Friday, November 19, 1999
Theater review: 'Of Thee I Sing' opens in Carlisle
"Of Thee I Sing," the current offering of The Savoyard Light Opera Company, opened at Corey Auditorium last Friday night. This 1931 Pulitzer Prize-winning musical/operetta, written by George S. Kaufman and Morrie Ryskind, with music by George and Ira Gershwin, was highly successful from the day it first appeared. It brought surprisingly current political satire and wonderful music to the Carlisle stage.
The production used bright light and intense color in the sets, props and costumes to attract and hold the audience's attention. The sets and lighting effects were excellent. From the very first entrance it was apparent that we were going to have an evening of theatrical excitement and energy. The stage was continually filled with actors moving in rhythm and singing well together. Lora Chase's direction and choreography seemed to transfer this energy to the audience, which responded with great appreciation. Music direction was by Philip Lauriat. The musical was produced by Carlisle resident David Owen.
Christopher Porth as President John P. Wintergreen and Donna DeWitt as the First Lady were not only convincing in their roles, but they sang the Gershwin songs with great skill. Their rendition of "Of Thee I Sing" was especially beautiful. Linda Goetze, as aspiring but rejected First Lady Diana Devereux, and Rollin Jeglum as Vice President Throttlebottom gave impressive and delightful character performances. The stereotype characters played by Ron O'Reilly, as Nebraska Senator Carver Jones, David Owen as typical Irish politician Francis X. Gilhooley, Michael Lapomardo, as political party boss Matthew Arnold Fulton, David Brooks, as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, David Kehs, as the French Ambassador, and Katy Blair, as the maid, kept the audience continually giggling.
The performance was entertaining and well worth seeing. Overall, the pacing of the action was very good. However, on occasion, it was nettlesome waiting for set changes to be completed before the next scene would begin. Surely, there could be some better coordination between starting the action of a scene and completing the stage set-up.
Acoustics at Corey Auditorium are always a challenge. The balance between the singers on stage and the orchestra was very good during production numbers and when the lead performers who had excellent voice projection were singing. Although it appeared that the conductor worked at keeping the orchestra volume down, it was difficult to hear the voices of some of the other soloists.
"Of Thee I Sing" has beautiful songs and well-orchestrated music. While this play is not up to the standard of his "Porgy and Bess", it is always a pleasure to listen to Gershwin. Along with all of the original composition it was fun to hear occasional references to themes and musical ideas from Gilbert and Sullivan, "American in Paris", "Old MacDonald" and "Swanee River". All of the songs fit extremely well into the play's dialogue. It is no wonder that some critics considered this play to be more of an operetta than a musical.
There will be three more performances of "Of Thee I Sing": November 19, 20 and 21. Carlisle is fortunate to have such a talented community theater group as The Savoyards available right in the center of town. If you enjoy good musical theater take advantage of the opportunity.
© 1999 The Carlisle Mosquito