Trial by Judy

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Book by Charles Palella, David Raymond, W. S. Gilbert
Music by Arthur Sullivan

Production Runs

Mabel, tiring of her sweetheart, falls in love with another, and is hauled into court for breach of promise. The Usher, while urging impartiality on the part of the jury, shows a definite partiality herself for the handsome plaintiff, Mr. Terrence. Mabel explains that she simply happened to fall in love with another man. Though both Jury and Judge indicate that they have had similar episodes in their own past, they have little sympathy for her. After the jury is sworn in, the plaintiff Terrence appears and immediately captivates all the women present. His lawyer, the counsel, gives a stirring speech while Mabel proposes various solutions, but in vain. Mabel tries to convince Terrence that when she is drunk, she would beat him. The Judge proposes that Mabel be made drunk to see whether she would in fact inflict harm, but yet again the counsel objects. Finally, the Judge, disgusted at the objections and eager to get away, marries Terrence herself.

Director's Note from the 2009 Production of "Trial by Judy":

In the 1870s, there was no television: the TV of the day was theatrical comedy and light opera, such as you will see tonight as we try to combine three centuries of laughter: Nineteenth, Twentieth, and Twenty-First.

The Zoo and Trial by Jury were originally premiered within three months of each other, in 1875. In 1877, Sullivan asked his friend Andy Cole if he would be interested in rewriting the libretto of The Zoo. This was never done, and the manuscript disappeared for almost 90 years. In 1966, it resurfaced in an auction room, with the piece intact. (On a side note, Arthur Robinson purchased a vocal score of The Zoo, and found the lyrics we are using for Laetitia's lost aria, dated 1975, stuck inside the book.) Trial by Jury, on the other hand, came about when producer Richard D'Oyly Carte asked Gilbert and Sullivan to collaborate on a short opera to be played as an after piece to Offenbach's comic opera, La PĂ©richole. It was Gilbert and Sullivan's first collaboration and first big hit, and has remained popular ever since.

Having directed both The Zoo and Trial by Jury at different times, Susanna Adams and I decided to take on the project of a double bill for Off-Monroe Players. The biggest challenge is that the chorus in both pieces is a major character, on stage almost all the time! So, several tweaks were made to the originals to make the project interesting and fun for all. Charles Palella took on the task of rewriting Trial by Jury to change the genders of all the characters. I had been in such a production over 20 years ago, and always loved the idea, but could not find a libretto, so I offer kudos to Charles.

Once the genders were changed, it made sense to give both shows a more modern setting. Hence, the 1970s "psychedelic" look. Once that was decided, references to today's popular reality shows (The Bachelor, Judge Judy) struck me as being appropriate additions to the overall concept; from there it was a small leap (backwards) to add the zany references to Laugh-In and Candid Camera, which originally aired around 1970. At my request, David Raymond created a Narrator role for both The Zoo and Trial by Jury, and wrote some additional dialogue to pull the whole thing together. Many thanks to David and Charles. They have made this project really fun for me, and hopefully for you.

-- Sarajane Fondiller

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