Gilbert Russak

Gilbert Russak

Gilbert Russak died July 14, 1986 at the age of 55. At the time of his death, he was the Musical Director for The Lamplighters Musical Theatre, a Gilbert & Sullivan company in San Francisco, a post he had held since the addition of the orchestra in 1981. Prior to accepting the job of Musical Director for The Lamplighters, he had been its leading patterman for many years.

In his comments at Russak's memorial, company president John Vlahos said, "I tried to figure out what made him so special. It was hardly his singing voice. Gil was not blessed with a great voice, which he would be the first to admit. But his skill was so terrific that you never noticed, and you never cared. When he croaked that sustained high-F at the end of the patter song in "Sorcerer," he made you think that that's the way Sullivan intended it to be sung...

"He had many incredible qualities as a performer--a tremendous intensity, a delicacy and an elegance which permeated every role. But there are two qualities that stick out in my mind that made him such a classic Gilbert & Sullivan patterman. The first was his wit and good humor--and he certainly bubbled with it. He never stepped out of character and milked the audience for a cheap laugh, but his humor was always spontaneous, it was creative, and it would grow...

"The second quality was believability. Gil always respected the character. He made that person a character, not a caricature. He was never one to lampoon a role...That combination of creative, controlled wit and humor and steadfast insistance on believability you can sum up in one word: style."

Will Connolly, who delivered the eulogy, praised Russak's intellect, his rare wit, and his "artlessness, which allowed him to see things with the unfettered enthusiasm of a child. There was in the same person a pure child and a great man..."

Vlahos concluded by saying, "The answer to Katisha's rhetorical question is never will we find another."

" friendship can ever cross the path of our destiny without leaving some mark upon it forever." -- Francois Mauriac

written by Bev Sykes