Thursday, February 26, 2009

An Evening With Pirates

This is the eve of the celebration of my 72nd year, the festivities of which will be shared with my son, Andrew, tomorrow at UCSF Medical Center: chocolate cake (of course! even in Lent!) and plates and napkins bearing the comment: "What's one more candle!"

As a be-nice-to-myself gift, I bought a ticket for tonight's performance of Gilbert and Sullivan's The Pirates of Penzance (or The Slave of Duty), presented by students at nearby Sonoma State University.  It was fantastic!! From the set and lighting, to the costumes, to the nicely done British accents, to the performance itself.  The "Keystone Cops" were outstanding, particularly the leader whose name I don't know.  "Major General" Jon Hakala did a flawless rendition of "The Model of a Modern Major General", one of the most difficult musical solos in any musical.  I, for one, was beaming with joy at the finale, and judging from the applause, so were the cast's colleagues.

This particular musical has special meaning for me.  I just now realized that it was almost exactly 50 years ago, in the spring of 1959, that Pirates of Penzance was chosen as the spring production at St. Charles Seminary, where I was in my first year of philosophy studies.  I know, I know what you're thinking -- how could we possibly pull this musical off with an all-male cast?! I can't honestly tell you, but I do know that whoever adapted it did a "capital job", as the British might say, and it was a huge success (it was also presented for our families and the public).  Of course, I don't think I ever really figured out or understood the story line until this evening.  Suffice it to say that it's much more plausible with a mixed cast of women and men! An upperclass deacon, one of my best friends in years to come and up to this day, in fact, directed the production.  I was cast as one of the little kids (young women in the original!) "climbing over rocky mountains".  Just as it was this evening, the "Major General" role then was done superbly by Phil Gilbert, a rich basso. I remember being in complete awe of him.

This was the first program I've attended at SSU, noted for its music program, and it evoked many happy memories.  I'm sure that it won't be the last one I attend there.        

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