Reviewed by Tony Villecco
The Summer Savoyards opened their 51st season Thursday (July 14) at Binghamton University’s Anderson Center with, surely, something for everyone. With its colorful costumes, stage lighting, sets and music, this performance of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Patience” will please the most diehard G&S fans while, perhaps, make believers out of those with no previous exposure to the English duo’s satires with their very unique place in musical evolution.
“Patience” was G&S’s take on the excesses of the aesthetic movement. The pace for this production was set by Michael Woyshner as doleful poet Reginald Bunthorne, his first lead role with the troupe. One has to ask: “Where has he been hiding?!?” Woyshner is a good singer with a strong voice, and his acting is exceptional. His stage presence and comedic
skills are jaw-dropping.
As Patience, the milkmaid loved by Bunthorne, soprano Jana Kucera sang with a lovely rounded tone, her soprano having no difficulties in the higher register and plumy warmth in her middle and chest register. Why she isn’t singing more operatic literature in this area is a puzzlement.
Another young man making his debut was Patrick Tombs as the Duke of Dunstable. For one so young (a mere 16), he has a lovely sound, which will no doubt develop over time, and his acting was spirited and enjoyable.
Gregory Keeler proved once again that G&S is a very easy place for his fine tenor and comedic timing. As Archibald Grosvenor, Bunthorne’s poetic and romantic rival, Keeler conveyed the character’s love of self especially with lines such as “I am a trustee of beauty.”
The fine chorus had some shining moments as well, the ladies in their Isadora Duncanesque posturing and the uniformed dragoons in their fruitless pursuit of these “twenty love sick maidens.” Stage director William Clark Snyder has an affinity for these popular operettas and has devised, as usual, some very effective and catchy staging. (Watch for one moment in particular for a humorous and shameless plug for our local public radio station.)
Almost all secondary leads were done very well; the only complaint was a loss of diction which was due, in part, to the fast patter of some of the material. Jessica Pullis was a funny, “over the top” Lady Jane with Julia Mahar as Lady Ella and Julia Adams as Lady Angela. Michelle Thompson’s lovely voice spilled out Lady Saphir.
Rick Barton as Col. Calverley and Michael Lipton as Major Murgatroyd both had some fine moments in ensemble and solo passages. Humor, if not always understood due to the very nature of the British, was evident throughout.
Special mention must be made of the small but fine playing orchestra led with clarity by Heather Worden. It was so good at times that one almost forgot that this was a community theater production.
The opening night audience was small but appreciative, responding enthusiastically to many of the show’s standout numbers. Let’s hope future performances are better attended as we sometimes forget the wealth of accessible talent within the local ranks here.
NOTE: “Patience” continues at 8 p.m. today and Saturday (July 15 and 16) and 3 p.m. Sunday (July 17) in the Anderson Center Chamber Hall. Tickets are $18 ($16 today for “Family Night.”) Call 777-4237.