"The Grand Duke" - by Gilbert and Sullivan - Sudbury Savoyards (Sudbury, MA.) - REVIEW

(Cover Photo: The CAST of Gilbert and Sullivan's "THE GRAND DUKE" from the Sudbury Savoyards in Sudbury, MA. through March 4, 2023. Photo Credit Chris Pollari)

By Kevin T. Baldwin

METRMAG Reviewer

# 774-242-6724

"Oh, the man who can drive a theatrical team, with wheelers and leaders in order supreme, can govern and rule, with a wave of his fin, all Europe...with Ireland thrown in!"

                                                                                                        - Gilbert and Sullivan


The Sudbury Savoyards 

Presents Gilbert and Sullivan's



Written by W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan

Directed by Matt Tragert

Music Direction by Aldo Fabrizi

Choreographer Kai Fay

Cast Includes: Ben Morse - Grand Duke; Lonnie Powell - Earnest; Tom Frates - Ludwig; Brad Amidon - Dr. Tannhauser; Santo Mammone - Prince of Monte Carlo; Jon Saul - Ben Hashbaz/ Detective; Randy Glidden - Herald; Lindsey Soboleski - Princess of Monte Carlo; Carolyn Kelly Schwartz - Baroness von Krakenfeldt; Elaine Crane - Julia Jellicoe; Sara DeLong - Lisa; Graham Daley - Olga; Emily Kwak - Gretchen; Debbie Crane - Bertha; Ann Ferentz - Elsa; Karen Powers - Martha.

Chorus: Briana Bensenouci, Kirsten Chetwynd, Beth Nolan Conners, Sue Flint, Laura Jacobson, Kim Kapner, Mei-Lin Po, Susan Robinson,  Nora Sotomayor, Vivian Viggiano, Marla Zucker, David Bainbridge, Kai Fay, Matthew Garber, Frank Harrigan, Andy Herrick, Larry Millner, George Oliver, Tony Parkes, Tom Porcher. 

Additional Creative Team:

Nadine Sa - Stage Manager; Tom Powers - Technical Director; Donna Roessler - Co-Producer/Co-Costume Designer; Lynn Sa - Co-Producer; Bill Fisher - Assistant Stage Manager; Sue Flint - Co-Costume Designer; Ailsa Smith - Lighting Designer; Bill Lopoulos - Sound Designer; Brendon Chetwynd - Co-Set Designer; Laurel Martin - Co-Set Designer; Elizabeth Stone - Makeup Designer; Dave O’Gara - Scenic Painter; Nancy Powers - Props Chief; Karen Powers - Social Chair; Dennis O’Brien - House Manager; Andrea Roessler - Playbill Ad Chief; Karen Powers - Publicity Team; Sara DeLong - Publicity Team; Steve Malionek - Playbill Layout Chief; Frank Harrigan - Internal Sales Chief; Andrew Conway - Tickets Chief & Orchestra Mgr.; Brad Amidon - Cast Ticket Sales; Roberta Sutter - Rehearsal Accompanist.

Lincoln Sudbury Regional High School,  390 Lincoln Rd, Sudbury, MA 01776 


February 24, 2023 through March 4, 2023

(Contact Box Office for Exact Times)


$25 Adult

$22 student/senior

$12 children under 12



The Sudbury Savoyards presents Gilbert and Sullivan’s final collaboration "THE GRAND DUKE" (or "THE STATUTORY DUEL") - a rarely produced musical performed with a dynamic cast, full orchestra, impressive sets and gorgeous costumes. 

The last time the Savoyards presented the show was in 2006.

In her book, "Theatre for the Community, Directing Community Theatre" Virginia Kirshner wrote, "At last, after six or more weeks, the great night arrives--the climax of your study, plans, conferences and rehearsals--the performance."

It is in the performance space dedicated in Kirshner's name for her long career at Lincoln Sudbury Regional High School that "THE GRAND DUKE" has been staged by the Sudbury Savoyards, and every element she noted above is present - in spades. 

If there is anything lacking it is a result of the authors themselves.

The opera premiered in 1896 with Arthur Sullivan conducting the orchestra, as he always did on opening nights. 

While that opening night was considered a success with critics praising W.S. Gilbert's direction, it did not meet overall expectations given the legacy of Gilbert and Sullivan's prior works.

While the score is engaging, the story itself runs far too long and many of the otherwise humorous subplots appear to suffocate one another or just mercilessly run the main plot into the ground. 

However, even with this, there is still much to admire about this well-staged show. 

(Photo: Tom Frates, Brad Amidon and Ben Morse in a scene from Gilbert and Sullivan's "THE GRAND DUKE" from the Sudbury Savoyards in Sudbury, MA. through March 4, 2023. Photo Credit Chris Pollari)

Under the direction of Matt Tragert with music direction by Aldo Fabrizi, "THE GRAND DUKE" is about a theatrical troupe of actors that conspires to take over the "Grand Duchy of Pfennig-Halbpfennig" but plans go awry from the outset and soon the story encounters many bizarre twists and turns.

The troupe is ready to premiere their latest production of Shakespeare's "Troilus and Cressida" and the wedding of the troupe's star, Ludwig (Tom Frates), to soprano Lisa (Sara DeLong)

Frates and DeLong have chemistry and DeLong greatly impresses vocally but, unfortunately, the character of Lisa is soon virtually lost in the muck that soon unfolds on stage in the story.

Their nuptials cannot take place as there are no parsons available in the city. 

The Grand Duke (Ben Morse) has summoned all clerics to discuss his own forthcoming wedding. 

Despising the Grand Duke, the troupe plots to blow him up with dynamite and place a new man on the throne. 

Ernest, (Lonnie Powell) leader of the troupe, is to assume the "role" of the Grand Duke after the coup.

Julia (Elaine Crane), leading lady of the troupe, is contractually obligated to play the leading female role in any production. 

So, as Ernest assumes the "role" of the Grand Duke, in a deeply twisted but calculated move, Julia becomes his "Grand Duchess." 

A committed actress, or an actress more likely to be committed, Julia is probably the funniest character in "THE GRAND DUKE" - reminiscent of the earliest...and most annoying..."method actress" completely immersing herself into the role once the plan is executed.

Both Powell and Crane are exemplary, providing much required energy to their respective roles. This helps in keeping the pace brisk as the lengthy comedy drags in other areas.

(Photo: Jon Saul as "The Tailor" in Gilbert and Sullivan's "THE GRAND DUKE" from the Sudbury Savoyards in Sudbury, MA. through March 4, 2023. Photo Credit Chris Pollari)

A "statutory duel" (a ruse by which an actual dual is avoided yet serving the same end result in a person's "demise") is staged between Ernest and Ludwig. Drawing playing cards instead of weapons, whomever draws the lower card is deemed the loser and will confess to the plot.  

Things go awry when "THE GRAND DUKE" hears of the conspiracy and impulsively takes part in a second statutory duel. This time, the ruse takes place between Ludwig and the Grand Duke. (Hey - it worked once so, why not twice? What could possibly go wrong? Right? Wrong.)

Satire, a staple for many G&S show, was apparently sacrificed for all out camp, fun and silliness. 

Seemingly sophomoric behavior proves relentless among the bulk of characters in the story. Any attempt at satire is lost as more and more characters become involved.

By the end of the show's second act, far too many characters are added to the mix. It gets to the point one cannot (or care to) follow the subplots without a scorecard. 

There also seems to be a concerted effort by the authors to re-use...er, "recall"...past G&S elements, regurgitating aspects of their prior collaborations. There is a great sense of déjà vu as there is a lot that seems familiar about "THE GRAND DUKE."

However, there is certainly no shortage of original and capable performances in the Sudbury Savoyards production and, from resplendent period costuming to a "grand" set design, the combined technical elements create a stunningly visual production.

Certainly, there was great effort and care taken in all "study, plans, conferences and rehearsals."

(Photo: The CAST of Gilbert and Sullivan's "THE GRAND DUKE" from the Sudbury Savoyards in Sudbury, MA. through March 4, 2023. Photo Credit Chris Pollari)

Probably the greatest contribution to keeping things light and maintaining audience interest is the combined staging by Tragert with the whimsical choreography added by Kai Fay - executed quite well by the ensemble.

In addition, and this cannot be emphasized enough, the show offers a (now all too rare) accompaniment by a splendid full orchestra under the direction of Mr. Fabrizi ultimately alleviating a chunk of the show's inherent literal shortcomings and  making the musical experience an absolute joy. 

"THE GRAND DUKE" (or "THE STATUTORY DUEL") continues through March 4th and proves to be a "jolly court for all."

Approximately 2 hours, 40 minutes with one intermission.

Kevin T. Baldwin is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA)  




Gilbert and Sullivan’s final collaboration "THE GRAND DUKE" is a rarely produced gem! 

Fans of classical music and musical theatre won’t want to miss this grand production performed with full orchestra, striking sets and elaborate costumes. 

Attend the tale of a theatrical troupe of actors that conspire to take over the Grand Duchy of Pfennig-Halbpfennig but are discovered by "THE GRAND DUKE'S" detective. 

To save the company, a statutory duel is suggested between the troupe’s manager and his leading comedian.  

Drawing playing cards instead of weapons, whomever draws the lower card is deemed the loser and will confess to the plot.  

Things go awry when "THE GRAND DUKE" hears of the conspiracy and impulsively takes part in a second statutory duel.  

Acquired identities, mistaken engagements, and made-up Greek words abound in this pinnacle of operetta. 

You won’t want to miss this rare and rollicking piece of theatre! 

You're sure to enjoy the Jolly, Jolly jinks of Phenning-Hapbfennig! .


The Sudbury Savoyards are a community theater organization founded in 1961 in Sudbury, Massachusetts that specializes in the light operas (“operettas”) composed by W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan. We are one of the few theater companies in New England that performs all the works of Gilbert & Sullivan as “Theater on a Grand Scale” – with a large chorus, full orchestra, and full staging, costuming, and lights. These productions feature a chorus open to all who wish to participate, while our leads are selected through competitive auditions. We perform one large scale G&S show a year, in winter. We produce a smaller-scale, usually non-musical comedy or light drama in the summer, and occasionally produce concerts and smaller outreach events. Charity had always been an important element in our program of work; the Savoyards have donated more than a quarter million dollars to world hunger relief over the past three decades. Although as a non-profit arts organization, our direct donations are limited, we continue to work to find ways to support relief of hunger though collaborations.  As a registered 501(c)(3) organization, donations and gifts to the Savoyards are applicable as charitable deductions for tax purposes. .

The Sudbury Savoyards
P. O. Box 762

Sudbury, MA. 01776

Phone (Voicemail) # 781-369-5992