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Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Two brands of stage classics get merry makeovers in Oshkosh

Critic At Large

University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh Theatre and Radio-TV-Film Department

Scenes from University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh productions of “The Imaginary Invalid,” top, and “The Gilbert and Sullivan Tavern Follies.” (UW-Oshkosh photos)

OSHKOSH, Wis. (WFRV) – Two theater professors at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh have been busy writing during the pandemic.

And they put wonderful touches to comedy classics.

Everybody can still see the shows online because the university’s communications students made full videos. Access: https://uwosh.universitytickets.com/w/?cid=170.

Theater department head Merlaine Angwall let loose craziness in “The Gilbert and Sullivan Tavern Follies”(my review).

The story includes a feud and romance like in “Romeo and Juliet.”

Action takes place in a Wisconsin tavern, so there’s a bundle of local name-dropping like in a major question: “Who is Ray Nitschke?”

Songs of the great Gilbert and Sullivan are retooled in words and music, and the song “I Have a Little List” is fresh dynamite for today.

The oddball musical has the feel of a carefree spring break party.

Recording the two shows are Radio-TV-Film Department students, who this school year switched from broadcasting sports action to showbiz.

Previously recorded were “The Glass Menagerie”(my review) and “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike”(my review).

The second new production is “The Imaginary Invalid”(my review) an aged comedy that steps sprightly in the hands of Jane Purse-Wiedenhoeft of the faculty.

The story surrounds a rich fool who thinks he’s ill, his quack doctor, his gold-digging second wife, his lippy maid and his love-struck, marriage-minded daughter.

There are a lot of hairpin turns in the tight comedy originate by Moliere.

The rich fool thinks a suitable match for his daughter would be a doctor – for his needs.

The play is from 1673, when people found relief in satire, farce and straight-on comedy.

“The Imaginary Invalid” still works wonders today, laughter being the best medicine.

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