When I was growing up, my sister and I sang Gilbert and Sullivan songs all the time, switching the roles around, playing men and women. Sometimes for the operettas we knew well we sang all the parts.
We'd prance around the house and over-act, cracking each other up - those were very happy moments I shared with her. Gilbert and Sullivan operettas were very popular high school musical productions and as Winnipeg was a very musical city, the choir and the operettas were more popular than football. At least in my memory.
Here's a photo of my sister Eilleen in a high school production of the "Mikado. She was one of the Three Little Maids.
The second photo is Eilleen and Wally Fox-Decent who played, I believe, Nanki-Pu. Wally didn't let the kimono and fan slow him down and went on to have a distinguished career. Here's his bio when he was awarded a Distinguished Alumni Award from the university.
Distinguished Alumni Award
Waldron “Wally” Fox-DecentWaldon “Wally” Fox Decent received a BA in political science in 1959 while enrolled at United College, and an MA in 1971 from the University of Manitoba.
For some 35 years, Fox-Decent has been a mediator and arbitrator in labour/management disputes. He has served as Chairman of the Workers’ Compensation Board of Manitoba, as well as its Chief Executive Officer. He also has chaired the Advisory Council on Workplace Safety and Health and the Labour Management Review Committee.
From 1962 to 1995, Fox-Decent was professor of Political Studies at the University of Manitoba. He has chaired a number of province-wide committees, most notably three successive Manitoba Legislative Task Forces on constitutional reform, including the task force on the Meech Lake Accord and the task force on the Charlottetown Agreement. In 1997, he was made a Member of the Order of Canada.
Fox-Decent joined the Canadian Naval Reserve in 1954 as a cadet at HMCS Chippawa. From 1987 to 1990, he was Chief of Reserves and Cadets for the Canadian Forces. Between 1988 and 1990, he also served as the first Canadian to hold the post of Chief of Reserves Committee for all NATO countries. He retired in 1996 with the rank of Rear Admiral, Reserve.
For his outstanding achievements and contributions in the political, military, educational, and labour relations arenas, Fox-Decent received the June 2002 University of Winnipeg Distinguished Alumni Award.
|Eilleen and Wally Fox-Decent|
Book and Score Adapted by Mark Savage from W.S. Gilbert & Arthur Sullivan
Staring Debra Lane, Wilson Raiser, Christopher Hall, Michael Gregory, R. Christofer Sands and David Gillam Fuller
A “Pinafore” about an all-gay U.S. Navy? Why not? For a hundred and twenty-five years people have been adapting, converting, altering, adjusting and generally using Gilbert and Sullivan’s irresistible comic confection H.M.S. Pinafore for their own purposes. Some have changed the original just to avoid copyright problems. Some have changed it out of a strange idea that it had become dated. It would be hard to imagine any adaptation succeeding, however, without being based on a deeply felt appreciation for the original. Appreciation is the key to the success of this one – and succeed it does. Handsomely!
This high camp adaptation of what was a high camp original builds on the honorable tradition of Messrs Gilbert and Sullivan to use the comic opera format to get away with only thinly disguised commentary on the issues of the day and the foibles of society.
This “Pinafore” is bannered “A Sexy, Saucy, Ship Shape New Musical.” It is set in the mythical presidency of Al Gore at a time when the failed “don’t ask-don’t tell” policy of the Clinton years has been supplanted by a segregation of the armed services by sexual preference. The Navy is now all gay and the Commander of the Navy is none other than Senator Barney Crank of Maryland who is coming to claim in marriage the child of the Captain of the good ship Pinafore. That child is a drag queen who happens to be loved by a sailor in that ship’s crew – a young man who not only has the misfortune of being the only heterosexual left in the new gay navy, he also is unaware of the fact that the “girl” he loves is, in fact, a boy.
Just as the plot of the original was a simple structure on which Gilbert hung fabulously witty baubles emphasized by the earnestness of Sullivan’s sumptuous score, so adaptor Mark Savage drapes his barbs on the same simple structure, changing it only enough to accommodate his concept. Thus whole choruses and verses stand unchanged except by context: this show gives entirely new meaning to Gilbert’s “Gaily Tripping.” Occasionally he over does it. “Our commander Barney Cranks a painfully P.C. dude / But we really owe him thanks / ‘cause we love his taste in seafood!” is too much of a stretch. But there are times when he comes up with an improvement in the wit of the original. Surely that is the case with the change of “my proffered love despised, rejected / No, no, its not to be expected” to the much more felicitous “My offered love she tosses from her / No, not, its much to big a bummer!”
This recording was made four months into the show’s apparently successful run in Los Angeles by which time the cast had enough experience performing the material before an audience to know how to not only sing the songs but sell the bits. It is a fine capturing of what must be a fun show. It probably isn’t something to be listened to frequently but it is one heck of a fun single listen.
Now for the rest of the day I'll have Three Little Maids playing on that tape in my head.