NYGASP got a relatively abrupt bit of employment this week. The International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival, based in Buxton, England – for which I have performed in the past and described in these pages – hired us as the professional entertainment (as opposed to the many amateur G&S companies that perform there) for the first week of their festival which took place, for the first time, in Gettysburg, PA. After their week in Gettysburg the festival goes back to Buxton (Northern England) for another full TWENTY-TWO DAYS of morning to 1 AM Gilbert and Sullivan-related stuff! This is the seventeenth year of the festival, and the first year that they are having a week in the US. [See Sam Silvers' correction and additional info in the comments below.]
They wanted us for one performance each of “Pinafore,” “Pirates,” and our cabaret “I’ve Got a Little Twist,” but could offer nothing like the money NYGASP – an Equity company - would need. Dave Wannen, NYGASP company manager, talked to one of the company board members who was particularly keen that we should take this job, and this generous fellow contributed the several thousand vital to make it happen!
As part of the niggardliness (meager; penny-pinching – an archaic word for some reason sometimes considered offensive) necessary for us to do this job we had to car pool to Gettysburg. We left at a revolting hour Sunday morning and had our “Pirates” music rehearsal at 12:30 with the excellent Festival Orchestra (from England - provided at no cost to all the performing companies) and performed “Pirates” at 7:30. The audience was comprised mostly of real G&S enthusiasts - many from England, many from other companies attending the festival, and I guess some regular theater-goers from the Gettysburg area. I sang my usual definitive Major-General song and kick-ass encore and got the biggest applause I've ever had for that number. Very vociferous. I don't know how much longer they would have clapped if I had waited for them to finish before I started the dialogue. They also cheered and stood up for me at the curtain call. Everybody got great applause, it obviously wasn’t just me. They loved us. How bad could the show be, with Amy Helfer as Kate?
The Festival Orchestra does this job for transportation, room, and (I think) board. They do three more weeks of FREE daily G&S playing when the festival resumes in Buxton in August!
Monday afternoon several of us were needed to volunteer as soloists at an outdoor concert. The singers were all from G&S companies everywhere. I made another strong impression - easy to do because they gave me more to sing than anyone else. Great chorus and several good soloists. The concert was hot and long and much appreciated by the several people who attended. That evening - "I've Got a Little Twist" cabaret rehearsal.
Tuesday: performed "Twist" at 2:30. We were a little skeptical how the hardcore, purist G&S fans were going to react. Behold! It was the best audience “Twist” has had! They got ALL the jokes, laughed, clapped, and talked back to us! We were such a hit! And no drinks were even being served! 4:30 - rehearsal with orchestra for the evening show. 7:30 – “Pinafore.” Lengthy, loud applause at my entrance. Vicky Devany, the Cousin Hebe, said "That was like Angela Lansbury-quality entrance applause!" The audience was unusually attentive whenever Keith Jurosko and I were onstage and they loved (or acted as if they did) our silly ad libs. After the show there was a PROPER cabaret with alcohol at which Trial by Jury was sung all the way through for fun! I tell you, it was all a pretty hilarious experience! Thank you Al, Dave, and secret sponsor!
"I've Got a Little Twist" cast: Colm Fitzmaurice, Sarah Caldwell Smith, David Wannen, Stephen Quint, David Auxier, Angela Smith. This is not a posed shot, it's live in Gettysburg; we are this picturesque all the way through the show. Photo by David Sigafoose.