Yeoman of the Guard

Rated 3.0 Back in the 1880s, before the invention of phonograph records and silent movies, the class-conscious light operas of William S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan were all the rage in England and America. Sullivan died in 1900, and Gilbert 11 years later, but their shows continued to be popular into the 1950s. Hollywood movies, rock ’n’ roll and other forms of pop culture have taken center stage since. However, hardy community groups like Light Opera Theatre of Sacramento keep Gilbert and Sullivan’s classics on the boards as a labor of love.Gilbert and Sullivan’s shows still can be funnier than the dickens, including Yeoman of the Guard. It’s a death-row comedy featuring a last-minute marriage, an unanticipated escape, a bit of mistaken identity and (of course) a largely happy ending (except for the sad clown).

The artistry lies in the intersection of silly story and witty music. The score features marvelously layered duets, trios and quartets—sung in this production by tall Tevye Ditter (the gallant Fairfax), Katie Baad (Elsie), Mike Baad (Sgt. Meryll), Elaine Berman (Dame Carruthers), Joseph Falla (the jailer Wilfred) and others. There’s also a chorus of 16 singers plus a 16-piece orchestra, which delivers good work under the brisk baton of conductor Sean Bianco (opera host at Capital Public Radio). Now add a marvelous cameo by buff black bodybuilder Brian Lewis, who says not a word but dominates his single scene as the shirtless, broad-shouldered Headsman, with his face covered by a hood.

This show doesn’t feature a standout professional-level performer like Craig Morphis (from last year’s Iolanthe at Davis Comic Opera Company), but Yeoman’s cast performs more evenly as a group. If you’ve never sampled Gilbert and Sullivan, this show represents a reasonably good place to give them a try.