Francesca Bowling Kemper, Gail Hart, Lisa Lanning, Susan Hahn, Sartah Hoeppner, Rita Hight, & Sharon Krupski Lee Grabowski in Patience.
Patience, or Bunthorne’s Bride
Written by W. S. Gilbert
Composed by Arthur Sullivan
Music Direction: Jeanne-Marie Rogers
Review by Annette Skaggs
Entire contents copyright © 2016 Annette Skaggs. All rights reserved.
Did you ever want to see a musical about the Aesthetic Movement of the late 19th Century? Well, you are in luck my friends as Gilbert and Sullivan’s Patience is the one for you, and The Gilbert and Sullivan Society of Louisville embraces the nuances of the piece with verve and tenacity.
As the curtain rises on the Dorothy Hinkebein Mershon stage at the Ursuline Arts Center we are transported to the late 1800’s at the Castle Bunthorne where maidens, clad in lovely Grecian gowns carrying an interesting assortment of instruments (used for musical exposition, such as an accordion and xylophone), move and flit about the stage singing Twenty love-sick maidens we.
Enter Patience (Amanda Carpenter), a simple dairymaid, dressed just as if she was the model for Swiss Miss Cocoa, and the maidens visibly show contempt. She is the subject of adoration from Reginald Bunthorne (Gerald Robertson), for whom the maidens pine. But as Patience sings I cannot tell what this love may be, we see that she is not as knowledgeable in the ways of love as the maidens.
We then watch with delight as the Royal Dragoon enters the stage led by Major Murgatroyd (Michael Purintun), The Duke of Dunstable (Tony Pursley), and Colonel Calverley (Gary Crockett), proclaiming their love for being the soldiers of our Queen. They also love the maidens and just as the soldiers are to propose they see that the ladies’ affections are directed toward another….Bunthorne.
Bunthorne is a poet, flamboyant and uninterested in the fawning of the maidens. While Bunthorne recites this poetry the Dragoons leave the stage, dejected by the ladies’ waning interest, as the Colonel sings When I first put this uniform on. In a rare moment of truth, Bunthorne admits that he is a fraud and Patience states that she cannot love him.
Lady Angela (Susan Hahn) shares with Patience what love is as they sing one of the most lovely and pure duets of the evening, Long years ago, fourteen maybe, where Patience remembers a boy from years ago and is assured that love is an unselfish virtue. She promises to open herself to the experience at the soonest moment. She need not have waited too long as the boy of long ago, Archibald Grosvenor (Bruce Spigelmyer), arrives. Mr. Grosvenor, resplendent in royal purple, is beautiful, charming and an Idyllic poet. He immediately proposes to Patience in Prithee, pretty maiden, but she cannot accept as he is perfect and loving him would be selfish, therefore their love is not to be.
Having been spurned by Patience, Bunthorne raffles himself off to the maidens and as he prepares for his fate while the Dragoons arrive to try to win back their fair ladies. Just as the winning raffle ticket is about to be drawn Patience arrives and offers her love to Bunthorne as an unselfish act. As Bunthorne leaves to be with his new bride-to-be, the maidens prepare to walk arm and arm with their soldiers until Grosvenor arrives and the ladies alight with a new fascination and love interest leaving the Dragoons with their heads hung low and empty arms.
While we hear the chorus fawning over Grosvenor in the distance, Lady Jane (Francesca Kemper) shares that she has always been by Bunthorne’s side and shall continue to be (Sad is that woman’s lot) while she plots and plans ways to be with him before her youth fades. As the maidens continue to follow Grosvenor, he asks them for a half-holiday so that he may have a break. All the while, the senior Dragoons: Calverley, Dunstable and Murgatroyd, are trying to find a way to be more aesthetically pleasing for their ladies in the delightful It’s clear that mediaeval art. Despite the title of the song, their look was something more akin to Rembrandt and the Dutch Golden Age.
Patience and Grosvenor run into each other and she shares that she is very unhappy loving Bunthorne but will stay loyal to her commitment, although she happily accepts Grosvenor’s love. As it would happen, Bunthorne notices her unhappiness and she confesses her feelings for Grosvenor.
Upon hearing this revelation, Bunthorne confronts Grosvenor and threatens him unless he changes his Aesthetic in the fun, When I go out the door. Intimidated by his threat, Grosvenor agrees but is happy to escape the celebrity that has come with his perfection.
On the whole this was delightful. There were a few misfires vocally such as Lisa Lanning’s Lady Ella in the beginning chorus solo; enunciation is important and unfortunately I could not understand part of her phrasing. But the same enunciations were problematic from many of the performers that evening. I believe some of it is due to the unfamiliarity of the Old English language, which too often is treated harshly. Maybe a softer palate and less rolling of consonants would help.
Lauren Crawford’s choreography was perfect for the piece and the period, although there was some hand and arm posturing that I thought was weird. Patricia Perry’s Chorus was delightful. Jack Ashworth as the accompanist and, well, it doesn’t get much better than that.
Linda DeRungs/New Albany High School, Lisa Lanning and Ellen Yunker’s costumes were lovely, filled with color and design.
Staging by Kathy Norton and Mary Wilson Redden was mostly pointed and clear, although there were moments of cluttered blocking, some of which may have been due to the size of the stage.
Louisville and the surrounding area has a deep well of talent and bravo to Jeanne-Marie Rogers for finding some of these people.
Susan Hahn’s Lady Angela was lovely as was Sarah Hoeppner’s Lady Saphir. Amanda Carpenter evoked the naïve Patience wonderfully. Michael Purintun’s Murgatroyd and Tony Pursley’s Duke were fun. Although I have said this before, it bears repeating, Gary Crockett was made for Gilbert & Sullivan.
But the standouts of the evening, both musically and in their acting, have to be Gerald Robertson, Bruce Spigelmyer, and Francesca Kemper. Despite there being times that it was truly hard to decipher what Mr. Robertson was singing, I took it as all part of the over-the-top character that he was playing as he moved about stage ever so spritely. Francesca Kemper’s Lady Jane was a happy delight, filled with all kinds of subtlety and whimsy; she was not a demure wallflower, but a woman on a mission. I cannot think of an Idyllic Poet the same way after seeing Bruce Spigelmeyer’s interpretation. He is egotistical, beautiful, full of himself and absolutely delicious in the portrayal, with a melodious baritone to go with it.
While not often performed, perhaps because of old references, Ms. Rogers and her Merry Team of Helpers incorporated some fantastic new and local references for our entertainment.
Patience, or Bunthorne’s Bride
July 28-30, 2016
Gilbert & Sullivan Society of Louisville
Ursuline Arts Center
3114 Lexington Road
Louisville, KY 40206
Annette Skaggs is heavily involved as an Arts Advocate here in Louisville. She is a freelance professional opera singer who has performed throughout Europe and in St. Louis, Cincinnati, Boulder, Little Rock, Peoria, Chicago, New York and of course Louisville. Aside from her singing career, she has been a production assistant for Kentucky Opera, New York City Opera, and Northwestern University. Her knowledge and expertise have developed over the course of 25+ years’ experience in the classical arts.