October 13, 2015
Performing on the Guthrie Theater stage is a dream for many actors, including members of the Gilbert & Sullivan Very Light Opera Company. Therefore, when Music Director, Randal Buikema, approached the Company with an opportunity to do so, the Company jumped at the chance.
In October 2015, the Guthrie Theater was staging a British play called The Events; a two-actor drama that explores themes of community, tragedy, healing and forgiveness.
The unique aspect of the production is that it includes a different local choir from the community for each performance. Through Randal Buikema, the Guthrie invited the Gilbert & Sullivan Very Light Opera Company to sing as one of the choirs.
A choir of Company members and other singers was quickly assembled and worked through a short, but intense rehearsal period to learn the pieces that had been written for the show, adaptations of a couple of British pop songs and an arrangement of “How Great Thou Art.”
On Tuesday, October 13th, the Company arrived at that Guthrie for a final rehearsal with the production staff and the two cast members. At 7:30 pm the Company walked onto the stage as directed, before a nearly sold out house, and gathered around a piano center stage. The play opens with every choir singing a piece of their own choosing and under Randal Buikema’s direction, the Company sang a rousing “Now Give Three Cheers for the Sailor’s Bride,” and “For a British Tar,” from the Act I Finale of H.M.S. Pinafore.
Then the play began … a deeply moving piece that told the story of Claire, a Scottish priest and the survivor of a mass shooting perpetrated on her mixed race, mixed nationality community choir by a young loner who had immersed himself in political philosophies of racial and national purity.
In addition to performing the piece’s songs as a choir, most of the members of the Company had lines in the show. Jacob Wellington and Caitlin Wilkey did extended readings and Julia Knoll hummed a solo lullaby. In addition, all of the cast members were called upon to act in an impromptu shamanic ritual, clearly intended to be humorous to the audience. It certainly was!
The audience response to the Company’s performance was very enthusiastic, with many saying how wonderful the Company sounded. As a theater company, rather than simply being a choir, the Company members were able to lend their stage experience and presence to the production in a way that isn’t common and, thereby, added an extra strength and depth to the show.
Appearing on the Guthrie stage … even for one night only … was a thrilling experience for every individual who participated in the production. It was certainly a very proud moment for the Gilbert & Sullivan Very Light Opera Company.
Members of the Gilbert & Sullivan Very Light Opera Company Choir for The Events
Joe Allen, Tom Berg, Randal Buikema, Rick Cedergren, Jonathan Flory, Alex Gerchak, Mary Gregory, Julie Ann Greif, Stephen Hage, Carly Hayes, Shawn Holt, Colin Hutchins, Ryan Johnson, Tari Karbula, Beth King, Julia Knoll, Keith Liuzzi, Holly MacDonald, Anna Maher, Charlotte Morrison, Jean Orbison, John Orbison, Dave Peichel, Sarah Richens, Aaron Roloff, Roger Shaver, Lara Trujillo, Jacob Wellington, Caitlin Wilkey, Keelin Yenny-Henderson, Steve Zehr
Music Director for The Events