The National Gilbert & Sullivan Company is all set to return to Norwich Theatre Royal this September with colourful characters such as the ‘very model of a modern Major-General’ in the Pirates of Penzance, Yum-Yum from The Mikado and First Lord of the Admiralty Sir Joseph Porter in HMS Pinafore.
The comic operatic works of librettist W.S. Gilbert and composer Arthur Sullivan proved popular with Norfolk audiences when the company visited last September, and while trends and tastes may change, the mix of wonderful language, satirical themes and great songs are loved by all ages.
Gently poking fun at the traditions of grand opera, the company will present The Mikado on Thursday, September 14, 7.30pm; Pirates of Penzance on Friday, September 15, 7.30pm; and HMS Pinafore on Saturday, September 16, at 2.30pm and 7.30pm.
The company brings with it the National Gilbert & Sullivan Orchestra and a host of talented actors, including Norfolk’s own panto funny man Richard Gauntlett who will be leaving his dame’s frocks in the dressing room as he swaps pantomime for light opera.
In Pirates of Penzance, the audience will be treated to swashbuckling pirates, a dotty General, his unwed daughter and a bumbling British bobby, who combine for a laugh-out-loud treat.
The Mikado also boasts big, colourful characters and well-known songs. Set in the Japanese village of Titipu where flirting is an offence, it pokes fun at the layers of officialdom who police the community. Nanki-Poo, son of the Mikado of Japan, has fled his father’s imperial court disguised as a travelling musician to escape marriage with an elderly lady, when he meets and falls in love with Yum-Yum, the young ward of a tailor in the town. But Yum-Yum is already betrothed to her guardian.
And HMS Pinafore, one of the most popular of Gilbert & Sullivan’s comic creations, is a nautical romp with well-known songs such as I am the Monarch of the Sea, I’m Called Little Buttercup and He is an Englishman.
The National Gilbert & Sullivan Company’s visit to Norwich is part of the company’s 2017 tour. It is the latest chapter of a story which began with the setting up of a Gilbert and Sullivan Festival in Buxton in 1994 to ensure the name and genre of their work survived following the closure of The D’Oyly Carte Opera Company who won worldwide acclaim for staging their work.
The festival evolved over the next few years and resulted in the setting up of The National Gilbert and Sullivan Company which two decades later is still going strong.
Neil Smith, one of the producers, said: “We brand our Gilbert and Sullivan as fun, friendly and for all the family. That is what you are going to get when you come and see our shows. There is a lot of humour in them. It is respectful to the piece, the costumes are generally very traditional and we want to keep hold of that because it is part of our heritage. It is something we should be justifiably proud of.”
In addition to the five performances over three days, members of the cast are also presenting a Dementia-Friendly Concert, on Friday, July 15 at 2pm, when the orchestra and soloists will sing a selection of well-known G&S favourites, plus popular music hall ditties to sing along to, especially for dementia sufferers and their carers. The £17 ticket price includes tea and cake after the concert.
The National Gilbert & Sullivan Opera Company are here from 14 September, and tickets are available now. Tickets for the Dementia-Friendly Concert can be booked by calling the Box Office on 01603 630000.