Maid for Laughs, not Love

~ New York Post- 13/09/2005 by Frank Scheck ~

Someone at the New York City Opera must be accrueing some serious frequent-flier miles on British Airways. The company has recently specialised in recruiting West End stars rarely seen on our shores to star in productions.

Their latest coup is Michael Ball, now staring in Gilbert and Sullivan's "Patience", a lively revival filled with madcap humor.

The 1881 operetta depicts the comic entanglements that ensue when two rival poets, the dashing Archibald Grosvenor (Kevin Burdette) and the pompous Reginald Bunthorne (Michael BallI), vie for the affections of simple milk maid Patience (Tonna Miller), who cares little for artistic matters.

A group of soldiers, meanwhile, attempts to woo a chorus of love sick maidens who have eyes only for men with an artistic bent.

Director Tazewell Thompson's staging, which begins with the maiden performing a series of stilted dance poses, overcomes the dated aspects of the piece with its antic merriment.

Ball is the best thing about the production, a co-production with Glimmerglass Opera. The star, who'll return to Broadway this fall in Andrew Lloyd Webber's "The Woman in White", delivers a hilarious term as the poet modelled to some degree after Oscar Wilde.

His obvious delight in his silly characterization is infectious and, tellingly, his non-operatic voice delivers the clearest enounciation of Gilbert's convoluted lyrics.

As is often the case, the cavernous State Theater removes the imtimacy necessary to fully enjoy such a piece. But any carping must be balanced with gratitude for the company for presenting this rarely seen G&S gem instead of such tired warhorses like "Pirates" or "Pinafore".

With biggest thanks to Doris L. for finding this great review

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