Show followed by highlights of past production favourites

MANITOWANING— The Burns Wharf Theatre Players (BWTP) will be opening the curtain on its summer show ‘Gilbert vs Sullivan’ and ‘Trial by Jury,’ two-one act productions. The first, an original script that pits W.S. Gilbert’s libretto against Arthur Sullivan’s musical compositions, highlighting past favourite BWTP musical numbers, and the second, ‘Trial by Jury,’ a Gilbert and Sullivan comedic opera.


“We wrote an original script for the first act because Trial by Jury is only a one-act show,” explained Ray Scott who is co-directing the production’s music along with Marilyn Wohlberg. “Usually when ‘Trial by Jury’ is performed it is accompanied by a companion piece. We have opted to put together another act made up of cast favourites and well-known songs from other Gilbert and Sullivan productions. In act one Gilbert and Sullivan’s lawyers are arguing with each lawyer introducing into evidence various songs. Some of the songs include ‘Three Little Maids’ from Mikado, ‘We Sail the Ocean Blue’ from HMS Pinafore and ‘Major General’ from Pirates of Penzance. The first act leads into ‘Trial by Jury’ really nicely.”

“Gilbert and Sullivan are arguing again,” explains the production’s brochure about the ‘Gilbert vs Sullivan.’ “They’ve produced great musicals, but they don’t get along. Gilbert likes fantasy, and Sullivan likes grand opera so their artistic goals are often at cross-purposes. Their relationship is complex and frequently tempestuous. All this is on display as Gilbert sues and Sullivan countersues for breach of duty. In short, which is better? Gilbert’s libretto, or Sullivan’s music? You decide, while treated to top-notch legal arguments and 14 musical gems from the performance archives of Burns Wharf Theatre Players.”

Co-musical director Ray Scott works with the  chorus to get the proper harmony.
Co-musical director Ray Scott works with the chorus to get the proper harmony.

“‘Trial By Jury’ presents a courtroom drama featuring a maiden who sues a gentleman for breach of promise–the promise to marry her,” continues the brochure. “Edwin, the defendant, soon finds all the forces of the court aligned against him.”

“The thing I really like about the BWTP is that the cast members are amazing to work with,” said Mr. Scott. “They are a really hardworking and dedicated group and a broad group of individuals. Our cast age range runs from teens to actors in their 70s and the experience is varied too with seasoned BWTP actors and brand new cast members.”

The production’s cast includes two time Soothfest outstanding actress award winner and Quonta award winner for Best Supporting Actress Rachiel Hartman, who is making her stage directing debut with the BWTP.

In his fourth season with the players, Patrick Therrien is playing Edwin, the defendant. Past executive director of the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra and 20-year Toronto broadcaster on classical music station CJRT-FM, Alex Baran is joining the cast as the judge.

Rachel Gulyas has been with the BWTP for two past seasons, but is stepping forward as the lead this summer, playing the role of the plaintiff.

Counsel for the plaintiff, Debbie Robinson, is a long-time BWTP having performed in past productions including ‘HMS Pinafore,’ ‘Pirates of Penzance,’ ‘Lolanthe,’ ‘Mikado,’ ‘The Gondoliers’ and ‘Ruddigore.’

Peter Baumgarten will be playing the usher and is returning for his eighth production with the BWTP, while fellow BWTP veteran Cole Bowerman will be performing the role of foreman.


John Marselle, playing Judge Chambers, has been with the BWTP since the beginning, acting as the narrator in the company’s first production, ‘HMS Pinafore,’ in 2008.

Tom Scott will be playing the role as Christopher Hart, lawyer to Sir Gilbert. Mr. Scott is a Manitoulin Secondary School English and drama teacher and has directed numerous productions including ‘Anything Goes,’ ‘A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum’ and ‘Oklahoma!’

Playing Evelyn Spencer, Lawyer to Sir Sullivan, June McDougall hails from London and was excited to join the BFTP.

“We are very excited about our choral song,” added Mr. Scott. “We have the largest tenor section we have ever had with five members. We really have a full sound. In ‘Trial by Jury’ one musical number has 10 individual harmony parts—six soloists performing six individual harmonies and a four-part harmony chorus. It’s very exciting that we were able to pull it off. It has a great sound.”

The chorus includes first tenors Alex Baran, Patrick Therrien; second tenors Peter Baumgarten, Bill Sawyer and Ovid Therrien; bass Cole Bowerman, Red Butler, Henry Hoy, Ron Nesbitt, Brad Sayyae and Ray Scott; first sopranos Natalie Bell, Rhonda Bondi, Mary Buie, Harley James, Jocelyn Kuntsi and Natasha Trahan; second sopranos Sharon Ferguson, Rachel Gulyas, Cassie Kuntsi, Jane Prosser and Debbie Robinson; and altos Margit Alberti, Audry Jones, Carole Labelle and Lynda Vanderveen.

“We are really pleased with the production,” said Ms. Wohlberg. “It has been a lot of work. We have a tremendous cast that is so dedicated.”

‘Gilbert vs Sullivan’ and ‘Trial by Jury’ runs July 14-19 and July 22-25. All performances start at 7:30 pm at the Debajehmujig Creation Centre (42 Queen Street, Manitowaning). Tickets are $20 and can be reserved by calling 705-859-3808.

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