Ah, the genius of Gilbert & Sullivan. Ah, the brilliance of twelve-year-olds in pirate costumes.
This was, without a doubt, the most fun I have had working on a show at SCT. For a while it ranked a close second to the Alice in Wonderland that we produced last summer, but the pleasure we got out of watching the run tops everything. These kids did astoundingly funny things every night – I’m talking cheek-hurting, eyes-watering funny. They completely “got” the sense of humor of the show and ran with it. I’m tellin’ ya…these are no ordinary middle schoolers. Maybe I’m just biased because I love them, but they really rocked the house. And nobody says ‘rocked the house’ about Gilbert & Sullivan. 🙂
Don’t get me wrong; they made some pretty major mistakes, too. I haven’t completely elevated these kids to angelic status; I merely put them on a short pedestal still within arm’s reach of their tricorner hats. Opening night, one of the General’s daughters knocked over my stage right topiary with her hoop skirt. Tragedy ensued. Not one of my little geniuses even considered the possibility of standing it upright; no, no, the poor little plant became stage roadkill in a matter of seconds, managing to make it all the way across to stage left by the second verse. I cringed from the tech booth. I may have even left some fingernail marks on the railing from when they got offkey on “Poor Wand’ring One.” How eleven people can simultaneously miss their first note is beyond the scope of my understanding. But flaws and all, they pulled through with great aplomb. And much trampling of foliage.
From the very beginning, Megan and I were excited about the project. We both grew up watching another community theatre producing G&S works, but we were too young to participate in any of them. You could say that we fell in love on the sidelines. While Gilbert & Sullivan were centuries too late to be considered the first satirists, they are arguably the best at making fun of musical theatre. The cast loved the idea of overacting a ridiculous melodrama, complete with swooning ladies, clumsy pirates and a verbose old man. Maybe our enthusiasm for the script rubbed off on the kids, or maybe the natural zaniness of the students rubbed off on us. Either way, we hit upon a formula that worked.
As rehearsals progressed, it was the students who were saying “hey, wouldn’t it be funny if…” and “dude! what if I did this…” Megan was beyond superb with the musical direction, adding her own offbeat sense of humor and encouraging the m to come up with their own ideas. I think they were blown away by the freedom we gave them to make it their own. There aren’t that many mediums for children or young teens that allow so much liberty to create. When you’re involved in a group activity like that, there’s this wonderful energy that boils up inside of you and just comes bursting forth…in a good way.
Bad notes, missed cues and fumbled lyrics aside, they did the show proud. They tackled a piece of 130 year-old opera and turned it into something that their 21st century peers could appreciate. Not a mean feat, if you ask me. What shall I do next? Who’s up for The Frogs?