The Durham Savoyards, Ltd.’s FREE 2021 production of Gilbert & Sullivan’s “poetical, aesthetical, comical operettical” Patience (or, Bunthorne’s Bride) (1881), with music by Sir Arthur S. Sullivan (1842-1900) and a libretto by Sir William S. Gilbert (1836-1911), is a deliciously light, crisp satire on — of all things — the Aesthetic Movement, which pioneered the idea of “Art for Art’s Sake.” Gilbert & Sullivan worried that Patience could lose her charm when the fad was over, but cultural comment prevails — especially on the Internet. We all know exactly what they are mocking — and why.
The Durham Savoyards’ “responsibly rehearsed” Patience holds up remarkably, providing lovely melodies and relatable comic moments for modern audiences. Considering the show streamed on The Durham Savoyards’ YouTube channel, starting at 8 p.m. every Friday night through May 7th, we’re all aware of the notion of patience, when it comes to the speed of our wi-fi connection, humorously reflected in the show poster. The Durham Savoyards’ have chosen to present the show in seven episodes — one every Friday, starting March 26th.
The first episode of Patience was scheduled to air at 8 p.m. last Friday; but technical difficulties delayed the showing until later in the evening. But no worries — once an episode is posted, it remains there, allowing audiences to watch at their leisure. “Episode One: The Fandom Menace” contains the first three musical numbers: “Twenty Lovesick Maidens We” (Maidens, Angela, Ella), “Still Brooding on Their Mad Infatuation” (Patience, Safir, Angela, Chorus), and “I Cannot Tell What This Love May Be” (Patience).
Director and choreographer Melissa S. Craib Dombrowski presides over a vivacious, vigorous, virtual production, brimming with genuine humor and a cast who can act as well as sing. Music director Joanna Sisk-Purvis has brought together the accompaniment and vocal performances beautifully — easier said than done in the online world.
Video editor John Paul Middlesworth commented on the group’s YouTube channel, “One remarkable thing is that we didn’t use lip-synching. All the singing was captured at the very time the video was recorded.”
The story is cleverly updated to reflect the world of Internet culture. The show opens with Bunthorne fangirls in an Internet chat room, “love-sick all against their will.” Leo Bevington is a kawaii Lady Angela with tiny hearts painted on her cheeks. (Shout-out to Pam Guidry-Vollers for make-up and hair design.) Hannah Lingafelt is gothly melodramatic as Ella. Kim Kingsley is a rugged and earthy Lady Jane; and Layla Dougani plays Lady Saphir, who seems to have a thing for men that pay their taxes. We have a practical, winning, blithe Patience from Eleanor Hanna, whose clean and supple soprano dances joyously as she gestures with a butter spoon. We look forward to seeing more of these maidens in subsequent episodes.
If you have a large monitor, I recommend playing the YouTube video in one window, and placing the libretto from the Gilbert & Sullivan Archive alongside in another window. A playbill for this production is available and contains a more complete explanation of how the characters and plot have been adapted to fit the universe of social media, online gaming, and live auctions.
We haven’t met any gentlemen yet, but we all look forward to the Chorus of Dragoons at the beginning of Episode Two. We have already seen posters of Internet sensation Reginald Bunthorne (played by Nick Malinowski), hanging in the fangirls’ rooms. John Paul Middlesworth will be playing the role of Archibald Grosvenor, the “Trustee of Beauty”; and we look forward to his performance in future episodes, along with the performances of Erin Conn as the Duke of Dunstable, Jos Purvis as Colonel Calverly, and Steve Dobbins as Major Murgatroyd.
The Durham Savoyards’ stage choruses are always energetic and enthusiastic — it’s obvious they adore G&S. The herd mentality of the lovelorn maidens reminds us of how an artistic (or political) movement can spiral out of control — especially in the age of social media.
Live performances in the Triangle are still a few months away, so if you need a G&S fix, this does the trick. Episode Two will drop at 8 p.m. on Friday, April 2nd, on The Durham Savoyards’ YouTube channel. Be sure to subscribe and hit the “bell” icon for updates and reminders. No ticket is needed — the show is FREE for the enjoying. Remember to support this local performing-arts group by clicking to donate to the The Durham Savoyards, Ltd. as thanks for seven Fridays of lovely music and entertainment.
Gilbert & Sullivan’s PATIENCE (OR, BUNTHORNE’S BRIDE) (Stream each new episode at 8 p.m. Friday, April 2nd, 9th, 16th, 23rd, and 30th and May 7th — and/or watch it via Video on Demand thereafter), directed and choreographed by Melissa S. Craib Dombrowski, with musical direction by Joanna Sisk-Purvis (The Durham Savoyards, Ltd. via the group’s YouTube channel). TICKETS: FREE. INFORMATION: 919-560-3030 or firstname.lastname@example.org. PLEASE DONATE TO: The Durham Savoyards, Ltd.
NOTE: Nancy Rich is a local director/choreographer, with a love for the performing arts and a passion for supporting local artistic work. Nancy and her husband, Rod, own and operate Monkeybravo, a video production company. Nancy is one of the founders of Actors Comedy Lab and participates in local theater as a hired gun, a volunteer and, on very rare occasions, an actor. Nancy recently wrote a series of monologues called The PRINCESS Talks, performed at the 2017 Women’s Theatre Festial. Click here to read her reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.