances a Hornpipe as an appropriate climax.

Dick and Robin exchange greetings, and Robin, on being upbraided for being sad, tells his foster brother of his love for Rose, and of the shyness that prevents him from declaring it. Richard consults “the dictates of his heart,” and his heart tells him to speak up for his friend. Robin is overjoyed and sings a song, the burden of which is that, “If you wish in the world to advance . . . you must stir it and stump it, and blow your own trumpet.”

Dick goes off on his self-imposed mission, but no sooner does he see Rose than his heart “dictates” once again, and says: “This is the very lass for you, Dick.” So he forgets Robin, and makes love, very successfully, on his own account.

Robin enters with the Bridesmaids, and is astounded at the unexpected turn events have taken. Still, he has sworn to stand up for Dick through thick and thin. Therefore, while pretending to agree, he “gets his own back” by making many disquieting insinuations regarding the less respectable aspects of a sailor’s life. This clever move turns the tables on Richard, and Rose forsakes him for Robin.

A new character is introduced – Mad Margaret – whose wits have been crazed by the cruel treatment of Sir Despard Murgatroyd – the “Bad Baronet.” She is actually trying to find Rose Maybud, of whom she is jealous, having heard that Sir Despard intends to carry her off as one of his daily “crimes.” Rose tells her, however, that she need not fear, as she (Rose) is pledged to another.

Despard Murgatroyd and his following of “Bucks” and “Blades” now appear. They are welcomed by the Bridesmaids, who are tired of village swains, and are delighted with the swaggering newcomers in their gorgeous military uniforms.

Despard bewails his lot, as one who, being really thoroughly good, is condemned to be thoroughly bad. He tries to balance his account of evil and good by getting his crime over the first thing in the morning, and then doing good for the rest of the day. For example, in the morning he steals a child, and then builds an orphan asylum.

Richard enters, and to pay off his score against Robin, he reveals his secret to Despard, who is overjoyed to learn that he is not the real heir, but that his elder brother is still living.

They determine to act without delay, for Rose and Robin, with the Bridesmaids, have entered for the wedding ceremony. A lovely Madrigal is sung, followed by a Gavotte, and the procession is about to start for the church, when Despard enters, and challenges Robin, claiming him as his elder brother Sir Ruthven Murgatroyd, rightful heir to the Baronetcy of Ruddigore. He cannot deny the fact, and Rose, in spite of Richard’s blandishments, forsakes him, and offers herself to Despard. This offer is refused, for Despard, once again virtuous, keeps his vow to Margaret. Rose returns to Richard, and Robin, now the “Bad Baronet,” falls senseless to the ground.

The scene changes to the Picture Gallery in Ruddigore Castle to open Act Two. Round the walls are full length portraits of the Baronets of Ruddigore from the times of James I – the first being that of Sir Rupert, alluded to in the legend: the last, that of the latest deceased Baronet, Sir Roderic.

Sir Ruthven and Adam enter melodramatically. They are greatly altered, Sir Ruthven looking haggard and guilty, and Adam filling the part of steward to such a wicked man. They hate the life, but there is no help for it, and they are trying to think of new crimes to commit. Adam suggests that as Richard has come to the Castle with Rose Maybud to ask for Sir Ruthven’s consent to their marriage, a really excellent crime would be to “poison their beer!” This is too much for Sir Ruthven, who has not yet reached the requisite state of “badness.”

Rose and Richard enter happily, and Sir Ruthven, thinking he has her in his power, threatens to immune her in a dungeon, and calls for assistance. He is foiled by Richard, who produces a small Union Jack, which even a “Bad Baronet” cannot defy. Rose pleads with Sir Ruthven, who yields to her entreaties, gives his consent and allows them to leave unmolested.

The scene darkens, and when it becomes lighter the Pictures are seen to have become animated. A soft chorus of men’s voices is heard, and the ghosts of the ancestors step from their frames and march round, the last to descend being Sir Roderic.

They reproach Sir Ruthven for having failed to fulfill the curse, and Sir Roderic sings an eerie song, “The Ghosts’ Highnoon.” Sir Ruthven realizes who they are, and makes many weak excuses. For instance he committed no crime on Monday because it was a Rank Holiday. On Tuesday he made a false Income Tax return, on Wednesday he forged his own will, and so on. These do not satisfy the ghosts, who after giving him a taste of the torture which will follow if he fail to commit some real crimes, allow him one more chance, and command him to carry off a lady at once.

Sir Ruthven yields, and the ghosts, having made him pardon them (“for having agonized him so”), return to their frames. The low, soft chorus is heard again and the Gallery assumes its normal aspect.

Sir Ruthven bids Adam go at once to the village and carry off a maiden. Despard and Margaret now appear. They, too, are changed, both being dressed in sober garments of a formal cut. They run a National School, and Margaret is a District Visitor. They have come to urge Sir Ruthven to abandon his wild courses. Despard points out that although Sir Ruthven has only been a Bad Baronet for a week, he is responsible, in the eyes of the law, for all the crimes committed by him, Despard, during the past ten years. This so appalls Sir Ruthven that he determines to reform and take the consequences.

Meanwhile Adam has returned, bringing with him Dame Hannah, who seizes the sword from a suit of armour on the wall, and makes for Sir Ruthven. He, in an agony of terror, invokes the aid of his uncle, Sir Roderic, who once again steps from his picture. He and Hannah, who, it will be remembered were lovers before his death, ten years before, recognize each other. Sir Ruthven is ordered by his uncle to leave them together, Hannah sings of her old love for him and bursts into tears, but at this moment, Sir Ruthven rushes in excitedly, followed by all the other characters and the chorus of Bridesmaids. An idea has occurred to him. Since a Baronet of Ruddigore can only die through refusing to commit a daily crime, the refusal is tantamount to suicide. But suicide being itself a crime, Sir Roderic ought never to have died. This is all very satisfactory; Rose returns to her first love, Sir Ruthven, and Richard has to take Zorah, the chief bridesmaid, and the opera ends with a joyful chorus.

[Plot summary from the book The Victor Book of the Opera, RCA Manufacturing Co., Camden, NJ, 1936.]

Programme for the original production after the change of title from Ruddygore

Our 2019 Show: The Yeomen of the Guard

The Yeomen of the GuardSuzanne Roberts Theatre
Friday, May 17th at 8:00pm
Saturday, May 18th at 2:00pm and 8:00pm

Longwood Gardens, Open Air Theatre
Friday, June 7th at 8:30pm
Saturday, June 8th at 8:30pm

After storming Parliament in Iolanthe in 2018, The Savoy Company is proud to return to the Suzanne Roberts Theatre in 2019 with Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Yeomen of the Guard or The Merryman and his Maid!

In the early sixteenth century, Colonel Fairfax, framed on a charge of sorcery, is imprisoned in the Tower of London, set to be executed; his friend Sergeant Meryll and Meryll’s amorous daughter Phœbe hatch a plot to loose Fairfax and let him assume the place of Meryll’s son, due to join the Yeomen of the Guard.

Meanwhile, the strolling players Jack Point and Elsie Maynard take service with the Lieutenant of the Tower; the Lieutenant, who has been asked by Fairfax to find him a woman to marry (in order to keep his property from going to the cousin who framed him), convinces Elsie (and Point, who loves her) to let a blindfolded Elsie be Fairfax’s bride, since the groom will be executed immediately thereafter. The marriage accomplished, Meryll springs his plot; Elsie and Point are horrified to find that her husband is still alive. When Fairfax learns that it is the winsome Elsie whom he has married, he resolves to woo her in the character of Leonard Meryll, and succeeds in gaining her affections, though she refuses to marry him until assured that she is free of Fairfax.

Meanwhile, Point and the oafish gaoler Wilfred Shadbolt plot to declare that Shadbolt has shot the escaped Fairfax, but that the body unfortunately sank in the river. Elsie, to the grief and shock of Point and Phœbe, agrees to marry Leonard/Fairfax, but is shocked in her turn when she learns that Fairfax has been pardoned and come to claim her. Her tears turn to joy when she learns that Fairfax is Leonard — but the opera ends on a melancholy note, as Point, seeing that Elsie is lost to him forever, “falls insensible” at her feet.

2019 Cast

  • Elsie Maynard: Meghan Curry
  • Phoebe Meryll: Jen Chesterson
  • Dame Carruthers: Shellie Camp
  • Kate: Lauren Meyer
  • Sir Richard Cholmondeley: Fred Dittmann
  • Colonel Fairfax: Phoenix Fritch
  • Sergeant Meryll: A.J. Kait
  • Leonard Meryll: Eli Rosen
  • Jack Point: Jack Ingram
  • Wilfred Shadbolt: Guillermo L. Bosch
  • First Yeoman: Gene Schneyer
  • Second Yeoman: Matthew Butt
  • First Citizen: Aaron Manthey
  • Second Citizen: Doug Smith

Our 2018 Show: Iolanthe (or, The Peer and the Peri)

Twenty-five years ago, Iolanthe, a fairy, committed the capital offence of marrying a mortal. The Fairy Queen reduced her sentence to exile, on condition that she leave her husband and never see him again. Iolanthe’s son, Strephon, has grown up, half fairy, half mortal. He loves Phyllis, who is a Ward of the Court of Chancery. The House of Lords have also fallen in love with her.

As the curtain rises, the Fairy Queen pardons Iolanthe. Her son, Strephon, then announces his desire to marry Phyllis. Meanwhile, the House of Lords appeal to the Lord Chancellor to give Phyllis to one of them. Phyllis demurs, announcing her desire to marry Strephon. The Lord Chancellor refuses. Strephon is crushed and Iolanthe tries to comfort her son in a tender moment. This is misconstrued as a fling with a young girl and Phyllis, in anger, decides to marry one of the Lords.

The fairies take Strephon’s side, punishing the Lords by sending Strephon into Parliament and casting a spell to make them pass any bill that he wishes. Meanwhile, the Lord Chancellor decides he wants to marry Phyllis. To prevent the Lord Chancellor from marrying Phyllis, Iolanthe reveals herself to him as his long dead wife. She is condemned to die by the Fairy Queen who subsequently discovers that all the fairies have fallen in love and married all the peers. She can’t execute everybody, so she gives up and marries a mortal herself. With everyone happily coupled, they all fly off to fairyland.

Our 2017 Show: H.M.S. Pinafore (or, The Lass That Loved a Sailor)

His Majesty’s Ship, “Pinafore,” is anchored in the harbor at Portsmouth. The sailors are busy scrubbing the decks for the expected arrival of Sir Joseph Porter. K. C. B. Little Buttercup, a bumboat woman who is by no means as small as her name would imply, comes aboard with a stock of “snuff and tobaccy and excellent jacky,” not to mention “excellent peppermint drops.”

It transpires that a handsome young sailor, Ralph, is in love with the Captain’s daughter, Josephine. She, however, is to be betrothed to Sir Joseph Porter, who duly arrives attended by “his sisters and his cousins and his aunts.” In the meantime, Ralph plans to elope with Josephine, the crew assisting. The plot is overheard by Dick Deadeye, the lugubrious boatswain.

As Act Two begins, Captain Corcoran is alone on deck and sings to the moon. Little Buttercup comes to him and reveals her affection. He tells her that because of his rank he can only be her friend; but she hints darkly that a change is in store for him, saying that “things are seldom what they seem.”

Sir Joseph returns, complaining that Josephine does not favor his suit. The Captain comforts him by averring that she is awed by his lofty station and suggests that he plead his cause on the ground that love levels all rank. Still Josephine does not respond, for her heart is set upon Ralph.

Dick Deadeye reveals the elopement plan, and he and the Captain lie in wait for the crew, “carefully on tip-toe stealing.” The elopers are captured, and the Captain is so exasperated that he actually swears, using a “big, big D” which is overheard by Sir Joseph Porter. For this serious breach of morals, a horrible example of depravity before the whole crew, the Captain is ordered to his cabin.

Affairs are interrupted by Little Buttercup, who discloses a secret, telling how the Captain and Ralph had been accidental]y exchanged while they were both babies. Whereupon, Sir Joseph, with true Gilbertian logic, sends for Ralph and makes him Captain, and at the same time reduces Corcoran to Ralph’s former humble grade of “able seaman.” Now, since it is out of the question for one of Sir Joseph’s exalted station to marry the daughter of a mere seaman, his Lordship nobly consents to the marriage of Ralph and Josephine. The erstwhile Captain consoles himself with Little Buttercup.

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