BY ELYSE AMEND
The students at St. John Fisher Elementary School in Pointe Claire laughed, jolted, and applauded as they watched the antics of Sir Despard Murgatroyd and the townsfolk of Rederring last Friday afternoon.
Members of the Lakeshore Light Opera (LLO) regaled the students and staff with a few scenes from their latest production, Gilbert and Sullivan’s Ruddigore, which opens Friday at John Rennie High School in Pointe Claire. “It exposes the young ones to opera. It gives them a taste,” said Jonathan Curzi, the show’s director, who was filling in as character Robin Oakapple, also known as Sir Ruthven Murgatroyd for Friday’s presentation. This is the third year the LLO was previewing its production at local schools. “I’ve been told (student reaction) is always excellent,” he said.
The LLO was formed in 1955 by members of the Men’s Club at St. Paul's Anglican Church in Lachine and the church choir. “They wanted to do something other than church music,” Curzi said.
The group’s first production was Gilbert and Sullivan's Trial by Jury, and was followed by many others once every year.
Since the 1980s, all proceeds have gone to support the Lakeshore General Hospital Foundation, with donations totalling about $100,000 over the years.
The LLO cast features all sorts of people, young and old. “They’re from all over, all walks of life. Some come to us and have never even read sheet music before. Anyone can join,” Curzi said.
Philip Magder, LLO communications manager and member of the chorus, said each member of the cast also has other administrative and technical jobs. “We’re all volunteers. We don’t have any paid help,” he said.
The actors will be accompanied by a full orchestra throughout its six-date run, but it was long-time pianist and musical director, Marian Siminski, who, on Friday, underlined the story with music. Many years ago, a witch cursed the house of Ruddigore, condemning the holder of the title to commit one crime every day, or face a terrible death. Sir Despard Murgatroyd (played by Cameron Black) would have been saved from the curse if it wasn’t for the untimely death of his brother, Sir Ruthven Murgatroyd. Forced to live a life of villainy and indifference towards the woman who loves him – Mad Margaret (played by Colleen St. James), imagine Despard’s surprise when he learns his brother is actually alive, living under the alias Robin Oakapple (played by Simon Côté) and engaged to Rose Maybud (played by Erika Horst), who before hard sworn to never marry.
The 40-member cast will debut this tale of love and deceit on Friday, and continue with shows on March 1, 2, 6, 7, and 8 at John Rennie High School. For ticket information, visit www.llo.org or call 514-804-4900.
BY ELYSE AMEND