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Yeomen of the Guard

At Agassiz now through Dec. 13, and Dec. 16 and 17

By Julius Novick

Perhaps it is unfair to send critics tickets for opening nights. Openings at times tend to seduce us from our Olympian objectivity. The atmosphere is tuxedoed and festive and charged with excitement, and everybody cheers and shouts and applauds like fury. Well, last night they had something to shout about. Yeomen of the Guard would be a delight on a rainy night in a plague year before an audience of psychopathic dope fiends. Under the conditions that prevail at Agassiz, it is an absolute, downright, unimpeachable, irreproachable, rip-roaring riot.*

Yeomen is a bit of a change for the Messrs. Gilbert and Sullivan. The tone of most of their work is one of wit and buffoonery laced with pathos; Yeomen features pathos laced with buffoonery and very little wit. Since Gilbert's wit is pointed, while his pathos is pretty but quite lacking in real bite, Yeomen is not the Messrs.' best work. But since Sullivan's music is, as always, pleasant to the point of bewitchment; since Gilbert's buffoonery is of a very high grade; and since the pathetic moments can be quite touching, why complain?

This opera is the one set in the Tower of London, where Colonel Fairfax, the handsome hero, almost loses his head, and Jack Point, the jester, loses his girl instead. A flirtatious soubrette, a formidable contralto, and a Head Jailer and Assistant Tormentor are also on the premises.

Benjamin R. Neilson's direction of this gallimaufry brings out exactly the proper tone of amiable idiocy that is the most endearing feature of Gilbert's creatures. His comic business is consistently funny, with none of the sweaty laboriousness that so frequently characterizes comedy around here.

The cast is headed by Eric Martin as Jack Point, and he is superb. With his pale, drawn, expressive face he makes a sad jester, but a funny one, so that his transition from comedy to pathos occasions no jolt, because both elements are in the character from the beginning. His movements are compact of nimbleness, and he can sing, too.

Kathryn Humphreys, as Point's sweetheart, is a sweetheart indeed. She is lovely, she is charming, she can act, and she sings as sweetly as any bird. Miss Humphreys, will you marry me?

David Stone as Wilfred Shadbolt the jailer makes a splendid clod, and John Scullin (a good-sing-no-act tenor), Alison Keith, Judith Spritzer, and the rest rally round successfully in other capacities.

John C. Beck's set appears astonishingly spacious for Agassiz. Under Beck's tricky and effective lighting it looked quite impressive, and would have been more so had not its walls looked as if they were made of papier-mache. Some of Beck's costumes are gorgeous, and generally the show is by far the best-looking to appear in Cambridge for some time. Under the musical directorship of Arthur S. Waldstein it sounds as well as it looks, but Waldstein is a churl for not allowing lots of encores.

*CAVIL DEPARTMENT: My high function obliges me to point out that this production is not, indeed, entirely perfect, but I thought I would do it down where it would be easy to skip. Be it known then, that an orchestra would have been, if practicable, preferable to two pianos; that all the singers could not always be depended on to produce beautiful tone; and that the door at the left side of the house is a clumsy place for performers to make entrances.

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