Patience more than a virtue in Middletown

The Middletown-based Connecticut Gilbert & Sullivan Society presented the dynamic duo’s satirical opera Patience this past weekend. It was their 28th anniversary production and, as always, added sparkle to the city’s cultural life and assistance for local people in need of food and other essentials.

This year, the Society’s charitable gift of fifty-percent of the profits will be matched 50% by the Middletown’s mayor and donated to St. Vincent DePaul Place, a non-profit agency whose mission is to provide food, clothing and shelter to poor and homeless individuals.

Its Soup Kitchen provided over 80,000 meals to men, women and children last year, and their Amazing Grace Food Pantry served 650 households of adults, children and seniors each month with much needed extra food.

The donor’s annual musical, under the direction of successful New York and Connecticut director Robert Cumming of the Moodus section of East Haddam, in collaboration with equally accomplished scenic, lighting and costume designers, made this more of a Broadway-quality show than most community theater productions.

Cumming deftly guided his actors to keep the acting broad, funny, and well-paced. The entire cast had wonderful voices that blended beautifully in the many fast and witty solo turns, duets and choral pieces that Gilbert and Sullivan wrote more than 100 years ago.

The acclaimed musical conductor, John Dreslin, twenty-four professional musicians; fifty gifted and experienced performers gave three thrilling performances at the Woodrow Wilson Middle School. Dreslin’s renowned gifts were evident from the first note of the overture, and his musicians blended their individual sounds into one cohesive and flawless instrumental unit. This is an amazing fete considering it’s a pick-up orchestra, but it works because of Dreslin’s skill and superb musicians.

This first-rate production of Gilbert & Sullivan was done with passion, enthusiasm, and it faithfully followed the original material – a wonderfully silly musical satire about romance that still delights today’s audiences.

Co-producer Annlee Sortland of Moodus said that members of the Society come from every area of Connecticut.

Principals in the cast included Kathleen Thompson (Hebron) in the title role of Patience, the milk-maid; David Henderson as her suitor Archibald, and veteran Meriden- actor Allan Church (no known relation to the co-writer of this piece) as the flouncey over-the-top poet, Reginald.  A characterization far removed from his true personality. He has a broad range as an actor and never fails to bring down the house with his polished performances.

Newcomer Jeff Soun Long tackled the part of The Duke of Dunstable with exceptional stage presence and a well-trained, commanding voice. His debut coincides with his junior year at Middletown High School! He’s a natural performer and could have a great future, if he chooses, in the theater, TV and films.

This popular group will be back next year with another joyous and exuberant production of a Gilbert & Sullivan classic. Don’t miss it.

The authors are members of the Connecticut Critics Circle. www.ctcritics.org

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© 2008. Critics On The Aisle. All rights reserved. Published by the Middletown Press, October 20, 2008

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