Durham Savoyards come to 'play' in Chapel Hill

Thespis Publicity Photo3 (2)
The Durham Savoyards are putting on "Thespis" and "Trial by Jury" at East Chapel Hill High School Thursday through Sunday. Photo courtesy of Mark Welker.

Did you see glamorous pictures of celebrities from the recent premiere of "Thor: Ragnarok" in Los Angeles and wonder when it will be your turn to attend such a monumental event? This could be your chance. 

This weekend, the Durham Savoyards will be performing the world premiere of "Thespis" and "Trial by Jury," one after the other, at East Chapel Hill High School.

Since 1963, this theater troupe has performed the works of W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan for the Durham community. What makes this weekend’s performances so special, however, is the unveiling of a truly unique performance of "Thespis," for which Alan Riley Jones, the conductor of the Savoyards, wrote music to go along with the words.

Donna Cavallo, the stage manager, described the resurrection of "Thespis," originally written by Gilbert and Sullivan.

“It was performed once and then it was pretty much forgotten about," Cavallo said. "I believe the book of the show — the words —  were there, but they lost the music, and so over the years it has never really been performed.”

"Thespis" is a comic opera about an acting troupe that takes over for the gods of Olympus, who are tired of ruling. Hilarity and chaos ensue as the troupe takes on the powers of the gods.

"Trial by Jury" follows a scorned woman who sues her former fiancé for breaking off their engagement.

Highlights of the performances include spectacular vocal harmonies, a full live orchestra and lighting effects.

The Savoyards have been working to perfect their performances since the summer. They have had to navigate around vacation schedules and a new performance venue. Janell Lovelace, the troupe’s producer who has been with the Savoyards for 10 years, has been thrilled with their East Chapel Hill High School partnership. She sees this as an opportunity to engage with and tap into the community of East Chapel Hill to enhance the performance and its impact on the audience.

Lovelace said the troupe makes a point of diversifying their cast.

“We love getting all ages,” Lovelace said. “We’ve got one family that’s got three generations involved in this show, and we’ve got people from high school up into their 80s that are part of the company and people coming from as far away as Winston-Salem to be a part of it.”

Kaylee Allmond, the only UNC student member of the Savoyards, is very excited for her first performance with the troupe. 

“They are happy, upbeat shows, and I think that at the end of the day, it’s nice to go and see something onstage that’s gonna make you leave happier than you were when you came in the door," Allmond said.

The Savoyards will put on a preview performance Thursday evening, for which adult tickets are $15. Adult tickets for the Friday, Saturday and Sunday shows are $25.

The Savoyards will also be performing "Ruddigore" in April 2018 as they continue to carry on the legacy of Gilbert and Sullivan.



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