The 5th Great G&S Sing-Out

This Labor Day weekend, while one option would admittedly have been to go to the 71st World Science Fiction Convention in San Antonio, TX… I instead chose to geek out with a different kind of fandom at the 5th Great Gilbert & Sullivan Sing-Out, organized by the Victorian Lyric Opera Company in Rockville, Maryland.

The premise of the Sing-Out is to sing through all 13 extant Gilbert & Sullivan operettas, more or less in their entirety (though without the dialogue), in one weekend. (I was told that the first Sing-Out was done all in one day, 8am to 2am. I am, on the whole, delighted that they’ve moved toward pacing it out over 3 days.)

Longtime readers may be aware that I first got into Gilbert & Sullivan in the fall of 1999, when I did my first show with the MIT Gilbert & Sullivan Players: Iolanthe. In that time, I’ve performed in fully staged productions of 10 of the 13 operettas (Patience, Mikado and Ruddigore being the remaining exceptions), and numerous additional concert performances. Somewhere along the way, I crossed over that line (as many a G&S fan knows) from “I’ve been in some of the shows” to “I know MOST of the shows well enough that it’s fun to actually go sing a bunch of them in a row with fellow aficionados.” So I’ve also attended marathons at Brown University in April 2011 and with the New England Gilbert & Sullivan Society in June 2011. But the Rockville Sing-Out only happens once every five years (making this the 20th anniversary… if you go by birthdays), and by now I’m hooked enough to actually travel out of state for this sort of thing.

The Sing-Out is truly more of a community singalong than a performance; all are welcome to come and sing chorus, with the option of sitting in the risers on the stage, or to simply watch and sing from the audience. However, the organizers do cast all the solos in advance (by application rather than by audition), and I had the honor of singing Dame Hannah in Ruddigore on Saturday afternoon, as well as one of the chorus leads (Olga) in The Grand Duke on Sunday morning. (Everyone thinks Mad Margaret is the plum women’s role in Ruddigore, and maybe it is, but I’d rather sing Hannah any day. You get the awesome exposition song at the beginning, a feature in the gorgeous madrigal in the Act 1 finale, and — spoiler alert — your own out-of-nowhere love plot with adorable duet at the end.)

Hearing/singing all the shows in one big binge definitely lends some new perspective; for instance, I am assembling some new lists of favorite duets and other bits, which I will attempt to post in future. But mostly it feels oddly like coming home to places I haven’t been since I first (or most recently) inhabited them: Ploverleigh, Pfennig-Halbpfennig, Tremorden Castle, Titipu, Utopia… and of course the House of Lords and the Tower of London. As I posted to Facebook after I got home last night: “Is it sick that I immediately wanted to do it all over again singing different parts?” :-)

And, needless to say, another big part of what made the weekend so awesome was catching up with old friends (from MITG&SP to the G&S Society of New York)… and meeting new ones. Many thanks to all the organizing committee, staff, and volunteers — particularly the accompanists! — who made this magical weekend possible.

Designs for the Blue Hill Troupe’s 2013 Mikado

As many of you know, I’m a Backstage member of the Blue Hill Troupe, Ltd., the only musical theater group in New York City to donate its net proceeds to charity. I joined in the fall of 2011 shortly after moving from NYC to Boston. (I plan to re-audition for the Frontstage side this fall, but that’s another story.)

Each year, the Troupe does a fall production of a Broadway musical, a winter concert series, and then their season highlight, a large-scale spring production of a Gilbert & Sullivan operetta.

I bring a bunch of different backstage skills to the table: a little set construction (I own my own DeWalt screw gun), a little painting, and I’m now working makeup crew for the current production, The Mikado (N.B.: two more performances, today only, 2pm and 8pm!). But the highest-level skill I have to contribute is, naturally, on the graphic design side. So last spring I worked on the Program committee for Utopia, Ltd.… and this year they invited me to be lead designer on the Mikado program. Now, when the Troupe says “program”, especially for the spring show, they mean a massive 140-page volume comprising about half advertising and half editorial content, and represents a team effort of dozens of people over a span of several months. But here’s a selection:

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BHT 2013: The Mikado

The Blue Hill Troupe’s 2013 commemorative tile, based on Doug Larson’s set design.

The other thing I got to do was this: Every year the Troupe produces a keepsake 4″ ceramic tile as a membership gift commemorating the year’s spring show. In March, not long after the program went to press, I got an emergency call from the Troupe president and the set designer, asking if I could perhaps help them get the design ready for manufacturing. They had a concept and a first-draft file, which I revised into the final design shown at right (click to enlarge).

I’ve been very gratified by the crowd response to both these pieces, in which the phrase “the prettiest we’ve had in years!” keeps cropping up.

… And now, I’m off to the green room of El Teatro del Museo del Barrio to staff the makeup table one last time. Break legs, everyone!

Nautical Man (or, T.M.B. Pinafore)

So, as mentioned yesterday, I have been digging through old documents in the process of overhauling/updating my website, and one more thing I turned up was my Fall 2001 Pinafore filk:

Nautical Man (or, T.M.B. Pinafore)
to the tune of “Particle Man” (They Might Be Giants, Flood)

Nautical Man, Nautical Man,
Smartest lad in the Royal “N”.
What’s he like?
A pining tenor,
Nautical Man.
Is he a slave or an Englishman?
Can he dance a hornpipe or lead the band?
Will Josephine marry a foremast hand?
Nobody knows,
Nautical Man.

Triangle Man, Triangle Man,
Triangle Man hates Nautical Man.
They have a fight:
Man overboard,
Triangle Man.


Admiral Man, Admiral Man,
Ego the size of the universe man;
Usually kind to smaller man,
Admiral Man.
Articled clerk turned K.C.B.,
Knew better than to go to sea,
So now he rules the Queen’s Na-vee,
Powerful man,
Admiral Man.

Captain Man, Captain Man
Exchanged at birth with Nautical Man,
Offering up his daughter’s hand,
Captain Man.
Com-for-tably in the bourgeoisie,
Hardly ever gets sick at sea;
But then he uses that big, big D —
Berated man, Captain Man.

Nautical Man, Nautical Man
Suddenly finds he’s Captain Man;
Blissful refrains,
For he remains
An Englishman!


I Enjoy Being A Geek

In the department of “stop me before I volunteer again,” I am officially blowing off a Shabbaton planning meeting at shul tonight in order to go see Juno with ablock (7:20pm at the Somerville). Go me!

I am also thinking, as I sit here munching on wasabi peas, that I should write a filk of “Burning Down the House” called “Eating Down the Chametz“. ‘Tis the season.

This reminds me that I never posted the song I wrote (with help from Tiger Boy) for this year’s Purimshpiel, to great popular acclaim: “I Enjoy Being A Geek”. (If you’ve never heard the original, it’s here; whether you have or not, you might enjoy this version.)

I’m a geek, and by me that’s only great!
I am proud that my glasses are like bottles,
And I’m longing to find a Jewish mate
For a love that’s like Tzeitel’s and like Motel’s.

I can charm you with scholarly discourse,
I can quote you from Torah or rabbinics,
But you ask me about religious wars,
And I’ll start explaining Windows, Mac, and Linux!

I’m hooked on the Sci-Fi Network,
I can read twenty books a week,
I love playing Fluxxx or Settlers
I enjoy being a geek!

I have a degree in physics
I think cloaks are the height of chic
Every summer I go to Pennsic [note: this line did not garner a single laugh, I was shocked]
I enjoy being a geek!

I own every episode of Buffy,
The Lord of the Rings was really great,
I stayed up all night for Harry Potter —
How I wish there would be a volume number 8!

From Vericon to Arisia
I have looked all around to see
Whether somewhere in Cantabrigia
There’s a boy who would enjoy
Having a geek like me!

(My character in the ‘shpiel was Esther the Second Gabbai… with a cameo by Tiger Boy as the Nice Jewish Boy who comes in as the tenth for minyan and sweeps her off her feet for a happy ending. Awww.)