A night with Gilbert and Sullivan was the focus last weekend of our community theater's fundraising cabaret event at the Chanticleer Theater.
Gilbert and Sullivan joined together to create operas in English that were comedies in the late part of the nineteenth century with Queen Victoria and the British Navy ruling much of the world. W. S. Gilbert wrote the words to music created by Arthur Sullivan. The operas were usually mocking the officers in the Royal Navy poking fun at their current political situations especially the monarchy and upper-class, highly educated officers in Her Majesty's Royal Navy. These were what appeared to be those emotionless, all-business, fast-talking and nose-in-the-air Brits with highly enunciated and crisp words. The words of the songs are usually in some sort of rhyme even though they are frequently sung at what seems to be the speed of lightning while the melodies are catchyand easy tunes that are recognizable and memorable.
Times have changed since Gilbert and Sullivan. The words to these songs are frequently so fast that you can barely catch them. Added to that, the vocabulary is complex with slapstick-like humor. The performers have to be accomplished and trained to be successful. Every singer in this show excelled in this area.
For example, one of my favorite selections which was sung with an additional violin accompaniment played hauntingly by Tyler Roberts has these words,
"The Sun whose rays are all ablaze with ever living glory
Does not deny his majesty, he scorns to tell a story
He doesn't exclaim 'I blush for shame' so kindly be indulgent
But fierce and bold in fiery gold, he glories all effulgent.
I mean to rule the earth as he the sky
We really know our worth, the Sun and I."
Being this is opera, the Chanticleer Theater was outstanding with their choice of accomplished singers with these challenging selections. The performers were Kim Alger, Jerry Brabec, Gary Bosanek, Jennifer Bull, Michael Bull, Brandon Fisher, Dianne Jones, Joseph Miloni, Vicki Molacek, Nathan Popp, Tyler Roberts, Laura Stannard, Lindsey Ussery, and Dan Whitehouse. Kim Hansen was outstanding as the accompanist being always alert. She had to be exhausted with the energetic demands of controlling the racing tempos and following so many different soloists and ensembles..
Most of us who know a little about Gilbert and Sullivan operas were acquainted with the better known operas of H.M.S. Pinafore, Pirates of Penzance and the Mikado. Also included were the lesser known operas, some of which the original scores have been lost forever. Fortunately, some of these songs survived. These selections were from Yeoman of the Guard, Patience, Trial by Jury, Utopia Limited, Thespis, Iolanthe, Grand Duke, Princess Ida, Gondoliers, Sorcerer, and Ruddigore.
With almost thirty selections in this fast-paced show, amazingly the time flew swiftly with the racing words of poetry combined with comical props, choreography, and some acting appropriate to each song allowing the audience to learn a little about each separate opera.
As with all cabaret shows, some numbers to me are more memorable.
For me, I was completely absorbed in Joseph Miloni's "When I Was a Lad" from the H.M.S. Pinafore. He was the perfect British Major general ruling a ship with those quick, clipped words.
The acapella number from The Pirates of Penzance was phenomenal with confident, musical voices perfectly blending together.
I loved Vicki Molacek's "I'm Called Little Buttercup". It was enchantingly sung with humor along with a great men's ensemble.
What was exciting was to see the mix of ages in this ensemble and how well all of them worked together in these varied selections.
From dancing fairies stomping and singing on stage to a wedding of true love that is forbidden until the true identity of the groom was disclosed, this night of "Hail Poetry" titillating event in reflection of a time that was truly British.