Socio-political jabs with flow?  Were G&S the hip-hop duo of their day?  THE SORCERER opens Friday 3/8 at The Alleyway

THE BASICS:  THE SORCERER, an early operetta by Gilbert (words) and Sullivan (music), directed by Lisa Berglund, presented by OperaLytes with chamber orchestra directed by Ciaran Krueger runs March 8-17, Fri – Sat 7:30, Sun 2:00 on the main stage at the Alleyway Theatre 1 Curtain Up Alley (enter the lobby between Pearl and Main Streets along the north wall of Shea’s), Buffalo NY 14202  Call 716-852-2600 or visit either or  Note: limited free children’s (13 and under) tickets with purchase of adult ticket.

Runtime: 2 hours with one intermission

THUMBNAIL SKETCH:  THE SORCERER is a comic operetta (light opera sung by professional voices) that pokes fun at class distinctions and conventions of love, with a little magic involved.  To have some diversion at his engagement party (and against advice from his fiancée Aline) young Alexis Pointdexter hires John Wellington Wells (proprietor of J. W. Wells & Co., Family Sorcerers, a Cockney businessman and purveyor of blessings – not much called for – and curses – very popular).

Wells is to secretly concoct and administer a love-at-first-sight potion to the guests in the tea served at the party.  What could possibly go wrong?  In typical G&S “Topsy Turvy” style, as the villagers fall instantly in love with the first person they see, various mismatches immediately take place.  Alexis and the Sorcerer discover too late that their plans are out of control.  

THE PLAYERS, THE PLAY, AND THE PRODUCTION:  With typical W.S. Gilbert witty dialogue and clever counterpoint by Arthur Sullivan (the duo often referred to as “G&S”) Opera-Lytes feels that their production of THE SORCERER will appeal to music lovers of all ages (note that children 13 and under are admitted free with the purchase of an adult ticket).

The cast features Debbie Smith as the fiancée Aline Sangazure, John Clayton as the fiancé Alexis Pointdexter, Michael Warner as the local minister Dr. Daly, Lisa Krueger as Constance (secretly in love with Dr. Daly), Mariami Bekauri as Aline’s mother Lady Sangazure, now widowed (but who has feelings for Alexis’s widower father and vice-versa) and Bohdan Dejneka as the Sorcerer, John Wellington Wells.  The chamber orchestra is directed by Ciaran Krueger.  In the past these small pit orchestras have been excellent.

L-R John Clayton as Alexis, Debbie Smith as Aline, and Bohdan Dejneka as John Wellington Wells, the Sorcerer | Photo by Lisa Berglund

Originally well received, THE SORCERER over the years waned in popularity compared to later hits, including G&S’s next one out of the box, H.M.S. PINAFORE and later THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE and even later, THE MIKADO.  But no matter whether early in their careers or later, one main target of the fun that appeals to us Americans is the English obsession with social status.  Still to this day it’s a major fascination to viewers of both television series “Downton Abbey” and “The Crown.”  And to think that the idea of love between members of different social classes all began for G&S with THE SORCERER.

Is it a stretch to compare a Gilbert & Sullivan operetta, set in England 150 years ago during the reign of Queen Victoria, to hip hop?  Not really.  In their day they were, like the rap lyrics of contemporary operetta (okay, musical) HAMILTON, “young, scrappy, and hungry.”  Their operettas commented on hypocrisy, classism, and political blunders.  Lyricist W.S. Gilbert could flow, coming up with stunning rhymes and slant rhymes (assonance to you English Majors), and a particular style of chopping (speed rhyming) known to G&S fans as “patter.”  Perhaps the most famous patter song these days begins “I am the very model of a modern major general” from G&S’s THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE.  That all began in THE SORCERER.

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