Trial by Jury & Trial by Jury Duty Review- Gilbert and Sullivan Triumphant and Transcendent

Lamplighter's Musical Theatre, Trial by Jury Women's Chorus and F. Lawrence Ewing, Photo credit: Joe Giammarco

Alice Zhou and Henry Etzkowitz

Lamplighters Trial by Jury is a triumphal flow of powerful ensemble  performance.  The plot, ridiculous and ironic; yet also serious and realistic: featuring a gentleman who jilted his fiancée, the jilted bride-to-be and her bridesmaids, a pontificating foreman and  a lecherous judge  who eschews deliberation, enters  into the action, proposes marriage and embraces the plaintiff. Trial takes the audience in its grip and does not  let go even after apparent  consummation of a tangled plot, through follow up of the jurors entangled fate in  Trial by Jury Duty.

Charles Martin and Chris Uzelac

Gilbert and Sullivan’s early collaboration, a musical satire  of the British legal system, and the Lamplighters extension of the original, reprising a fundraising  anachronism for the first time  as part of a regular program,  are  perfectly aligned. If you have ever wondered what happens to the characters in  a hihgly popular  favorite book or motion picture, contemporary filmmakers and publishers will let you know with prequels and sequels  galore, a la Star Wars and Harry Potter.  But if you are a late 19th century classic one acter  you may wait in vain. Such was the case until Lamplighters, the Bay areas successor to the Original Doyly Carte purveyors of the delightful duos musical satrical oeuvre, channelled the original format in a Fundraiser spoof, with contemporary content  such as refernces to Victoria’s Secret and a  lawyerly Americanism to complete a rhyme. 

Jennifer Ashworth and Bruce Hoard

Trial by Jury Duty subverts the relationship between the original characters and their destiny. Returning to humanity and showing unexpected turns, the play is full of sunshine and romance.  The stage art very well matches the changes in theme. The former is a court scene, while the second  a mansion scene out of Upstairs Downstairs, with an hilarious tour led by aristocrats, who in reality, typically disappear from the scene when their unseen scene is opened to the public. In addition, the staging shows a rich terrain  with different heights and distances. In places where it is impossible to show ups and downs, everyone skips or almost trips, adding  fun and attention.

F. Lawrence Ewing and Jennifer Ashworth

There is a  perfect combination of costumes, music, stage props, lighting, and the voice of the singers is also  so impressive.The clothing not only reflects the charm of the era  but also captures its ridicuuous excess, especially the costume of Mrs. Danville, cumbersome, weird and mysterious. Overall, clothing and makeup are very helpful in highlighting the characteristics of the main features of the work. Each  actors features displayed their character to advantage,  especially the Learned Judge (by F. Lawrence Ewing), Angelina (by Jennifer Ashworth) and Mrs. Danville (by Michael Grammer).

The pairing  has the virtue of making a full evening, with the original one act Trial  promising “to be continued” after the audience returns from intermission. The first author  preferred the Lamplighters original over the Gilbert and Sullivan original, a second  author favorite. It changed the perception of a Learned Judge with a comic ending. Even if Angelina proved to be neither Judge’s daughter nor his wife, she found her mother, in a mind bending  resolution. In a unique feature of  each Lamplighter, performance, the actors file into the lobby, in costume,  after the last applause dies down to interact with the audience. The actors get a lot of affirmation, beyond what they receive on stage, exemplifying the performer/ audience Lamplighter community.  Jennifer Ashworth has performed as a Lamplighter since 2001: she did a great job as usual although her voice was a little hoarse. 

Jennifer Ashworth

Our over all impression is of a fun evening for all at Thursday evening’s opening of the dual bill at Mountain View’s Perfoming Arts Center, en route to Walnut Creek’s Lesher Center for the Arts and San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theatre.

Jennifer Mitchell as Jane Eyrehead and Michael Grammer as Mrs. Danville, TRIAL by JURY DUTY

More information at Lamplighters Music Theatre website Welcome

Photos: Joe Giammarco

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