Pineapple Poll Dances in Seattle

Pineapple Poll Dances in Seattle

IMG_20150727_0001In 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.

51cA8aL8TuL._AA160_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.

web pineapple poll (2)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.

downloadNote: 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.

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.

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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!