The Oberlin Gilbert and Sullivan Players are back and bursting with farcical tunes. Due to the difficulty in finding enough cast members to put on a full-length production during the spring semester, double degree sophomore Sara Holliday and first-year Alison Gent (this year's directors) have wisely decided to do a double bill consisting of a one-act musical, Cox and Box, and a short revue, Melon.
Cox and Box, the first half of the show, is something of a break with true G&S tradition. There is no Gilbert! Instead, this is a Bernand and Sullivan show, but it doesn't make much of a difference. Cox and Box, directed by Holliday, is the story of Mr. Cox (double degree first-year Jonathan Stinson) and Mr. Box (conservatory first-year Kevin Moreno, replaced on Saturday by Gayden Wren), lodgers in a boarding house for retired military men, and their landlord, Sergeant Bouncer (conservatory first-year Michael Preacely).
Cox works as a hatter during the day, and Box as a printer by night, so Bouncer figures that he can make some extra money by renting the same room to both of them at once. Of course, Box and Cox eventually find out about each other, and much silliness ensues until they discover a Mr. Nox who can solve all their difficulties.
The three actors do well in their roles, managing to carry off the slapstick comedy and burlesque choreography with some grace as well as a good sense of timing. They all have to sing, of course, and do so quite nicely, particularly Preacely, whose wonderful bass voice is one of the highlights of the show. The only difficulty is that they tend not to enunciate clearly, so some of the jokes get lost in the patter songs.
The sets and costumes are simple, but effective, as is the lighting design. There is no orchestra, but conservatory first-year David Wright's piano accompaniment is more than enough for such a small cast. In general, Cox and Box is very enjoyable, from the beginning song, "I Am a Military Man" until they are literally swept off the stage by the cast of Melon.
Melon, directed by Gent, is a revue of songs from various Gilbert and Sullivan, shows, including Ruddigore and The Mikado. The cast is all female, and includes first-year Ann Chatham, junior Emily Harville, Holliday, first-year Emily Lane, first-year Karalee Poschman, sophomore Marisa Prell, first-year Vania Stankiewicz, and conservatory first-year Christopher Morris on the piano.
The half-hour show appears to take place during a rehearsal, with much sweeping and moving around of ladders and props. It opens with "I Have a Song to Sing, O!" complete with Supremes-style dance moves by the "stagehands." Other highlights include "Three Little Maids From School" and "I Am So Proud" from The Mikado. There is particularly good solo work from Harville and Holliday.
Melon offers an opportunity to hear some of the lesser-known Gilbert and Sullivan tunes, but it would perhaps have been improved by the addition of a few more of the familiar, crowd-pleasing variety along the lines of "The Major-General's Song" or "When I Was a Lad." Still, Melon is good fun and will make a good study break - if only to find out what the title means.
Copyright © 1997, The Oberlin Review.
Volume 125, Number 24; May 9, 1997
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