front cover of the programme

MUGSS 1993

The Gondoliers

Cast

Principals

Guiseppe Palmieri A Gondolier
Marco Palmieri A Gondolier
Gianetta A Peasant Girl
Tessa A Peasant Girl
The Duke of Plaza-Toro Sir Basil
The Duchess of Plaza-Toro Dame Sybil
their Daughter Casilda
their Servant Luiz
The Grand Inquisitor of Spain Don Alhambra del Bolero
Fiametta
Vittoria
Giulia
Anotonio
Francesco
Giorgio
The Nursemaid Inez
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Jonathan Snow
Chris Turner
Lucy Hill
Johanne Young
Alex Hayes
Tessa Dean
Julia Baldwin
Pete England
Justin Morley
Jo Bradley
Lucy Walsh
Elizabeth Fearon
Pete Brown
Gary Bailey
Jonathan Whitaker
Elizabeth Fearon

Chorus

Sopranos
Jane Anderson
Nicola Carrier
Helen Chapman
Juliet Chastney
Heidi Dickinson
Anna Dodds
Jane Fallon
Helen Gillham
Vicky Harris
Nicola Hoppen
Rachel Humphries
Michele D Jackson
Michelle E Jackson
Susan Kilby
Tracey Langley
Louise Robbins
Fiona Scott
Lisa Tarrant
Liz Ward
Megan Williams
Tenors
Phil Ashworth
Chris Johnson
Jonathan Miller
Suha Senol
Julian Seward
Jim Symcox
Scott Trueman
Adam Woodcraft
Basses
Alan Bird
Dave Bolton
Jof Bruce
Richard Burgess
Mike Cowperthwaite
Phil Everest
Doug Killen
Alasdair King
Paul McWilliam
Bill Mitchell
George Mullin
Iain Osborne
Christian Turner
James Williamson
Altos
Alison Baxter
Marci Berkowitz
Jacqueline Cohen
Fiona Douglass
Sarah Fulton
Jo Grace
Colette Johnston
Lisa Kirman
Catherine Lamb
Yee Law
Esme Lumsden
Carol McKay
Tracey Nuttall
Helen O'Donnell
Siobhan O'Shea
Jo Raggett
Vicky Robinson
Lucy Shepherd
Imogen Swales
Bridget Varley
Elley Wakui
Sophie White

Committee

MUGSS UGSS
Chairman
Treasurer
Secretary
Social Secretary
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Colette Johnston
Imogen Swales
Fiona Scott
Tabitha Gardner
Chairman
Treasurer
Secretary

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Esme Lumsden
James Callin
Louise Carson

Production

Musical Director
Designer
Production Manager
Stage Manager
Assistant Stage Managers

Lighting



Make-Up



Properties
Business Manager
Ticket Sales Manager
Poster Design
Publicity
Photography Advertising/Marketing



Rehearsal Accompianists

Generally Brilliant


Costume Team
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Martin Bussey
Nigel Machin
Patty Carr
Tracey Neil
Louise Carson
Elizabeth Walker
Mike Cowperthwaite
Emily Fielding
James Powell
Neil Sims
Liz Grant
Katherine Machin
Nigel Machin
Nicola Samber
Ian Wilson
Yee Law
Una Monaghan
Bill Mitchell
Pete England
Mike Harris
Helen Chapman
Pete England
Vicky Harris
Yee Law
Mike Harris
Pete England
Tabitha Gardner
Alasdair King
Phil Ashworth
Gary Bailey
Ruth Brown
Mike Cowperthwaite
Tabitha Gardner
Jo Grace
Alex Hayes
Colette Johnston
Alasdair King
Imogen Swales
Director
Choreography

Lighting Designer
Deputy Stage Manager
Stage Crew (including)


Front of House Manager
Orchestra Manager
Wardrobe Managers

Production Dentist
Inexpilcably in Programme
Programme Editor
Set Construction (including)






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John Simmonds
Colette Johnston
John Simmonds
James Callin
Caroline Marriot
Richard Lowe
Dominic Spencer
Richard Wilkinson
Ziggy Rogoff
Jenny Owen
Julia Webb
Susanna Wilding
Una Monaghan
Keiran Taylor-Thomas
Pete England
Damian Appleby
Phil Ashworth
Dave Bolton
Richard Burgess
James Callin
Louise Carson
Mike Cowperthwaite
Tessa Dean
Pete England
Rick Garner
Matt Holker
Colette Johnston
Alasdair King
Paul McWilliam
Bill Mitchell
Justin Morley
Tracy Neil
Joe Rahman
Ziggy Rogoff
Neil Sims
Richard Sullivan
Frank Stapleton
Alan Webb
Adam Woodcraft

Music

Notes

Gondoliers opened with the female chorus arrayed on the stage clutching bunches of flowers and singing their regrets at their outnumbering the two gallant Gondoliers who had stolen their hearts. With the vast numbers of women in 1993, they outnumbered everybody, but let that pass. They wore a classic Mugss costume of white blouse and multicoloured skirt with matching headscarf - the skirt was designed to flare and show one of the three colours used throughout the chorus costumes, red blue or green. The women moved vaguely about the stage, weeping and consoling each other and playing with their flowers. [List and learn]

Great hullabaloo ensued when the men entered. ["Good morrow pretty maid"]. After their attempts to seduce the women in fairly blunt fashion and subsequent rebuffal, they strove to prove their masculinity by performing the first dance routine of the show, ["The Merriest Fellows are We"], complete with ill-timed kick line and strange arm-waving actions. This proved unsurprisingly unsuccessful in winning the women's hearts. The men wore striped T-shirts on which the "Pernod" logo was only faintly noticeable, neckerchiefs and cumerbunds in the same range of colours as the women, and lovely white trousers. In homage to the egalitarian theme of the show the two eponymous Gondoliers and their loves were dressed in the same way.

The callous women now became animated with the arrival of the two Gondolieri in their fabulous Gondola. A labour of love from one enthusiastic society member, the gondola was built to Herculean standards but measured only about two feet in cabin space and six feet in length, giving it the appearance of a strange black alien pod. The slight oversights that year included the failure to build much other set before February, so the rest of the set had been cobbled together hurriedly. In Act One the set therefore consisted largely of an arch stage left and an arch stage right, a flimsy raised walkway across the width of the stage upstage that thundered and rocked upon every entrance and exit of the huge chorus, and behind that a row of somewhat unconvincing flats depicting the Venice skyline. A rope was employed to drag the wheeled alien pod along the trench formed between the walkway and the flats and allow the Gondoliers to enter and exit the stage by means of their luxurious maritime transport. The relative construction values of the pod and flats were demonstrated clearly one night when the gondola went off-course and collided with a strangely misshapen Duomo, causing one of Venice's most famous landmarks to disappear into the canal with an crash but without any discernable damage to the pod. The pod was later run repeatedly down the slope from the Opticians building at UMIST but survived every attempt upon it and had to be dismembered manually - a tribute to the love that went into its construction.

Back to the show. The two Gondoliers clambered out of their pod and processed majestically down the classic vee-formation of female chorus, [Buon giorno, signorine], kissing hands and collecting posies as they went. This was a grand opportunity for the female chorus to relive every moment of teenage pop infatuation, and palpitations, screaming, and fainting were endemic amongst the assembled throng. Having perhaps even more fun were four lucky members of the male chorus who, armed with oars, were responsible for holding back these tsunami of voracious women and their heaving bosoms. The oars were built with the same care and attention as the rest of the set and it was touch-and-go as to whether we might lose one of the men entirely under a scrum of altos, but nightly repair and the famous gaffa kept the overstressed timbers hanging together.

With the crowd worked into a frenzy, the embryonic boy band proceeded to serenade the adoring women, donning shades and utilising two microphone stands to provide a pop concert feel [We're called Gondolieri]. The women reciprocated with teenage eagerness, reclining across the very front of the stage and swaying in unison. Other groups gathered at the back, weeping and crying out in adoration. With over-acting reaching dangerous levels, the stage crew was called upon to make an onstage appearance as concert security in blacks and shades, with big "SECURITY" notices pinned to their backs, dragging back overeager female chorus. One of the two Gondoliers seemed to regard himself as born for the role of famous sex god, and gained a reputation for spending hours before the show in front of the dressing room mirror. It must be observed, though, that he did sell over eighty tickets for the show, so it would appear that he was right.

The tension now came to an climax with the greatly enjoyable contest when the desirable twosome are blindfolded and contrive to catch their loves supposedly by chance. In theory, each peeks and manage to catch their dawdling loves from the fleeing women. In this Mugss production female initiative was far more to the fore, and the two were secured by their loves after being dragged by Gianetta and Tessa out from under a huge scrum of fighting female chorus members. True to high Mugss standards of fidelity, with the removal of the two most eligible men, the women softened towards those they had spurned and all the remaining men and women happily coupled off to the charming strains of [Thank-you, gallant gondolieri] and reluctantly quit the stage.

This enormous opening section with the chorus centre-stage is a big reason why The Gondoliers is such fun for Mugss, but at last the chorus was gone to attend to their Hymenial duties. To fill the void the noble party of the Duke of Plaza-Toro lurched onto stage.

At this juncture it becomes necessary to explain that the Director, John Simmonds, was of the opinion that in appealing to modern audiences one should treat G&S largely as pantomime (or more accurately burlesque), and take such liberties with the libretto as are necessary to keep the audience in a constant state of amusement. The light and fluffy nature of The Gondoliers allowed this approach some success, perhaps more than his later 1996 Ruddigore. He added to and amended the show and in deciding on how characters should be played was happy to have recourse to popular cultural references. If you understand that the Duke was modelled on Basil Fawlty of Fawlty Towers, the Duchess on the gin-drinking upper-class drunk woman and the Spanish Inquisitor's presence necessarily involved the obvious Monty Python joke then you get a flavour of the atmosphere. Even G&S purists would admit that the audience enjoyed the modern jokes far more than the original ones by the sound of things. (Whether this reflected the audience, the way the original humour of the operetta was delivered or the changes John made I know not). Direction of the principals was otherwise minimal.

(At one point in the Duke's first scene a Gondolier wandered on stage and delivered the line "Have you seen my oar"?, to which the Duke answered "If you want an oar my boy, you had better try Sackville Street", a reference to the very local Manchester red light district and the recent discovery of the University's Vice-Chancellor to be a customer of the ladies there - a toning down of the original "If you want an oar, you had better ask the Vice-Chancellor").

So, the Duke and entourage paraded to the [Ducal Entrance] and a fine loathsome bunch they proved. The plot was advanced and the band insulted with the Duchess swigging the whole time and the ridiculous red nose and bouffant white hair of the Duke growing redder and bouffier. When challenged with his obvious faults as a father, nobleman and financier, the Duke delivered his [Duke of Plaza-Toro] with great aplomb and finished it by shooting dead a flying rubber chicken with a shotgun. But wait! The snooty and imperious air of the young Casilda was but a front for her returned feelings of love for the noble of heart but lowly of station Luiz. Cooing proceeded [Oh bury] but the touching scene was terminated by the lurching return of the Ducal party proper to announce the Grand Inquisitor. Fake smoke and ominous lights billowed from the arch until the Inquisitor himself appeared at breakneck speed on a bicycle and sped across the stage to exit stage right to a loud crash, upon which a bicycle wheel rolled back across the stage followed by the evil one no worse for the crash. Much hammily-delived plot development followed, including the forcefully delivered [I stole the Prince] from the Inquisitor. The constant repetition of the plot to attempt to explain its idiocies to a largely uncaring audience was another gag - "Do you think they've got it yet?".

Gradually catching on the plot, the Ducal party in full sang of their consternation [Life's a pudding full of plums] and fled the stage to confer, leaving all clear for the return of the chorus, billing and cooing and newly nuptialised [Bridegroom and bride] but astoundingly resisting the temptation to form a heart formation. Tessa delivered the lovely [When a merry maiden marries] while traditional cheek stroking and hand-holding occurred, with a degree of enthusiasm relative to the actual accomplishment in obtaining the particular fine figure of chorushood whose cheek and hand one was engaging. This early pairing-off in the Gondoliers accords the chorus much amusement or anguish, since they subsequently spend most of the show looking doe-eyed at one particular lovely or leper - quite a lottery.

Having entered to sing, the chorus randomly wandered off again to leave the Grand Inquisitor, who went ahead and put his oar in by breaking to the four newly-weds the news that one of the two Gondoliers was the King of Barataria. Their Republican sentiments, admirably demonstrated by a rendition of the "Stars and Stripes", quickly evaporated on this news. Their first sorrow at their impending separation, expressed beautifully by Gianetta with [Woman's heart is one with woman's hand] turned to delight when the Inquisitor promised a quick resolution and general wealth and happiness to them all. The mouthwatering prospect of riches and power began to sink in and they whipped out straw hats and canes for a very jolly [Regular royal queen]. During their final dance routine the chorus returned, and discovered their republican heroes in a monarchic frenzy. Not to worry, no stronger emotion than confusion reigned - this is The Gondoliers, not Yeomen - and all was explained away [All shall equal be].

And so all prepared for the men's departure as proud equal citizens of the Kingdom of Barataria. Gianetta and Tessa sung the beautiful [Don't forget you've married me]. While this tearful parting was taking place in the spotlights at the front of the stage the chorus was stationary and still in the darkness at the back, clustered about and seated on the platform, consoling each other for the parting ahead. Alas, our direction to be as still and quiet as possible, the darkness, the sitting down, and the usual fatigue of show week, combined to mean that when the orchestra suddenly came alive and all jumped to their feet with a shout for [Away we go to an island fair] there was a certain amount of violent shock to some parties and a certain number of slightly-behind chorus members trying to work out what exactly was going on or being sung, notably by them themselves.

The Gondoliers "one-two-three-haul"-ed their transport to the dockside, the good ship... well, in the libretto it's the Xebeque, but in reality the Gondola-builder had struck again, this time producing a flat in the shape of a ship's prow. Not just in the shape of any old ship's prow, in fact, but in the anthropic shape of a certain female chorus member. The chorus member, that is, combined with a certain amount of male wishful thinking on the part of the builder in terms of dimension. History does not relate whether or not she noticed, though it is not thought that the set-as-mating-trophy homage tactic was successful. No other piece of scenery is thought to have been modelled on a Mugss member - if Big Ben in 1997 Iolanthe was intended to be a tribute, history does not relate to whom this considerable compliment was being paid.

In any case, the men finally exited as a crowd leaving the waving and hysterical women as the curtain came down. Keen observers may have noticed a certain competitive spirit amongst the keen plyers of the Venetian canals in being the most loyal and loving husband, that is, the last to drag themselves weeping and stretching out arms towards their loved ones from the stage, but this was very much in the spirit of the show that year. That's my excuse, anyway, and I'm sticking to it.

Pictures


The chorus assemble.