For the past three years, perhaps even longer, the Winthrop House Music Society has played the dramatic field at Harvard cautiously, sticking closely to tired-and-true Gilbert and Sullivan productions. Last night, however, the Victorian wonder boys got the sack as the Winthrop House Music Society staged a successful and entertaining performance of Of Thee I Sing.
Politics is always fair game for a laugh, and Of Thee I Sing is about a presidential election, and John P. Wintergreen (you know, Win-ter-green for Pre-si-dent), and his true love, Mary ("I'm the only person in the world who can make corn muffins without corn."). John's platform is love, the kind that sweeps the country as he proposes to Mary in all 48 states. "We appeal to your hearts, not your intelligence," the campaign manager announces, and John, of course, wins the election.
Spirit, a good sense of stagecraft, excellent singing, and intelligence turns this rather simple story into a charming musical. David Pursley reaches professional heights as Matthew Arnold Fulton influential publisher and loyal party supporter. Wilmer Cody as Wintergreen and Cathy Connoly as Mary are both excellent, although Miss Connoly's singing sometimes drowns out the entire chorus. Wendy Shepherd successfully plays a sultry, shady Diana Devereaux ("I was the most beautiful blossom in all the Southland") and Harvey Zaff out-does Sherman Adams as presidential assistant.
Norm Patz, Dave Hayes, and Peter Edelman are properly amateur actors, but play respectively the French ambassador, Chief Justice, and Alexander Throttlebottom (the vice president, in case you haven't heard) in a more than amateur manner. Hayes has a good voice, Patz a sure sense of timing, and Edelman a deep insight into the complexities of the character he portrays.
Steve Klass and James Hull play the back room politicians superbly, and Pare Lorentz and David Seil, as Senators Lyons and Jones, show why the South is more than down and out.
The chorus sings with gusto, the band is stirring, and the dancers suffer only from the limitations of the stage. Set designer John King and his staff, however, have shown a great deal of imagination in turning the drab and inadequate Winthrop dining hall into a flexible stage.
Producer Wayne Emery and musical director Frank Modica have obviously done much to make Of Thee I Sing a spirited and engaging show. Sex (seven, count them, seven lovely girls in bathing suits,) a pleasing and exciting clash of color and motion, and the always rousing music and lyrics of the Gershwin brothers promise Of Thee I Sing a successful run at the Winthrop dining hall.