Calling a Gilbert and Sullivan show silly is nothing more than tacking on a generic term -- all G&S shows are at least partly silly. So it would be more accurate to call "Ruddigore" the silliest of the duo's operettas.
And it's a good thing to see all this silliness close-up at Danville's Village Theatre, where Role Players Ensemble is presenting its second compact production of a G&S work. By putting a big show into a small and thoroughly delightful package, the company uses the theater's intimate stage to great advantage.
Since "Ruddigore" is the G&S piece that followed the hit "The Mikado," it never seems to have gotten its due. But, as many theatergoers have discovered, it is wildly funny, charmingly wacky and highly entertaining -- and operates in its own skewed world.
The story is set in and around Ruddigore Castle, where the eldest Murgatroyd son, for generations, has served as head of the family and been chief victim of its curse. The horrible curse requires the ill-fated son to commit a crime daily or face the wrath of his ancestors, which likely includes death at the hands of old spirits who still inhabit the house.
So frightening is the curse that the current eldest son, Sir Ruthven (Charles Woodson Parker) has faked his own death, forcing younger brother, Sir Despard (David Auerbach) to take the title by default. As for Ruthven, he returns to town and almost immediately falls in love with Rose Maybud (Sarah Sloan).
Rose, as the town's staff bride, is responsible for aiding the town's staff bridesmaids, who are funded through a generous bequest from the estate of someone who thought all towns should have a permanent wedding staff, just in case.
I told you this was one of the sillier ones, didn't I?
And on it goes from there, getting even crazier, with marriages, odd matches, paintings coming to life and singing and dancing, stuff like that.
But that's the general idea, and the production keeps you laughing, thanks to a remarkably talented cast, including a number of opera singers, including Sloan, Megan Stetson, Leslie Lawrence and Lindsay Levin, who also prove themselves quite adept a comic acting.
Both Auerbach and Parker create excellent characters as does Bruce Carlton, as Old Adam Goodheart, the head of the household's manservant. Adam is good to the core, which is kind of a bad situation, since he's in the employ of a man who has to commit a crime every day.
James Leonard Koponen, as another younger Murgatroyd brother, also falls for Rose, and attempts to win her with an energetic, acrobatic hornpipe dance that sends the audience into the stratosphere.
Marianna Wolff is the musical director, leading her eight-piece (onstage, but unseen) orchestra through a remarkably rich sounding delivery of the G&S score.
And the show also must be given high points for technical presentation with Lights by David Lam, Sound by Joshua Tyler Hardwick, and an impressive set designed by Robert Bo Golden. Lisa Danz designed the period costumes and props, which, along with the lights, sounds and set eventually made the ancestors come back to life in a most entertaining way.
Contact Pat Craig at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Gilbert and Sullivan, presented by Role Players Ensemble
When; 8 p.m. May 9-10
Where: Village Theatre, 233 Front St., Danville
Running time: 2 hours, 15 minutes
Tickets: $20-$28, www.roleplayersensemble.com