Those of us who adore Gilbert & Sullivan leap for joy when the Publick Theatre opens each summer, because they're likely to include a G & S gem among their season's productions. And Bob Jolly, our singular incarnation of the D'Oyly Carte Company, is likely to be treading the boards. No one in Boston interprets G & S as well as Jolly. To quote from "Patience" --- "Jolly utter!"
And it is "Patience" which Jolly has directed for the Publick this June --- and in which he performs the role of the famous poet Reginald Bunthorne, spurious leader of an aesthetic movement, to which twenty lovely ladies have attached themselves heart and soul, much to the chagrin of their military suitors.
We G & S fanatics can overlook --- as the Pirate King is fond of saying in another opretta --- missed high notes and even whole arias sung off-key, when the staging is clever enough and the comic bits sufficiently ingenious to divert us. Jolly's bag of tricks is quite diverting. Monica Tosches is so delightful as the formidable Lady Jane that all then other contenders for Bunthorne's heart are eclipsed by her Brunhildesque bearing and steely determination. Clad in a "severely laced" gown and a Roman helmet (jovial costumes by Jana Durland Howland) Tosches is the quintessential warrior woman. To paraphrase Mr. Gilbert, there can never be too much of her on stage.
The shenanigans multiply when Bunthorne is faced with an artistic rival --- a gent of unparalleled beauty portrayed handsomely in a Dutch Prince Valiant wig by Mark Light-Orr. Both men love the simple milkmaid Patience (Sarah Reese), but only half as much as they love themselves. And since "Love to be pure must be unselfish", as Patience tells us, there are bound to be complications.
Musical treats abound. Among them, William Gardiner's patter song about a "Heavy Dragoon"; jolly and Tosches' duet singing "hey" to each other, and Light-Orr's "Magnet And The Churn". Comic treats, too, like the zany trio of Gardiner, Dared Wright and John Middleton dressed up inexplicably but hilariously as people from other G & S operettas, as well as Brent Wachter's pastoral, pastel woods where the characters frolic blissfully unaware that there is water under the bridge.
Surely divine inspiration led Jolly to cap the evening with the exquisite "Hail, Poetry" from Pirates, certainly the loveliest piece of music in all G & S. Who would carp about a few notes after hearing that?