That's probably why I'm not directing Iolanthe this year.
Gene Leonardi: Tom Shepard, in a delightful flight of fancy, said:
That serves as inspiration for the following:
IOLANTHE, somewhat revised second act finale.
Ld. Mount.: Well, now that the Peers are to be recruited entirely from persons of intelligence, I really don't see what use we are down here, do you, Tolloller?
Ld. Toll.: None, whatever.
Queen: Good! - Then away we go to Fairyland!
Suddenly , swooping down upon the Houses of Parliament, appears a squadron of "winged helicopters". Descending from cables, who should arrive but---
Fairies: The Pirates! The Pirates! Oh despair!
Pirates: Walls are unavailing, we have entered here!
Peers: Oh, I say!
Drops in, Ruth.
Ruth: Hold! One moment, let me tell you who they are: They are no members of the common throng, They are all noblemen, who have gone wrong.
Enter, in convoy, chorus of policemen and daughters.
Daughters: Breaking all the rules of driving, We are finally arriving. Thanks to our delightful police escort. We could raise a mighty ruckus, With some cop cars right beside us We'd no time to take the train, to take the train!
Enter Major General Stanley.
Major General: I pray you pardon us, This ain't our show! But here we are, And as you've got to go (indicating Pirates) They'll take your ranks, And legislative duties, And as for my daughters...Well, I've given up trying to deal with them. They're going to do what they want to in any case!
Queen: Have you quite finished!
Major General: Yes your....uh..whatever you are.
Queen: May we have our finale back now?
Major General: Unless you'd rather sing ours.
Queen: I don't believe the Peers are very good sight readers.
Major General: Point taken. You have no idea how long....
Queen: (Hastily) Good! (Wings spring from shoulders of Peers)
Then away we... (you know which ones you are).. go to Fairyland!
Rest of finale as printed, (PIRATES finale up to discretion of Music Director).
Gay Devlin: Iolanthe always reminds me that when you're involved in G&S you can find that the performances you remember are not always the ones on stage.
About twenty years ago I took part in a production of Iolanthe at the Gaiety Theatre in Dublin. This was, in some ways, a wonderful old theatre, but the backstage areas (including the toilets) were completely unheated; and this production occurred during the winter. The stage director decided that there would be a ballet during the overture, and that the ballet required ground fog and, therefore, dry ice. At the conclusion of the overture, the fog (and ice) had to disappear completely. So the stage crew took the remaining heap of this sub-arctic stuff to the already freezing Gents and tipped it into the great concrete slab of a urinal. So, when Peers would be peers, the object was to achieve the fastest 'turnaround' possible. Not an easy thing when you're wearing satin boxers and white tights. Oh dear. Well, at least we had gloves.
Paul McShane: In the process of musing on Ian Hollamby's posting on "Favesings", it occurred to me that the only time I appeared in a full Iolanthe production was in the men's chorus. One particular memory of the time was being afflicted with the malady that quickly became known as Peer's Elbow. You catch it by jutting out an elbow sideways for prolonged periods of time while other people sing/talk/get roared at by the director, all the while using the portion of the arm around the elbow to hold up one side of your cape, which is made of some heavy velvety material. I'll bet there are quite a few Savoynetters who know exactly what I mean. Beats RSI hands down.
My Peer's Elbow has a fascination that few can resist.
David Craven: Sometimes companies engage in rather significant rewrites of G&S works, from the Red and Hot Mikados, to modern Patiences to Utopia Ltd set on the moon. Yet I have never heard of a the actual performance of any "high concept" approaches to Iolanthe. Since this will eventually happen, we on the Savoynet, might as well sketch out such an approach. I suggest "Hillary" as the name for our new approach.
It is, essentially an up-dating of Iolanthe to late 1990's U.S. Politics, although I suspect that a UK update would be equally outlandish.
House of Peers would, of course, become the United States Senate. While this does sadly cut out Newt Gingrich as a butt of humor, it does follow, in some small way, the difference between the House of Lords and the House of Commons (although interestingly, Senators on a percentage basis are far more likely to get defeated than House members.)
Now to our leads...
Iolanthe, of course, would be Hillary Clinton, sentenced to the bottom of a Stream for daring to think new and original ideas during the 1992 Presidential Election campaign by...
The Fairy Queen... who would be representative of hundreds of years of stereotypes of woman as a decorative item that stays at home and cooks, or if she has a job, it is one of fluff.. and is personified by Kathie Lee Gifford
The Fairies would be the unliberated male fantasy version of american womanhood... as represented by women in beer commercials....
Lord Mounta. would be Jesse Helms (fitting in well with the brilliant "When Jesse really ruled..." parody of a few months back.
Lord Toll. would be Strom Thurmond, the nonagenarian Senator who is also President of the Senate and (shudder) third in line for Presidency of the United States. (Tom Shepard: Actually, I had thought that Jesse Helms WAS Strom Thurmond.)
David Craven: Private Willis... someone who is a truth teller in these days and cuts right to the heart of an issue... Ted Koppel (A british-born U.S. Television newscaster of a program called nightline in which he has to be able to intelligently question his subjects. About as far from the talking head of local teevee news as one can get.)
Now the tough ones... Strephon and Phyllis
Strephon needs to be someone who will bring real reform to the system. As I see it, this could be anyone of many peoples.. Ross Perot, Ralph Nader, Bill Bradley,.. but as I am a liberal, I will select Jesse Jackson, who if elected really would shake up the system....
Phyllis.... an object of desire for several characters and difficult to reconcile... lets make her the American Voter... an average citizen... Jane Roe if you like...
GO ahead flame away... Would I ever produce this? Of course not. Is it grounded in the text of Iolanthe? Of course not. Is it inspired by Iolanthe? yes. And someday someone will actually produce something like this...
David Craven: And I forgot the Lord Chancellor... of course that would be Bill Clinton.....
Bruce I. Miller: This is great fun, but there are all kinds of options one might envision. Since we're dealing with the supernatural, we can have Eleanor Roosevelt as the Fairy Queen and Hillary Clinton as Iolanthe. The name of the stream is, of course, Whitewater. I'm not sure yet where we'd fit in Bill Clinton and Paula Jones, but I'm sure a creative director would find a way.
David Craven: Eleanor Roosevelt as the FQ is inspired... a great idea....
and Paula Jones could be one of the named fairies... Leila and what's her name... could be Celia...
Theodore C Rice: I'd cast Paula Jones as Iolanthe. It would give the LC someone to leer at. Let Hillery be one of the other fairies !
Tom Shepard: How about Despard and Margaret: he really means to only do good, and she really means only to snag him.
Richard N. Freedman: "To snag him" is a rather strange way to characterize Paula Jones' search for vindication. How can anyone be more appropriate for Clinton/Despard's Mad Margaret than Hillary?
Andrew Crowther: I gather that an update was performed in the 1970s/80s called _The Ratepayers' Iolanthe_. I think it was rewritten by Ned Sherrin, but that's all I know of it.
As to a British update, it strikes me that the very charming and fragrant Tony Blair would do very well for Strephon. Carries every Bill he chooses indeed: a huge Parliamentary majority is a good substitute for fairy influence. Those more politically aware than I will be able to tell me if the abolition of the House of Lords is on the cards, but nice Mr Blair is certainly set on turning the British Constitution upside-down.
We've seen in recent days that he's on very good terms with Fairy Queen Lady Thatcher. The huge increase in the number of women MPs might do for the Fairy Band. Analogies break down with master gurner Cherie Blair, who doesn't seem a very convincing Phyllis; but she's ideally placed to sing, "The Law is the true embodiment...."
I'd better stop thinking about this. It's all beginning to seem frighteningly plausible.
Marc Shepherd: I was lucky enough to see THE RATEPAYERS' IOLANTHE in the early 1980s, which was a loose adaptation in which all the characters were clearly based on then-prominent figures from U.K. politics. I distinctly recall that Strephon was Nigil Lawson and the Fairy Queen Margaret Thatcher, but there were many jokes that passed me by. Nonetheless, it was one of the funniest evenings I have ever passed in the theater.
The production, though clearly based on IOLANTHE and using many of the songs, did not follow Gilbert's plot exactly. It was written by Ned Sherrin, who also did THE METROPOLITAN MIKADO -- either the year before or the year after. Michael Walters: It was the year after.
David Duffey: And was a frequent collaborator of Caryl Brahms, from whom, no doubt, he learned his G&S. With a bridge player called Simonds (?) Caryl Brahms wrote two of the funniest books of the century: "Don't Mr Disraeli" and "A Bullet in the Ballet". The last particularly recommended to SavoyNetters who have not read it, due to its setting in a stock theatrical company, albeit a ballet one.
Michael Walters: I think the name of her collaborator was A.J. Symons. Mention of "A Bullet in the Ballet" reminds me - does anyone know the author of "Death of a Fat God"? This was a murder mystery set in an opera house during rehearsals.
Updated 28 November 1997