Lyric Theater finds new life with recent show “Ruddigore”

The St. Olaf Lyric Theater’s fall production of “Ruddigore” was easily their best in recent memory. The show ran from Wednesday, Oct. 18 through Saturday, Oct. 21 and was directed by Great River Shakespeare Artistic Director Doug Scholz-Carlson ’90.

The guest-director’s presence was undoubtedly a key ingredient the success of the show. Interest in the Lyric Theater’s work had begun to wane through the last few years as show after show continued to focus almost entirely on the music. Although admittedly it excelled in that regard, the Lyric Theater nearly completely ignored the theatrical aspect of the opera or musical. This led to many shows that probably ought to have just been concerts instead.

However, with the help of Scholz-Carlson’s theatrical instincts, “Ruddigore” was able to break this trend and deliver a rousing good time on the level with the quality of its musical talent.

“Ruddigore” is a comedic Gilbert and Sullivan opera that centers around a love triangle between Robin Oakapple (Sam Parker ’18) and his foster brother, Richard Dauntless (Trevor Todd ’18). Both are vying for the affections of Rose Maybud (Erica Hoops ’18 and Greta Ramsey ’19, alternating each night). Things go south for Robin when it is revealed that he is actually the rightful “Bad Baronet of Ruddigore” meaning that, due to a witch’s curse, he must live a life of solitude and commit at least one crime a day or die!

This particular production made several edits to the original script, mostly to modernize jokes and to make them more local and St. Olaf-centric. Highlights included a jab at the Flaten Art Museum’s lack of audience, a lesson in being a proper Norwegian Lutheran and a biting suggesstion that the main character delay dealing with something unpleasant by forming a working group to delay any sort of action.

Outside of those three burns, most of the topical jokes were a little more low-stakes, but still produced laughs. While many audience members took joy in the light-hearted fun, others found themselves put off by it. All audiences could agree that many aspects of the show were inherently frivolous (such is the nature of Gilbert and Sullivan), but it was up to the individual to either embrace the escapist fare, or to pine for something a bit more “relevant.”

Stand-out performances of the show included the butler, Old Adam (Gabe Salmon ’18), who had the audience in stitches as he slowly scuttled about the stage, and Todd’s Richard Dauntless, who executed physical and verbal gags with a blend of deadpan and childlike innocence.

“Ruddigore” marks a period of reinvigoration for the Lyric Theater, which will hopefully carry forward into next semester’s production of the rock musical “Bat Boy.”