Students, faculty and residents of Youngstown are invited to laugh until they cry this Thursday at the cast of Gilbert and Sullivan’s two one-act operas “Trial by Jury” and “Cox and Box,” put on by Youngstown State University’s College of Creative Arts and Communication.
David Vosburgh, stage director and scene designer, has directed and designed over 150 productions of plays, musicals, operas and revues for opera companies, colleges, community theaters, summer stock and national tours. Vosburgh has performed over 30 operatic roles and has been seen on Broadway, in national tours, dinner theater, summer stock and PBS-TV’s Great Performances.
“This is something new. It is a collaboration between the music program and the opera program. We have casts from both working together, which is interesting and we are very excited about it,” Vosburgh said.
He said these two one-act musical comedies are like the Saturday Night Live of Opera.
“The word opera sometimes scares people. The audience should expect to be entertained. The music is beautiful and the comedy is funny,” Vosburgh said.
The first opera, “Trial by Jury,” is the story of an abandoned bride that is suing her husband for not upholding his promise of marriage to her. Matthew Malloy, a musical theater major, has the role of the judge in the courtroom, and said that the opera is just the ensuing details of the trial.
“It’s really just the fallings of this trial,” Malloy said. “It’s a Gilbert and Sullivan — they’re very early musical theater writers. All of their shows are very over-the-top silly, so everything is supposed to be really funny. You’ll probably sit there and be like ‘I can’t believe that just happened.’ It’s just so funny and so absurd.”
Allan Mosher, professor of voice at YSU, helped prepare the students for the musical aspect of “Trial by Jury,” and said the cast members have been working hard to be able to entertain the audience on opening night.
“We have very talented cast members who are taking this opportunity and jumping in with both feet. It should be very exciting. I’m looking forward to it,” Mosher said. “Every show has its own hurdles, but the rewarding thing about being in an educational environment is that you watch students grow, take on challenges and succeed. I’m sure the audience is going to be very well entertained.”
The second opera, “Cox and Box,” is the story of a landlord who comes up with a solution to a housing shortage and a way to double his income.
Vosburgh added that the opera program is a good learning opportunity for the students.
“I think it is a great credit to the university. The College of Creative Arts and Communication feels very strongly that the opera program is a part of their educational year. It is very well supportive. It gives the performers and the general public a chance to see something that they are not usually presented with,” he said.
The opera cast and crew started rehearsing at the beginning of the spring semester. The two one-act operas consist of a double cast due to the traditional fact that there are no understudies. The cast alternates in rehearsal and performances.
“The opera program at YSU is a more advanced undergraduate program. They get a bigger, better, deeper experience. There is no art form more collaborative than musical theater. I am wonderfully supported by the department’s and my bosses,” Vosburgh said.
Lori Factor, assistant director of the Donald P. Pipino Performing Arts series, stated that they are absolutely blessed and thrilled to have Vosburgh help with the opera.
“We are grateful to have Vosburgh come back from Massachusetts and stage direct,” Factor said.
The opera will be held in Bliss Hall’s Ford Theater with multiple show times. The event starts at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The last showing is on Sunday at 2 p.m.
Tickets are available in the box office in Bliss Hall. The cost of admission is $5 for YSU students and season ticket holders and $15 for the public.