For Dr. Gary Boerckel, "Trial By Jury" may be the perfect swan song.
Boerckel, who is retiring as chairman of Lycoming College's Music Department at the end of the 2011-12 academic year, is reprising Gilbert and Sullivan's "Trial By Jury" for a free performance at 8 p.m. Oct. 14 in Clarke Chapel.
Lycoming College has previously presented this one-act operetta in 1991 and 1998, and this month's staging remarkably reunites many of the same lead vocalists.
The Judge in “Trial by Jury” is played by Glenn Klein, Class of 1994. A performance will be held at 8 p.m. Oct. 14 at Lycoming College.
First produced in 1875, "Trial By Jury," with music by Arthur Sullivan and libretto by W.S. Gilbert, is generally considered to be the most successful British one-act operetta of all time. Its success launched the famous series of 13 collaborations between Gilbert and Sullivan that came to be known as The Savoy Operas.
The plot is lighthearted and ludicrous but the characters behave as if their antics are perfectly reasonable during a trial for a "breach of promise of marriage" lawsuit. Gilbert and Sullivan revisit a common theme: hypocrisy of those in authority and base motives of supposedly respectable people and institutions.
In "Trial By Jury," the barbs are musically poked at judges, juries and the British legal system.
In 1991, Boerckel selected this operetta because "it fit perfectly into the 'Concerts at Noon' format," musical presentations that run less than an hour. But the relative brevity - about 45 minutes - doesn't mean a scaled-down production.
Associate professor and theatre department chair N.J. Stanley will direct, and Boerckel will conduct a 20-piece orchestra that includes several members of the Williamsport Symphony Orchestra. A 25-member chorus is comprised of Lycoming College alumni, students and community singers.
But it is the reassembled cast that Boerckel points to with pride. Guy Rothfuss, Class of 1964, whose 30-year professional career in opera with appearances from Germany opera houses to New York's Metropolitan Opera, plays the Usher who introduces the proceedings, exhorting the jury to listen to the broken-hearted Plaintiff's tale of woes.
Bernadette Ulrich Boerckel, Class of 1999, portrays the Plaintiff and Joseph Bergen, Class of 1998, is her counsel.
Tim Oliver, Class of 1994, plays the Defendant who is greeted with hostility that grows as he readily admits to jilting the Plaintiff.
Arriving with great pomp is the Judge, played by Glenn Klein, Class of 1994.
"With his voice and absolute boisterous hilarity, I could not picture anyone else but Glenn in this role," Boerckel said.
After bragging of his own marital misadventures, the Judge proposes a solution, offering to marry both the Plaintiff and his new love almost simultaneously. Eyebrows are raised, not by the Judge's proposal, but by humorously labeling it as "burglary" rather than "bigamy."
Boerckel predicts that the audience's verdict following this Friday's production of "Trial By Jury" will be "guilty" of being great, entertaining musical fun.