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THEATER REVIEW / 'YEOMEN OF THE GUARD' : College Operetta : Despite downbeat aspects, this Gilbert and Sullivan work offers humorous characters and lilting songs.


Although atypical in some respects, "Yeomen of the Guard," one of Gilbert and Sullivan's final collaborations, does continue the duo's tradition of witty dialogue and frothy songs. It's being presented in a run ending this weekend at Moorpark College. The show is directed by Marilyn Anderson and highly recommended to fans of the musical theater.

The 1888 operetta is promoted as Gilbert and Sullivan's only drama, probably due to the fact that--despite typically witty dialogue, frothy songs and a climactic triple wedding--the show has its downbeat aspects and a less than totally happy (though hardly tragic) ending.

The plotting and some characters are quite Shakespearean in nature, something else that sets "Yeomen of the Guard" apart from most of the Gilbert and Sullivan oeuvre. Such distinctions, however, are mainly for scholars. It will be enough for most to simply enjoy the convoluted story, humorous characters and situations, and lilting songs.

An effort to free the wrongly imprisoned Colonel Fairfax sets the story in motion. Sergeant Meryll of the Guards concocts a plan involving switching Fairfax with Meryll's son, Leonard, who has just come to town to begin duty as a yeoman, which in those days meant a member of the royal guard. Assisting is Meryll's daughter, Phoebe, who is enamored of Fairfax.

Wandering into all of this are a pair of strolling players, Jack Point and Elsie Maynard. And complicating the story are two thwarted crushes: that of jailer Wilfred Shadbolt for the lovely Phoebe, and of Dame Carruthers for Sergeant Meryll. Jack Point--perhaps the world's worst jester--is interested in Elsie, as well, but isn't about to commit to marriage. "For though I am a fool," he confesses, "there is a limit to my folly."

There's so much going on that Gilbert and Sullivan felt compelled to subtitle the show "The Merryman and his Maid," indicating that Jack Point and Elsie Maynard are the show's central characters. Point is played by Andrew Krigel, whose comic talents have been featured in a number of Moorpark College's previous operetta productions, and Margaret Bartholomew, who plays Elsie, is a talented newcomer to the area.

Mark Anthony Tortorici plays the show's other main comic role, that of jailer Shadbolt. In addition to being very funny in the part, he's one of the few actors in the production to attempt an accent, cockney, while most of the others wallow in accents from mid-Atlantic to pure modern American.

David Newton and Jeri Ursetti are fine as Fairfax and Phoebe; Fred Camerer plays the lieutenant in charge of the prison, and Bob Weaver is Sergeant Meryll, and Daniel Sullivan is Meryll's son, Leonard. On the first weekend, Cletha Boehm portrayed Dame Carruthers. This weekend, the part will be taken over by Linda Smith.

Live piano accompaniment is provided by Darryl Archibald.


"Yeomen of the Guard" concludes its run this weekend at the Moorpark College Forum Theater, 7075 Campus Road, in Moorpark. Curtain is at 8 Friday and Saturday nights; 7 on Sunday. General admission tickets are $8, $7 for students and staff, and $6 for seniors and children. For reservations or further information, call 378-1453.

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