Friday, October 14, 2011

Arts in Minneapolis

Broadcast of HMS Pinafore from the Guthrie Theater
Even in the catalogue of Gilbert and Sullivan, there are few works as resilient as "Pinafore".  Sir Malcolm Sargent's is nice, certainly, but a school orchestra or even two pianos will serve, and I have heard it done by everything from Middle School children to Little Theater Groups to summer Opera, leaving apart the old D'Oyly Carte albums.  It can survive even singers who can't sing.

It cannot quite survive 'musical arrangements' that sound like bad imitations from "Trouble in Tahiti"or "Guys and Dolls".  It cannot stand, in addition, stage business, relentlessly, that make it look like "Saps at Sea" set in Lake Wobegon on "A Prairie Home Companion".  You could get arrested in Texas or Wyoming for some of its sexual stunts (not that minstrel shows mixed with burleykew on the road didn't do the like).  They just plain trashed it, as hard as they could, and quite obviously thought they were being new and bold.  Not.
They did keep most of W. S. Gilbert's most well known lines, but they cannot be said to have kept anything of Sir Arthur Sullivan.
I must make one exception: Peter Thomson as Sir Joseph Porter.  Graceful even when asked to do dumb things, musical in everything he sang.  Excellent, and quite horribly out of place.  After ten minutes, I had wondered what would happen when we got to "When I Was a Lad".  No problem.  If only Buttercup hadn't been so bad.

The cast besides kept falling into and out of the grossest imitations of Cockney that I ever heard; only Peter Thomson used Standard English.  How would it be if you did Oscar Wilde in the Ozarks?

The performance was far too broad to compare with "The Three Penny Opera".  Laurel and Hardy (as suggested above) was the closest I could think of, but the latter had far more art in their act.  Crudity demands great art.  The worst of this Guthrie thing was that they thought they were so awfully cute, and the orchestral arrangements the most so, the worst of all.  Oh, Jerome Kern, where are you now that we need you.
Maybe Cajun Louisiana isn't so bad, after all.