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Savoy Theatre. The Times 1884 October 13 31263: 4, col. 3 [unsigned review]

The revival of The Sorcerer at the Savoy Theatre on Saturday evening was distinctly a step in the right direction. At its production at the Opera Comique seven years ago this charming piece was not sufficiently appreciated. The general public at that time had not yet become accustomed to the peculiar raciness of Mr. Gilbert's humour in its combination with Sir Arthur Sullivan's light and graceful strains. They were too much surprised to be genuinely delighted. But although not a great success in itself The Sorcerer became the stepping-stone on which its successors ran to almost unprecedented popularity. At the same time its merits were not forgotten by those who witnessed its birth and were apt to think that as it was the first it was also by far the best of its joint authors' productions on the same scale. In endorsing that opinion we are aware that it may be challenged on the ground of being influenced by personal predilection as much as by considerations of abstract merit. Others whose acquaintance with Gilbert and Sullivan's operettas commenced with the Pinafore or The Pirates of Penzance might very probably claim the prize for either of those works, although few would be prepared to deny that after them a distinct and increasing decline became noticeable. The reason is not far to seek. These operettas are unique of their kind, and in many respects superior to any other kind. Mr. Gilbert's humour is infinitely more quaint, more original, and more genuine than anything the French burlesque stage can show, apart from being wholly free of the objectionable features of that stage. Neither should Sir Arthur Sullivan's contributions to the common effort be underrated. Mr. Gilbert would be as impossible in this class of work without him as he would be without Mr. Gilbert. The event has proved it. Princess Toto and Cox and Box are pretty enough in their way; compared with the Pinafore their charm and their vitality are as nothing. It was only by working together that author and composer realized their full strength and struck the right vein. It was one of pure gold, but perhaps for that reason it was soon exhausted. Mr. Gilbert's humour is entirely individual; it is not drawn from a dramatic situation, but from the whimsical light in which he looked upon that situation; it is, therefore, not capable of expansion, not even of much variety, for its motive remains essentially the same. The public have watched and been delighted by that humour in its successive disguises of six operettas; whether they would care to witness it in a seventh is a question on which the authors themselves appear to entertain some doubt, for it is said that in the new work on which they are understood to be engaged they mean to try more serious dramatic issues. Before venturing upon this dangerous enterprise they have, however, determined to go back once more to the fons et origo of their long-continued success, and the attitude of Saturday's audience proved that their determination had been a wise one. Loud applause, encores, calls for author, composer, and principal performers, and repeated outbursts of merriment, were the order of the evening, and testified to what Mr. Gilbert has elsewhere called the undiminished "capacity for innocent enjoyment" on the part of the public.
 

A few changes have been made, but these are fortunately not of a material kind, for the piece could not well have been improved. A certain continuity of the action  is, however, established by means of the villagers, who, having sunk into magic slumber when the curtain falls after the first act, are still lying on the stage when it rises upon the second. A characteristic song and dance which they perform on awakening and finding themselves entangled in the meshes of love appeared also new. A ballad for the tenor, "Thou hast the power," must be called a less welcome addition, if addition it was, for we have not the original libretto before us. In any case it should be cut out, although it was very well sung by Mr. Lely.

Of such instances, indeed, the present score shows abundant measure, from the exquisitely comic effect wit hwhich the bassoon emphasizes the words "for a nativity" in the sorcerer's song to the entire incantation scene, which is designed in the genuine mock-heroic spirit.
 

The Sorcerer was followed by a revival of that clever and amusing extravaganza, Trial by Jury, in which Mr. Barrington performed the learned judge with due aplomb, Mr. Lely appearing to advantage in the part of the ill fated defendant. The fair plaintiff was represented by Miss Dysart, who has an agreeable voice, but as yet lacks experience as an actress. An elaborate transformation scene, supported by fairies in barrister's wigs, conclude [sic] the piece.

 

 

transcribed by Helga J. Perry, 19 November 2000
updated 18 March 2007