It's that time again! Every 5 years, the theater company I keep coming back to hosts a marathon Gilbert & Sullivan sing-along over Labor Day weekend. You sing through all the music (but none of the dialogue) of all 13 surviving G&S shows. (Their first collaboration, Thespis, or the Gods Grown Old, survives only in fragments.)
This will be the 3rd sing-out for which the host company will present one of those shows in a semi-staged, concert version, with a full orchestra on stage w/ the singers, and the principals in costume. The company chose Utopia, Limited and The Grand Duke for these concerts because those two are rarely done. When we presented Grand Duke for the first concert production 10 years ago, the response was so positive that we ended up staging it in 2010. The response to Utopia 5 years ago was similarly positive and apparently the company did consider staging it, but Utopia is harder to cast because it requires so many strong male voices - eleven!
The standard format is to break the shows into blocks for which people can register as participants, or buy tickets as audience members. Friday night opens with the singing of "Hail Poetry" from The Pirates of Penzance - sort of an unofficial G&S "national anthem," if you will. Three shows follow. Saturday is the one full day - a 3-show block in the morning, 2 in the afternoon, and the concert production and one other show after dinner. Sunday wraps up with the remaining 3 shows, traditionally closing with The Gondoliers because the finale lyrics "leave you with feelings of pleasure."
Attendees come from up and down the eastern United States, the Midwest, the South, and sometimes even from Canada and the UK. You get hardcore G&S scholars and fans, people who are completely new to G&S and the way the "veterans" quote from the shows, and everyone in between. We have second-generation attendees, couples who met doing one G&S show or another, and people who've built long-distance friendships over Savoynet, the Gilbert & Sullivan Archive, or the International G&S Festival in England (first in Buxton, now in Harrogate). Knowing a little G&S can serve as a connection when visiting or moving to new places (that's certainly been my experience), even if you've never had an opportunity to perform. These sing-alongs are a sort of "family reunion" of G&S fans, of course, but also of opera and music lovers, fans of choral music (Sullivan wrote some rich, rewarding ensemble music for his performers), and those who enjoy wordplay of the sort Gilbert did so well.
I've already loaded my scores (including a few duplicates, just in case) into the cart I'll use for Saturday's marathon, got a hotel room booked near the theater, and am looking forward to singing my brains out this weekend! 😁💓🎵🎶🎵