Pineapple Poll Dances in Seattle
In 1951, Charles Mackerras arranged a few dozen melodies from the Gilbert and Sullivan operettas to form the score of a ballet called “Pineapple Poll.” As an ardent Savoyard (viz., Gilbert and Sullivan lover), I have worn out many an LP recording of that score and play it frequently on CD, lamenting all the while that it has never been released as a video.
Well, it turns out that I have been wrong for many years! Back in 2004, the Seattle Gilbert & Sullivan Society worked together with the Spectrum Dance Theater and performed the work as part of the Society’s season. Based on a Gilbert Bab Ballad, it tells the tale of Pineapple Poll and other lovers on and around HMS Hot Cross Bun.
The score is an absolute delight. Music from all but the first and the last two of the Savoy works is represented. There is also a passage from Sullivan’s “Overture Da Ballo” and the Rataplan song from “Cox and Box”to throw off the scent any expert trying to name the origin of each melody. There are also two numbers from “Ruddigore” that had been dropped in the current recordings of that work at the time “Pineapple Poll” was created (“The battle’s roar is over” and the original start of the Act II finale, “Having been a wicked baronet a week). This Seattle production charmingly adds a short introduction and an entr’acte not in the original score.
Now and then the lyrics sung in the operetta to the melody being played actually have reference to the situation in the ballet, and that only adds to the fun. It does indeed help to have Gilbert and Sullivan memorized now and then!
Filmed before an audience, who seems to be having a wonderful time, the production uses, perforce, a scaled-down orchestra (the original score calls for 60 players) and a scaled-down corps de ballet. Who cares? The cast is having such fun that quantity has nothing to do with it.
There are one or two aspects of the choreography created by Donald Byrd that strike me as a bit silly (like rolling on the ground with legs twitching in the air); but the plot is pretty silly to begin with, so what matter? I do like the camera showing the full stage when it is filled with movement, saving close-ups for solos or pas de deux. The running time is 54 minutes and there is not a dull moment in them.
A copy can be ordered through the Society’s website, www.pattersong.org.
Note: The ballet can also be seen in a vintage black-and-white television version on a now out of print ICA Classics DVD, along with “The Lady and the Fool.” The Seattle disc is in color, the ICA in black and white from a 1959 telecast. However, the latter is choreographed by John Cranko and must be seen, if only for the interesting contrast in interpretations between the two troupes.