An Exciting “Pirates of Penzance” is Performed in Australia

 

A-OP-Priates of Penzance (Australia)
No, that is not Depp on the cover!

An Exciting “Pirates of Penzance” is Performed in Australia 

   After watching the mutilated “Gondoliers” as performed by Opera Australia, in which neither Gilbert’s lyrics nor dialogue was spared updating by those concerned, I was most reluctant to watch their 2007 “The Pirates of Penzance” on the Kultur label. So I played it safe and ordered it through Netflix…and I loved every moment of it! Now I have my own copy and will use it to play for friends and in my lectures.

For starters, it does not change any of the lyrics or dialogue, except for a few harmless ad libs. Although it is heavily influenced by the Joseph Papp rock version, the orchestration here is Sullivan’s. Costuming the Pirate King (Anthony Warlow) to closely resemble Johnny Depp in “Pirates of the Caribbean” is a joke that wears out quickly butalso  does no harm. But he does adopt a body language that is often curiously effeminate, perhaps not intentionally.

170px-Pirate_King1
The Pirate King (Richard Temple) in the original production’s costume

John Bolton Wood’s Major-General Stanley first appears in kilts and gives his patter entrance song at a fast clip. Only at the very end of the opera does he appear in his proper uniform. David Hobson’s Frederic looks a little older than a 21 year old (or 5.25, if we go by birthdays!), but sings well and has a good sense of humor. His Mabel (Taryn Fiebig) gets a good deal of comedy into her “Poor wand’ring one” without making it silly.

I was delighted to see that the Police are costumed in accurate uniforms without any clownish additions and no rubber-leg dancing. Also Richard Alexander’s basso is just right for the Police Sergeant. Suzanne Johnston makes a sympathetic Ruth in Act I, looking really older than 47. But in Act II, in a pirate costume and lipstick, she looks sexy and 100% piratical.

The scenery is minimal, with such items as the pirate vessel, trees, and tombstones being wheeled on by the cast. It all works beautifully, at one point to the accompaniment of an orchestral vamp.

download
Warlow underneath the Depp makeup

A short introduction  is given instead of the overture. But the full finale, which Gilbert wrote for the New York opening, using a reprise of the Major-General song followed by “Poor wand’ring one,” makes a great ending. So kudos to stage director Stuart Maunder and conductor Andrew Greene for the best “Pirates” on video yet.

The running time is 112 minutes, the picture is widescreen format, but alas no subtitles.

 

Ohio Light Opera Dishes Up a Happy “Gondoliers”

 

IMG_20150531_0001Ohio Light Opera Dishes Up a Happy “Gondoliers”

  I believe that the score to Arthur Sullivan’s “The Gondoliers” is his happiest, while the plot is a topsy-turvy affair in the true William S. Gilbert manner.. In the past, The Ohio Light Opera has been performing and recording on CDs full productions of rarely done operettas. The Gilbert & Sullivan works so far in their series of recordings have fairly complete dialogue and therefore are in competition with the D’Oyly Carte recordings of those works that contain only the musical segments..

However, the latest release on the Troy label, “The Gondoliers,” has competition from a D’Oyly Carte recording with dialogue on the Decca label; and I was afraid that this OLO version would suffer in comparison. In two words, it doesn’t!

This is a nearly perfect recording of the musical tale of two gondoliers, Marco (Jack Beetle) and Giuseppe (Nicholas Hartley), who having just married Gianetta (Kemper LeCroy-Flarin) and Tessa (Sahara Glasener-Boles) then learn from the Grand Inquisitor Don Alhambra del Bolero (Gary Moss) that one of them is really the King of Barataria and (later in Act II) that the same one is also married to Casilda (Anne Marie Frohnmayer), the daughter of the out-of-pocket Duke and Duchess of Plaza-Toro (Ted Christopher and a light-voiced Sandra Ross). Trouble is, no one but the king’s mother knows which is the king and which the gondolier. And she is on her way to sort things out.

And so the two rule jointly as a monarchy based on republican (small “r”) principles. The only satire is against the belief that ALL people can be equal in rank, and that line of thought comes to an end half way into Act II. The plot’s ending is a nod to one of Giuseppe Verdi’s operas, and no more need be said.

The dialogue is spoken with a good tempo and the enunciation is very good with final “t’s” and “d’s carefully hit off. (I cannot understand why “livery” is pronounced with a long “i,” but let that go.) The dialogue is absolutely complete and the music is conducted with verve by J. Lynn Thompson.

The booklet has minimal notes abut the background of the play and the entire text of the dialogue and songs. I would call this one a Grabbit.

Seldom Done, “Princess Ida” Gets a Fine Production in Seattle

A-OLO-Princess IdaSeldom Done, “Princess Ida” Gets a Fine Production in Seattle

I have been writing much about the Seattle Gilbert & Sullivan Society’s productions of the Gilbert and Sullivan opera. Here, I want to commend their 2007 production of the seldom-performed “Princess Ida.” With a weak libretto, dialogue in blank verse, and an uncomfortable anti-feminist approach, this work still has one of the most delightful scores in the G&S series.

Taking aim at women who, in Gilbert’s time, wanted equal rights to an advanced education, the plot concerns Prince Hilarion (Scott Rittenhouse) and his two friends Cyril (John Brookes) and Florian (Michael Giles) who break into Castle Adamant so that the Prince can claim his bride Princess Ida (Amanda Brown), while her father King Gama (Dave Ross) is held hostage by King Hildebrand (William J. Darkow), father to Hilarion. (Get it?)

Among the students of Adamant, all of whom are sworn to avoid males of any kind (including chessmen and roosters), are the philosophical Lady Blanche (Alyce Rogers), her daughter Melissa (Elizabeth Ford), and Florian’s sister Psyche (Cara Iverson). And let me not forget Ida’s three hulking brothers, who always appear in armor until they have to fight, at which time they strip it all off.

The songs are a joy. Gama has two patter songs, the first of which is really Gilbert’s opinion of himself; Psyche has the delightful tale of the ape who loved a lovely maiden; Ida has two operatic arias of great beauty; the three young men have two funny trios in a row; the three brothers have a wonderful parody of Handelian oratorio; and all of the ensembles are either amusing or beautiful. Lady Blanche’s only solo is among the worst Sullivan ever composed (look at the lyrics!), but I am glad it is kept for the sake of completeness.

The scenery is colorful and does a good 180-degree rotation in Act II. The costumes are as Gilbert wanted them: medieval, despite the presence of telescopes and cigars. There is some silly ad-libbing as the men change into women’s gowns, but that is the only addition to the text; and the three brothers do bump into each other a little too often. But in general, director Christine Goff shows respect for her author and composer, and conductor Bernard Kwiram gives her able support from the pit.

Copies can be ordered through the website at www.pattersong.org.

Seattle Group Does “The Grand Duke” Proud

 

 

A-OLO-Grand DukeSeattle Group Does “The Grand Duke” Proud

Gilbert and Sullivan’s final collaboration, “The Grand Duke,” was created in less than the best of circumstances. Earlier, Gilbert had taken Sullivan and their producer Richard D’Oyly Carte to court (!) over some financial matters that included the cost of a new carpet in their Savoy Theater. When the three were reunited with “Utopia, Ltd.,” it was clear that Sullivan was starting to repeat himself. In “The Grand Duke,” the plot is the most complicated and surely the silliest of any of their former efforts; and the score shows strong evidence that Sullivan was pretty burned out.

On the other hand, Gilbert seems to have “fallen” for the Hungarian soprano cast to play Julia and compromised his libretto by building up her part to more than it could hold. (He did the same with another soprano in “Utopia, Ltd,” and ultimately adopted her!)

I saw a production in New York that cut the text heavily and actually added a scene created by someone who thought Act II needed improvement. The songs are for the most part jolly but not particularly memorable. There is a beautiful ensemble in Act I that recalls the madrigal in “The Mikado” and offers a sort of oasis from the (I hate to say it) pedestrian tunes around it. Indeed, two or three of Sullivan’s worst efforts are found in this score; and I thought it is no wonder that it ran only 123 performances.

On repeated hearings, however, I am getting to like many of the numbers through familiarity. Also, I realize I am consciously or not comparing the score with the ones I grew up with, and this is not nice.

However, the intrepid Seattle Gilbert and Sullivan Society, true to its mission of producing and committing to video all of the Savoy operettas, did a very complete version of the original “Grand Duke” script and score in 1999. It makes, amazingly, a good case for the work. Granted that the dialogue does go on far too long in many spots, director Hal Ryder accepted the work as written–no current joking references–and managed to bring life into it with a cast that takes the silliness and spotty score and makes it sound good for the most part.

Set in the 1930s (an updating departure for the Seattle group), the plot unfolds showing a theatrical group who is plotting to overthrow the Grand Duke and take over the government. There is much ado about eating sausage rolls, statutory duels fought with a deck of cards, and one character finding himself engaged to four women at the same time. The overly long first act is divided into two acts—a very wise choice. The voices are a bit removed from the overhanging microphones, and a copy of the text would help during the musical numbers, as indeed with any operetta. Two of the songs in what is Act III in this production are not found in the standard text.

I had the pleasure of watching our local Moving Company perform a non-musical version I had prepared for them—and the Keene Sentinel compared it to a Monty Python sketch. Once again, Gilbert was there first! In fact, this DVD has no competition at all. Both Gilbert and Sullivan fans and theatre historians will surely want to own the Seattle “Grand Duke.” It can be purchased through their website at www.pattersong.org.

A Well Done “Mikado” with Lyrics Problems from Seattle

 

IMG_20150529_0001_NEWA Well Done “Mikado” With Lyrics Problems from Seattle

There was once a production of “The Marriage of Figaro” that takes place in Trump Tower. Although the concept of a Count having the “droit du seigneur” over any bride-to-be on his estate is ridiculous enough in 20th-century New York City, things are made worse when the Italian text is clearly heard to be “Siviglia” when the subtitles say “New Jersey.” At least, Da Ponte’s lyrics are not changed, although they are totally out of synch with what is seen on stage.

There was an African group at Keene Stage College performing a “Macbeth” set in Africa but the Scottish place names were maintained. Here I would have welcomed a change in proper nouns to maintain the illusion.

All of this is prologue to my column, which is more of an essay today than a review.

My readers must know by now how fond I am of the DVD releases from the Seattle Gilbert & Sullivan Society. On the other hand, I have always been testy about their changing the lyrics—or adding stanzas with new lyrics—to songs or throwing current references into the dialogue. The usual reason is that “Some of Gilbert’s references have little or no meaning to modern audiences.” This I can understand and counter with the idea of adding a glossary of such references to the playbill.

Why is “operetta” an excuse for changing dialogue and lyrics while grand opera (even when the staging is updated) is allowed to keep the words the librettist intended? Of course, Gilbert and Sullivan is not holy writ; but if a group chooses to do their works, they should give the audience what is advertised.

So here is a very good traditional production of “The Mikado,” the most popular operetta in the world, with a good cast, a good conductor (Bernard Kwiram), an inventive director (Christine Goff), and even a bit of ballet (ARC School of Ballet)—all this (to me) unable to ignore changing all of the references in Ko-Ko’s “Little list” song AND almost all of the references in the Mikado’s song.

Okay, every production changes the list song. But take for example a reference to “the senator from Idaho” that gets a tremendous laugh from the audience. This might have been hot stuff back in 2008, but the joke is totally lost to most viewers watching the DVD today. Worse, here and in the Mikado’s song, while the audience is roaring at this or that reference, the next line is being sung but not heard by any one.

Granted that no one, including modern British audiences, knows much if anything about “parliamentary trains”; but, as I say, an explanation in the program notes is all that is needed. And if Nanki-Poo’s comparing the Mikado with Lucius Junius Brutus is changed to Lord Valdemort, I can tolerate that reference despite its being an anachronism.

Of course, when the Mikado asks Ko-Ko where Nanki-Poo has gone, the original joke has the reply “Knightsbridge”—the location of the Japanese exhibit that inspired Gilbert to write this libretto. Today, directors substitute the name of some local place. Here, Oklahoma City gets a big laugh. And I can’t think why.

Setting this aside and the overuse of snapping fans open and shut, this is a well-conceived production with an excellent Ko-Ko (John Brookes). If Dave Ross is physically somewhat less than imposing as the Mikado, he sings well and is allowed to keep two of Gilbert’s original references in his “punishment fit the crime” number. Parker Albin is a pleasant Nanki-Poo, although he does look a bit like Li’l Abner, and Cara Iverson shows a good comic technique as Yum-Yum. She is ably assisted by the other two little maids, Carla Hilderbrand as Pitti-Sing and Annette Dennis as Peep-Bo.

I always miss a good basso profundo for Pooh-Bah, but Craig Cantley’s delivery is good enough, while William J. Darkow (looking much like Timothy Spall when he played the Mikado in the film “Topsy-Turvy”) gets some humor into his Pish-Tush. As she always does in her contralto roles, Alyce Rogers dominates the stage as Katisha.

I am hoping that future productions by this capable group will modify their changes to these works in the future.

“Ruddigore” is Given Complete in Ohio Light Opera Recording

 

IMG_20150528_0001_NEW“Ruddigore” is Given Complete in Ohio Light Opera Recording

When Cole Porter’s “Out of This World” premiered in 1950, the critics could not help (I assume) crying down its value because it did not compare with his 1948 “Kiss Me Kate.” So when Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Ruddygore, or The Witch’s Curse” opened in 1887, boos were heard for the first time in their career, mostly because it could not top “The Mikado” of 1885. Not fair, but that’s what audiences are like. So several revisions were made, mostly cuts, for the rest of the run. And the title was changed orthographically but not phonetically to “Ruddigore.” The subtitle was nearly changed to “Not so Good as The Mikado,” but that silly idea was dropped.

When revived in 1920, even more cuts began to be made, the most important of which were the Act I love duet “The battle’s roar is over,” an Act II patter song for Robin Oakapple, and a very snappy Act II finale sequence that led into the usual reprise of an earlier number. Even the Overture, which contained the excised material, had to be revised—and not for the better.

The three D’Oyly Carte Company recordings keep most of the cuts. None of them have the snappy finale or the patter song, while the 1931 electric recording omits the duet, which is included on the 1924 acoustic and the 1962 stereo versions. The monophonic LP of 1952 has even further cuts. Including the 1962 stereo version with Glyndebourne singers and the very complete 1987 recording with the New Sadler’s Wells forces, there are scarcely two recordings that are consistent in what is included.

However, what they all lack is the dialogue. And now the Ohio Light Opera company’s production is out in a 2-CD set on the Albany label, and any Ruddigore-lover’s fondest wish has come true. Not only are many of the musical cuts restored but the complete dialogue is included.

Although it lacks the period charm of the older 78 rpm recordings, the cast sounds just right for this spoof on the Victorian gothic melodrama of pure village maidens (who know how to follow the money), simple village lads (with horrible secrets), wicked baronets (who crave to be virtuous), simple seamen (who are motivated purely by self-interest), faithful family retainers (who become as wicked as their masters), village mad women (who are almost cured by a sort of mantra), and haunted castles (with picture galleries that come alive at “the night’s high noon”).  And one must mention a female population entirely devoted to being bridesmaids during a depression in the marriage market.

The tunes are as delightful as any found in the other G&S works, while the dialogue spoofs the genre simply by sounding exactly like it with slight exaggerations. And, of course, the Act II patter trio is the patter song to end all patter songs. Some say that the ghost music is almost too good for a spoof; but Sullivan is more of a major composer than some admit and must be given some leeway to “show his stuff.” (The next work, “The Yeoman of the Guard,” gives him an entire work to show his serious side.)

My only slight complaint (too strong a word for this excellent OLO production) is that the pacing of the dialogue could be a little snappier. As with all of their past G&S recordings, they speak it very slowly lest a single bit of humor escape the audience. That said, I can find little fault with any aspect of this recording. I do wish, however, they used the original, not the revised, Overture.

The cast includes Ted Christopher (Robin), Cecily Ellis (Rose), Frederick Reeder (Despard), Anthony Buck (Dick), Dennis Jesse (Roderic), Jessie Wright Martin (Hannah), and Sahara Glasener-Boles (Margaret). Unlike the male vocalists in the New Sadler’s Wells recording, those here have the deep voices needed for their characters, especially the bottomless basso of Cory Clines (Adam).

While conductor Michael Borowitz’ tempos are now and then a little slow, he obviously loves the score and even gives an encore of the last stanza of the patter trio.

The running time is a very enjoyable 130 minutes and the complete text is provided in the program notes.

Ruddigore

“Ruddigore” is Performed with Cuts Restored

A-SGS-Ruddigore               When “Ruddygore” premiered in 1887, it suffered from being a let down from the fabulous “Mikado” that appeared before it and from spoofing a genre of melodrama that had fallen out of favor years before. So Gilbert and Sullivan made several cuts and respelled the title to “Ruddigore.” When revived by the D’Oyly Carte Company in 1920, even more cuts were made and the overture was changed.

The BBC version stars two non-singing male leads and makes even more cuts. But now the excellent Seattle Gilbert and Sullivan Society, an amateur group with pretty professional productions, has on DVD a “Ruddigore” from 2011 that not only is a great performance but has the most complete score to date on video,.

Drawing from an opera by August Marschner, “Der Vampyr,” and mostly from Gilbert’s own earlier work, “Ages Ago,” the plot concerns a family curse in which each Lord of Ruddigore must commit a crime a day or “in torture he shall die.” I will not dwell upon the scenario (it is easily gotten from several websites). It is the Seattle production I wish to dwell upon.

220px-Ruddygore-1887
Original program. Note the spelling.

The voices are more than adequate for Sullivan’s score. On the other hand, some of Gilbert’s dialogue jokes could be delivered with a bit more speed. Petite Jenny Shotwell makes a properly gold-digging Rose Maybud, John Brooks successfully changes from timid Robin Oakapple  to reluctant dastard Ruthven, and Derek Sellers as Dick Dauntless nicely shows how his “heart’s dictates” always seem to work in his favor.

Note: The vampire in the Marschner work is named Ruthven.

Highlights are the double chorus to welcome the “bucks and blades,” the salute to the 4 seasons and of course the fastest patter song of them all.

Dave Ross is a short but villainous Sir Despard (although he could never pass for Ruthven’s younger brother). The priceless contralto Alyce Rogers comes into her own when as Dame Hannah she confronts Ruthven with dagger and sword; while Hollis Heron is properly loony as Mad Margaret. William Darkow makes an impressive ghostly Roderic, and Ron Gangnes’ (Old Adam) basso nicely supports the ensembles.

Many comic touches, not overdone, are created by Director Christine Goff; and Conductor Bernard Kwiram makes the most of the score. I wonder, however, why he does not use the original overture. See this company’s website at www.pattersong.org for information about ordering this and other DVDs in their catalogue. A warning though. The troupe sometimes plays fast and loose with Gilbert’s lyrics. Anachronistic ad libs are not funny and Gilbert does not need help. This “Ruddigore,” however, is free from that nonsense.

The running time is close to 150 minutes and one does miss subtitles!

Gilbert & Sullivan, Greatest Hits

More Gilbert and Sullivan from Vintage Television

A-VAI-G and S Greatest Hits

VAI DVDs clearly demonstrate that Gilbert and Sullivan were not entirely neglected by American television in the 1950s by issuing the complete broadcasts of abridged performances of “The Mikado” (with Groucho Marx) and “The Yeomen of the Guard” (with Alfred Drake). The former includes 12 minutes of Martyn Green as Sir Joseph Porter in selections from “HMS Pinafore.”

I was taken by surprise by the arrival of yet another VAI disc, titled “Gilbert & Sullivan, Greatest Hits.” It includes four selections from the earlier “Yeomen” and three from “The Mikado” sets, as well as the Martyn Green “Pinafore” excerpts. So much for mild duplication.

There is also a delightful “Gilbert and Sullivan Medley” in which Martyn Green and Cyril Richard share fairly complete versions of six songs from four of the G&S works as they change hats and wigs.

But what makes this set a treasure are the opening and closing sequences taken from “The Ford Show” in which…

220px-Tennessee_Ernie_Ford_1957
Mr. Ford, an unlikely casting bet for Ko-Ko

Well, let me start again. Thimble Theatre versions of “The Mikado” are given from a 1959 telecast and “HMS Pinafore” from a 1960 telecast. Running a breathless 25 minutes each, both are hosted and narrated by—okay, let me say it, Tennessee Ernie Ford! And not only that, he sings the comic leads in both!

As for his narratives, who else would describe a tenor being “as happy as a woodpecker in a furniture store” when he meets his soprano? I leave all the other folksy examples to those who purchase this DVD. As for his singing, he did start as a classically trained baritone before he turned to another style of singing. In fact, most of the singing of the other roles is quite good, and Ford manages to keep up nicely.

As for his acting, his Ko-Ko lacks character but his Sir Joseph Porter is quite good, especially when he sings a refrain in that stuffed-shirt upper-class British accent that works so well in farce. In fact, Ford is far better than Green, who seems to sleepwalk through his “Pinafore” songs.

I only wish VAI had come up with a better title. The one chosen has been attached to at least two CDs to my knowledge and possibly to a DVD. And not all the songs heard here could be counted among Gilbert and Sullivan’s “greatest” hits. But the contents are such a pleasure, why quibble with the title?

Mikado

Groucho as Ko-Ko is a Thing to Behold!A-VAI-Mikado TV

What to say about a telecast of “The Mikado” from 1960 that is now available on a DVD from VAI? It is part of the old Bell Telephone Hour series and crammed into 50 minutes, once commercials are taken out, and two of the lead singers cannot sing Sullivan’s music. Why bother, since it amounts to a series of selections, only five of which are complete?

Groucho Marx as Ko-Ko is the reason for why this disc will be immensely popular—and indeed why I purchased it for my collection. Fulfilling a lifelong ambition, Groucho put his heart, soul, and what little represented his singing voice into the role—and the results are strange.

His “singing” pays little heed to pitch, rhythm, or what the orchestra is playing; and when push comes to shove, he hits a low note of indeterminate value. But of course, that is the point of giving him the role. As with Hyacinth Bucket, a bad voice can be endearing (in Groucho’s case) or very funny (in Patricia Routlege’s case). The strange thing is that his dialogue scenes are simply not funny. Now and then, he breaks into a Charleston or plays with a fan. But for the most part, he seems not sure what to do and gives a straight performance where one expects hilarity.

The other non-singer is English Music Hall veteran Stanley Holloway, who finds his basso role of Pooh-Bah beyond his vocal abilities. Tenor Robert Rounseville (Nanki- Poo) and soprano Barbara Meister (Yum-Yum) make a good pair of lovers, while veteran operetta star Dennis King makes a colorful and full-voiced Mikado.

Another reason to buy this disc is Helen Traubel as the ugly Katisha. Her contralto is a wonder to be heard and she is given her full solo in Act II. Her great scene in Act I is cut entirely, so her “Alone and yet alive” is doubly welcome. The character of Pish-Tush is omitted entirely and his explanatory song “Our Great Mikado” is spoke-sung by Pooh-Bah.

This production was originally telecast in color; but that kinescope has been lost and a black and white one is substituted. But a bonus on this disc is a 12-minute sequence from another Bell Telephone Hour in which Martyn Green appears in highlights from “HMS Pinafore”—and that is in color. Why Green is costumed as a visitor to the Ascot races rather than the “Ruler of the Queen’s Nahvee” is beyond me.

Yeomen of the Guard

A-VAI-YeomenAn Early Telecast of “Yeomen of the Guard” is Preserved on DVD

One of the better releases in the VAI DVD series of vintage television productions of musicals is Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Yeomen of the Guard.” It is the team’s work that is closest to opera, it does not involve topsy-turvy situations, and the characters are fairly believable.

Part of the Max Liebman Presents series, this 1957 “Yeomen” was allowed 80 minutes of running time, the rest dedicated to commercials and station breaks, and therefore is by no means complete.  (The missing commercials can be seen as an extra.) But it does keep quite a bit of the dialogue and score (a full performance would run a bit over two hours) and serves as a good introduction to the complete work.

A caveat at this point. The original telecast was in color; only a black and white copy was found. Also, the picture is a bit more wobbly than are other VAI discs in this series. But there is no other (as far as I can tell) decent video of “Yeomen” available to us, so this one is a valuable addition to the history of television and to G&S productions. (The one from BBC is simply bad.)

A synopsis of the plot would take up too much space here; but I want to comment that the so-called Happy Ending is quite different from those in the other G&S plays: two characters wind up engaged to the very people they hate and the main comic character (like Bunthorne in “Patience”) gets what he deserves.

Alfred Drake makes a very good if not overly subtle Jack Point the jester, while popular singer Bill Hayes looks and sounds good as the not very admirable Colonel Fairfax. Barbara Cook has an operatic voice that suits her role as Elsie, but Celeste Holm in her opening song sounds too Broadway-ish for the young Phoebe; but she can hold her own with Cook from that point on.

The show begins with some background information about the Tower of London, which might interest the audience. But a second introduction by Jack Point is utterly superfluous and the time could have been better spent with a stanza from at least one song that had been removed.

Other operettas in this VAI series are Herbert’s “Naughty Marietta” and “The Dessert Song.” “The Chocolate Solider” stars Rise Stevens (a big plus) but does not follow the original in Acts II and III (a bad minus).