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Wes Landry Takes the Lead in Gilbert & Sullivan’s Ruddigore

Out gay actor to play dual roles.

Wes Landry (Images courtesy)

It’s the feel-good story of the summer: a band of ne’er-do-wells burns a coven of witches at the stake, which then leads to the creation of a family curse that in turn causes criminal mischief, haunting, and mayhem. Or as the Gilbert & Sullivan Society of Houston describes it, Ruddigore is characterized as “Jane Austen meets Young Frankenstein.” It will play at the University of Houston’s Cullen Performance Hall this month.

Taking the lead in this summer’s production is openly gay actor Wes Landry, who will portray the dual roles of Sir Ruthven Murgatroyd and Robin Oakapple.

“This is my first performance with Gilbert & Sullivan Society of Houston, and I am excited and terrified for a couple of reasons,” he says. “Robin at first presents as a very shy British nobleman, but we come to learn over the course of the show that he has some rather dark secrets that he’s been hiding. He’s faked his death to avoid having to deal with a curse that was put on his family. And so he’s tried to live a quiet life in the village, and he’s about to be rudely thrown into a life that he thought he had left.”

For anyone familiar with Gilbert & Sullivan’s work, they have a penchant for patter songs. Think of “I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General” from their 1879 hit The Pirates of Penzance.

“It’s a daunting role because Gilbert & Sullivan are usually known for a lot of patter songs, so these songs have a dictionary’s worth of words that you have to get through at rapid-fire speed,” he adds. “It’s sort of like once the train jumps the track, you can’t get back on it. So it requires a lot of really painstaking work and rehearsal to get it right so that you can hit your marks every time. There’s no room for error.”

Always the consummate professional, the musician is hard at work memorizing, rehearsing, and perfecting those lyrics. After all, performing arts and music have been his main way to earn a paycheck in the Houston arts scene—something he first tried in high school.

“I would have to credit my first high school acting teacher. I took an acting class just on a whim to fulfill an elective,” he recalls, “and she saw something in me and convinced me to audition for the play we were doing, You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. I had never really sung outside of my bedroom, and somehow I landed the role of Schroeder, and it set me on a course to do every musical that my high school did.”

Landry eventually majored in music at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, where he found a love of opera and classical music, and then earned a master’s degree in vocal performance at the University of Houston.

Landry is Music Director at St. United Methodist Church in the Heights

When he’s not busy entertaining the masses on stage or working as the director of music at St. Mark’s United Methodist Church in the Heights, he has quite the interesting side hobby: narrating audiobooks.

“It’s been a fun thing that I can do from my house on my own time,” he remarks. “The pandemic forced all of us to sort of rethink how we did things, what we liked and didn’t like, and what we wanted to spend our time on. I’ve set up a little voice studio in the closet of my storage room, and I’ve got a couple of gay romantic-fiction novels that I’ve narrated that anyone can find on Audible.”

What: Gilbert & Sullivan Society of Houston’s Ruddigore
When: Saturdays, July 20 and 27 at 7 p.m.; Sundays, July 21 and 28, at 2:30 p.m.
Where: Cullen Performance Hall, University of Houston, 4300 University Dr.

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Sam Byrd

Sam Byrd is a freelance contributor to Outsmart who loves to take in all of Houston’s sights, sounds, food and fun. He also loves helping others to discover Houston’s rich culture. Speaking of Houston, he's never heard a Whitney Houston song he didn't like.
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