Reprinted from yesterday's late editions
Life, sings the quintet in the first act of Gilbert and Sullivan's "Gondoliers," life is a pudding full of plums.
And the Wolf Trap production of the "Gondoliers" is indeed one of those plums. With as preposterous and dopey a plot as Gilbert ever devised and with some of Sullivan's tuniest best, "Gondoliers" is demanding neither of its singers nor its audiences.
It is, therefore, singularly well suited to outdoor summering. In fact, much of the singing and most of the acting in the Wolf Trap production are as good as anyone could demand, and the performances last night and tonight ought to draw any G&S fan worth the name to the Virginia countryside.
James Billing as the Duke of Plaza Toro was light footed, pesky and patterful in the tradition of the Savoyard comic lead, and Donald Gramm was a properly pompous grand inquisitor. Janice Hall, Maryanne Telese and Faith Eshem were first rate as the three girls, one of whom was married to the king, whichever he turned out to be. And the kings/gondolieri sung by Neil Rosenshein and Jake Gardener were bumblingly harmonic. Stephen Dickson and Elaine Bonazzi added to the fine cast.
It was sometimes hard to make out all of the intricate Gilbert rhymes in the songs, especially those sung by the female chorus, but most of the idiocy of the plot line got through all right, and you wouldn't believe the Duke's "pick-up" brass band in the second act. Setting and costumes were as good as we've seen. But paraphrasing the quartet at the end, it was on the whole delightful.