By guest reviewer Rick Busciglio
October 16, 2014
We are constantly amazed by the exceptional quality of the theater talent that resides here in the Garden State. Our proximity to Manhattan the world center for much of the performing arts is, of course, a major factor. This Thursday evening, we had the opportunity to hear and see some of the outstanding classical vocal talent performing in our area. The venue was a church, St. Mark's, in the community of Basking Ridge. St. Mark's is the home of the Light Opera Company of New Jersey. Until several seasons ago, it was known as the Ridge Light Opera Company. The company was founded 20 years ago by the husband and wife team of William and Lauran Corson. Bill is the lead producer/director with Lauran serving as the Artistic Director. Lauran is a soprano with impressive credits having sung professionally throughout the country in both opera and musical theater.
The production is Gilbert and Sullivan's The Gondoliers,or the King of Barataria noted for not only being the most tuneful but also having the most dancing of all their works. Unlike many of the plots in opera or operetta, The Gondoliers has a surprisingly complex plot that at times seems to be a case for Miss Marple to sort out. Fortunately, a detailed synopsis is provided in the program right down to revealing the 'surprise' resolution. Don't let that concern you, the joy is in the performances of the very impressive leads: John-Andrew Fernandez as Guiseppe Palmieri; Alex Corson as Marco Palmieri (Ben Krumreig alternates with Corson—each doing three performances); William Remmers as The Duke; David Perper as Luiz; Ryan Allen as The Grand Inquisitor; Hanne Dollase as The Duchess; Lyssandra Stephenson as Casilda (photo right); Kathleen Shelton as Tessa; Elena Bird as Gianetta (Samantha Dango alternates); and Katerina Nowik as Constanza and The Duchess.
Others in the large supporting cast are Mike Baruffi; Josh Berg; Jack Broderick; Daveda Browne; Luke Chiafullo; Laura DeFelice; Donna Lee Donelan; Tom Donelan;Sophia Donelan; Beth Gleason; Chang-Kuo Hsieh; Emma Peterson; C. Paige Porter; Frank Skokan; Susanna Su and John Lamb as the understudy for The Grand Inquisitor;
William Remmers and Ryan Allen (photo right) are delights in their character roles, with the ladies: Hanne Dollase; Lyssandra Stephenson ; Kathleen Shelton; Elena Bird and Katerina Nowik all possessing marvelous voices. Kathleen Shelton and Elena Bird were particularly effective as the wives of the gondoliers in the amusingly choreographed In A Contemplative Fashion. John-Andrew Fernandez and Alex Corson are well paired as the brothers. Both fine actors, first class voices, and not bad on their feet (dancing). Other standout moments were provided by David Perper as Luiz (the drummer); Frank Skokan's humorous gondolier; and Susanna Su as a leader of the peasant girls.
A very fine six-piece orchestra is lead by music director Lois Buesser (piano). The others are Serena Huang, flute; Ginny Johnston and Jenny Branch, clarinet; Andrew Pecota, bassoon; and William Remmers, percussion.
The creative staff members are Lauran Corson, artistic director; William Corson, co-director and producer; William Remmers, co-director; Joanna Hoty Russell, assistant director.
You have only two chances to see this outstanding production of one of Gilbert and Sullivan's musical masterpieces...tonight and Saturday night.
Gilbert and Sullivan's The Gondoliers, or the King of Barataria is presented in two acts with a total of 22 musical numbers. It is presented over 2 weekends in October: evenings at 8 p.m. The remaining dates are October 17 and 18. Tickets are available online at www.lonj.org or by calling 908-903-0702.
A special 20th Anniversary celebration of Light Opera of New Jersey, with Dinner will be held on Saturday evening the 18th. Tickets for the dinner are $25. Location: St Mark’s Church, 140 S. Finley Ave., Basking Ridge, NJ 07920.
Some background: LONJ performs works from composers such as Gilbert & Sullivan, Mozart, Offenbach and Romberg. Musical Theater favorites such as My Fair Lady and Carousel and a wide variety of musical concerts and cabarets round out the repertoire. The company includes professional singers as well as highly skilled amateur performers and an outstanding ensemble known for its “wall of sound”! LONJ is a registered, non-profit performing arts ensemble based in Basking Ridge, New Jersey.
Top Photo: L-R Elena Bird, Alex Corson, John-Andrew Fernandez and Kathleen Shelton (LONJ)