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November 16, 1980 - Image 5

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1980-11-16

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The Michigan Daily Sunday, November 16, 1980 Page 5

Arts Staff

'Cox L ots

of yoks

The Comic Opera Guild's production
of Cox and Box, which closed at the
Michigan Theatre last night, is sublime
silliness, a plunge back into the days of
ictorian operettas whose practically
non-existent stories were just frilly
vehicles for songs and gleefully inane
punning. The champions of the field
were, of course, Gilbert and Sullivan;
the one-act Cox and Box was written by
F. C. Burnand to a score by Sullivan,
still a few years away from his period of
collaboration with Gilbert. It's hardly a
classic of the type, but its creaky char-
ms and the generally ripe ham of the
Guild's staging made it a highly enter-
aining hour of nonsense.
Originally written as entertainment
for a party in Brunand's home, Cox and
Box has the innocent foolishness of a
parlour game. Sgt. Bouncer (Thomas
Petiet), a landlord, has schemed to
make a double rent on a room by
leasing it to both fuddy-duddy hatter
Bowers tells
a story well
"Auto parts? Now why would he want
to play those?" So queried the
telephone caller in Bryan Bowers' first
anecdote of Friday's performance.
owers actually plays the autoharp;
an evening of which may at kirst seem
to be about as exciting as an auto parts
But he plays a mean autoharp, in-
deed. Instead of the customary fifteen-
bar autoharp, he plays on his own
adapted instruments, which have fewer
bars and, therefore, more string space
to work with. This unique design allows
him freedom enough to play in a ver-
atile and growingly recognizalpe style.
His fingers pluck and strum with
precision, making the instrument
exude a variety of surprising effects,
from energetic guitar approximations,
to twanging harpsichord, to delicate
harp-like sounds..
THE ARK audience seemed equally
enraptured with Bowers' human rap-
port as well. Unlike many performers
who peer beyond or through you,
Bowers looks at the audience,
sometimes even smiling directly at
someone as he catches their gaze. The
quality of his musicianship is matched
by his storytelling ability. A native of
Virginia (which in itself provides a
rather different, "down home" flavor,
Bowers has an amazing collection of
true and exaggerated tales about his life-
He shares background about many of
his songs, ranging from "Satisfied," a
call-and-answer chant learned while
weeding peanuts at age nine, to "The
View From Home," written about his
new home overlooking the mountains of
Seattle, Washington.
Some of his songs are his com-
positions written about very personal
life experiences. Others include his own
arrangements of spirituals, traditional
jigs, bluegrass, and even the Beatles
("Let It Be"), while still others, such as
"What Does the Scotsman Wear
Beneath His Kilt?" are just plain silly
and unusual.
Bryan Bowers played two long sets

on opera by:

Mr. John James Cox (Gershom C. Mor-
ningstar) and mincingly mean-spirited
printer Mr.. James John Box (George
Bufford)-the former has a day job, the
latter a night position, so their paths
cross only in the hallway on their ways
in and out. When Cox is given his first
holiday from work in 17 years, the
two twits battle for possession of the
room, and a few other surprising
mutual acquisitions, in song and en-
dless punning.
SHORT AS IT is, Cox and Box's sheer
frivolity wears thin after a while, but as
an admittedly minor work, it's amusing
enough. Sullivan's score contains no
recognizable or particularly
memorable tunes, though it's all enter-
tainingly absurd-especially Box's
breakfast lullaby, in which he croons,
"Sleep! gentle bacon.. ." Margaret
Counihan's faultless accompaniment
provided all the weight that these
frequent interludes of musical pop-
pycock need.
The cast of three struck the
necessary postures of campy
exaggeration with aplomb-complete
with expansive rolling R's on every
line-though at times they milked
overlong double-takes and bits of
business to the point of creating dead
spots in the music and action.
Morningstar ' (the name sounds
suspiciously bogus-Victorian, though
that's appropriate) had particularly
fine comic timing, playing the
classically anything-but-worldly im-
becile with coy expressions of fear and
delight that might have been Xeroxed
from the face of the late, lamented Ed
Winn. As the blustering Mr. Box,
George Bufford whipped himself
amusingly into hot-air rages, though his
pleasant tenor couldn't quite overcome
the cavernous acoustics of the
Michigan Theatre (an ideal setting,
otherwise, for this sort of museum
piece). Thomas Petiet, as the landlord,
has a very fine baritone and a han-
dsome stage appearance-perhaps he
would be a little better suited to stock
romantic leads rather than this sort of
knockabout farcial role, as his good-
natured mugging survived more on the
strength of good will, and less in
precision, than the other two perfor-
Cox and Box was preceded by an
hour-long program of intriguing
fragments and songs from lesser
Gilbert and Sullivan operettas, along
with pieces from collaborations by each
of the composer-authors and other
leaders of Victorian musical-comedy.
The Comic Opera Guild deserves ap-

preciation for making available these
fine glimpses of another century's
popular entertainment, and in general
for their consistently likeable stagings
of a theatrical genre too little-seen in
Ann Arbor. As lightweight and lunatic
as a Dr. Seuss book, (with tongue-
twisting talk to match), Cox and Box
was a pleasant diversion.

Aud. A, Angell Hall
Jack Benny Night
2 people admitted
for the price of one.
The Ann Arbor
Film Cooperative.


94At rare intervals, some
fortunate grouping turns
out to have all the
ingredients in the proper
proportions and we see the
birth ofa Budapest, a
Juilliard, a Guarneri, a
Beaux Arts. Another of
these chancy experiments
has resulted in the
formation of the Kalichstein-
Laredo-Robinson Trio. 1
The New York Times
Kalistin-Law&- -
R()blS flF()
Mozart: Trio in B-flat major, K. 502
Mendelssohn: Trio in C minor
Schubert: Trio in E-flat major
Th SdaY, N ov.2 0 -8:3()
Rackhal lAU( tt ln
Tickets at $8.00, $6.50, $5.00
Tickets at Burton Tower, Ann Arbor, MI 48109
Weekdays 9-4:30, Sat. 9-12 (313) 665-3717
Tickets also available at Rackham Auditorium
1l hours before performance time.
In Its 102nd Year

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