This Fall, the Ridgewood & Sullivan Opera Company is celebrating 80 years of
performing Gilbert & Sullivan productions in the town of Ridgewood. To commemorate their 80th Anniversary, they are performing Iolanthe, which was the very first production that the company ever performed.
Iolanthe is directed by Michael Blatt, assistant directed by Joy Forlenza, and music
directed by Laura Ravotti.
Full Performances in Ridgewood:
Saturday, November 4 at 7:30pm: Ridgewood United Methodist Church
Sunday, November 5 at 3:00pm: Ridgewood United Methodist Church
Sunday, November 12 at 3:00pm: Ridgewood United Methodist Church
Tickets can be purchased online here for $20 or at the door for $22. The company’s full performance schedule can also be viewed here.
A look into the past and present of RGSOC:
Ridgewood Gilbert & Sullivan Opera Company (also known as Ridgewood G&S) has
always been based in Ridgewood, New Jersey, but also travels to perform for Gilbert &
Sullivan enthusiasts in the surrounding tristate area. Ridgewood G&S produces all the
works of Gilbert & Sullivan and continues to do so today. Although their tradition of
performing only Gilbert & Sullivan has remained the same, its business model has
Ridgewood Gilbert & Sullivan Opera Company was founded in 1937 by Kay and Jack
Edson and Oliver and May Hall, after the Radburn Singers had decided to stop
producing the operas of William S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan. The company’s first
show, Iolanthe, opened on November 25, 1937, Thanksgiving Day and the 55th
anniversary of the premiere performances of Iolanthe in London and New York, at
George Washington Junior High School. Tickets were only $1 to see the fully staged
show performed with an orchestra.
A few years after the company’s opening, the United States’ participation in World War
II led to a resulting gasoline shortage. Since significantly fewer patrons could come to
Ridgewood to see the shows, the company started bringing their show on the road to
other communities in the area. This business model proved so popular that it has been
maintained ever since and is still now, in fact, an integral part of the rehearsal and
performance schedule. Ridgewood G&S has performed as far away as upstate New
York, New York City, Connecticut, southern New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Most such
performances, some fully staged and some in concert, are sponsored by outside
organizations that pay a modest fee and sell their own tickets (or provide free admission
as a community service).
Ridgewood Gilbert & Sullivan provides free concert versions of the shows to senior
citizens at retirement homes and libraries throughout Northern New Jersey and
Rockland County, NY. The concerts serve as fundraisers to help the company produce
their upcoming shows. Of course, Ridgewood G&S has never forgotten its local
supporters either, and always gives at least two full shows each season in Ridgewood.
With one production every spring and fall since November 1937, Ridgewood G&S has
given approximately 1500 performances featuring over 800 singers in dozens of
communities in the Tri-State Area and beyond. The company took great pride in being
invited by the International G&S Festival to take its productions of The Grand Duke in
2010 and HMS Pinafore in 2011 to Gettysburg, PA, where it competed successfully
against other G&S companies from around the world.
The company consists of a large group of people ranging from as young as 16 to early
80s. Every year, there's 1 or 2 people who perform with the company for the first time,
and other company members have been performing on-and-off with the company since
the 1970s and 80s. What brings these people together is their ability to sing and their
desire to perform Gilbert & Sullivan. Several of the company members are
professionally trained in singing operetta, though the company considers itself a
community theater group and encourages singers of all levels to audition for its chorus.
By following D’Oyly Carte tradition, Ridgewood G&S has produced the operas in a
manner which would certainly have met with the approval of Gilbert and Sullivan
themselves. The title character of Iolanthe has reached an age of "a couple of centuries
or so,” and although Ridgewood G&S still has a way to go to achieve that claim, the
success of its first 80 years certainly has it headed in the right direction.