Sarah Caldwell Smith, David Macaluso, and
Dan Greenwood in Ruddigore
(© Noah Strone)
Sarah Caldwell Smith, David Macaluso, and
Dan Greenwood in Ruddigore
(© Noah Strone)
Gilbert & Sullivan's 1887 parody of Victorian-era melodrama, Ruddigore, now being presented by the New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players at City Center, shares all the hallmarks of the pair's revered HMS Pinafore and The Pirates of Penzance: lush arias, comedic patter songs, and complicated if never-too-serious plotting. While this rarely-seen show admittedly fails to make quite as much impact as the duo's better-known works, this modestly entertaining production proves that an evening with Gilbert & Sullivan is always welcome.

The sure-to-be-wed-by-play's-end couple are virtuous village maiden Rose Maybud (Sarah Churchill Smith) and Robin Oakdale, a shy young farmer who is hiding his true identity as Sir Ruthven Murgatroyd (David Macaluso). Should Ruthven take his family title as Baronet -- now claimed by his younger brother Despard (a properly hammy Richard Alan Holmes) -- he will be cursed to commit a crime a day or perish for his goodness.

Unsurprisingly, the truth comes out on the couple's (first) wedding day -- courtesy of Robin's foster brother, the jaunty-if-dimwitted sailor Dick Dauntless (the strapping, fine-voiced Dan Greenwood), who has fallen in love with Rose on first sight. After being rejected by Rose, Ruthven -- who takes no pleasure in being a bad Baronet -- is then visited by the ghosts of his ancestors, led by his uncle Roderick (the excellent David Wannen), who try to convince him to embrace his evil side. Shortly after, however, the expected happy ending ensues.

While far from lavish, the production is visually appealing -- and the scene where Ruthven's ancestors come out of their picture frames to visit him is particularly well done. The orchestra, under the direction of company founder Albert Bergeron, plays with gusto. And the large cast -- which features a sizable chorus of singing bridesmaids and gallant gentlemen -- performs with considerable enthusiasm.

Caitlin Burke is a standout both in her singing and acting as the aptly-named Mad Margaret (who eventually marries Despard) and Erika Person is most affecting as Rose's steadfast aunt Hannah (who was once betrothed to Roderick). As the lead couple, Macaluso livens up considerably when he gets to be the conflicted Ruthven -- and has great fun in the trio "My Eyes are Fully Open" -- while Smith brings a nicely-needed edge to her characterization of Rose.