Writer's Notes

From Mila Johansen, P.A.G. Artistic Director

The Gilbert and Sullivan works have survived the test of time and are still as timely as ever.

The Lord High Chancellor, in Iolanthe, says: "Liberal - Conservative. Conservative - Liberal. What's the difference?" And that was in the late 1800s!

These two gentlemen knew how to weave a plot with witty dialogs and humorous subplots. “Iolanthe” is one is one of their more graceful and effervescent works, making light of society truths and exposing things for what they are through wit and humor. It's their version of A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Strephon says, “I go by Nature's acts of parliament, I know not other courts.” Martyn Green, who played The Lord Chancellor in the early days of “Iolanthe”, told of a performance where nature cooperated with the performers. During Strephon's speech about thunderclouds, a terrific clap of thunder broke his momentary pause. The timing was perfect. The audience thought it was an arranged effect until it began raining so hard that one could barely hear the actors. Martyn goes on to say that a second peal of thunder came just as he, The Lord Chancellor said, “There's no evidence before the court that Nature has interested herself in the matter.”

Sir William S. Gilbert wrote the witty words and Sir Arthur S. Sullivan created the fantastic memorable melodies and intricate musical score. The creative team was famous for poking fun at the pompous English Aristocracy, especially criticizing and exposing the imperious British political system. In fact the Queen of England refused to Knight Gilbert for some time until, due to popular demand, she finally gave in.

I have adapted four G & S operettas for family audiences. The originals are 2/3 music and 1/3 dialogue. Being true to their wit and style, I have created these versions to be 1/3 music and 2/3 dialogue. Most of the songs are done broadway style, which the songs almost seem written for. In fact, years ago, screen comedian, Groucho Marx, played the lead part of Koko in The Mikado and did it completely in a broadway style. These famous pieces have been done by casts of all ages for over a century in many creative styles and variations. Gilbert and Sullivan created fourteen operettas, three of the most famous, besides, Iolanthe being The Pirates of Penzance, The Mikado and H. M. S. Pinafore.

The Gilbert and Sullivan light operettas have been a great discovery as a writer. They have provided rich and intriguing material for adaptation. With or without music these operettas are extravagant cartoons and portrayed correctly can provide delightful entertainment for audiences of all ages.