Pinafore opened on July 24, 1959 to a packed house and played to packed houses for twenty performances. Dean Wallace (Chron, July 26) characterized the opening night show as "feathery light, crisp as celery, and devastatingly funny." He complimented the chorus as "strong and well balanced" and the principal roles as "handleld by some of the best voices in town."
~ The Lamplighters: Twenty-Five Years of Gilbert and Sullivan in San Francisco, by Alison Lewis, Carolyn McGovern, and ME!
Good thing Dean Wallace didn't see this 2004 production!
Angels and Demons...good thing to read in the car driving to SF (Walt was driving...thought I should make that clear!)
HMS Pinafore for the bazillionth time, at The Lamplighters. It's a misnomer, unfortunately, to call today's show "entertainmnet."
Breakfast: Oatmeal with blueberries.
Lunch: A huge salad at The Buckhorn, a restrant in The Metreon
Dinner: We went to Bucca di Beppo and had lots and lots and lots of Italian food.
Sunny and clear--all that rain washed away all the impurities, briefly.
11 January 2004
It has always been difficult to categorize The Lamplighters. The San Francisco Chronicle wont review Lamplighters shows any more because it is a matter of policy not to review "community theatre."
In the strictest sense of the word, The Lamplighters is, indeed, "community theatre," in that its performers are not paid and you will never see any big names appearing on The Lamplighters stage.
But in its 50 years it has progressed way beyond the typical "community theatre" in terms of talent and production value. With a full 15-20 piece union orchestra, a professional set designer, a costume shop, and a generous yearly stipend from The City as its share of San Franciscos "hotel tax," which goes to supports arts programs in The City, The Lamplighters long ago crossed out of "strict community theatre" and entered the grey area which is perhaps best described as "professional non-professional theatre."
We have had the pleasure of watching this company develop. We missed the first 8-10 years, but we have been around since the 1960s, as regular patrons, and, for long periods of time (12 years for me, longer for Walt) participants in various aspects of the company.
We have made wonderful friends among people who have stuck around for a long time. Though we arent as closely involved as we once are, we still enjoy getting together with friends weve made in the company. Now-a-days, we usually see them when we all decide to go and see the current show together.
That was how today we went to San Francisco to see the latest production of HMS Pinafore. Now, in truth, Pinafore is not my favorite Gilbert & Sullivan operetta and several years ago, I expressed the sentiment that I would be happy if I never had to see it again. So I wasnt really looking forward to it on general principles, but (a) it gave my arm another day to rest, (b) it gave me the chance to read Angels and Demons on the ride downwhich got to be so gripping that I suggested to Walt that he leave me in the car reading and meet me after the show.
It wasnt too long into the first act when I was remembering that request and wishing Id acted on it.
I cant remember the last time I saw a show this shoddy at The Lamplighters. In fairness to the company, the audience seemed to love it. I heard one woman behind me say that it was one of the best things shed seen. Perhaps she was new to the company. It was, in fact, a better than average community theatre production. It was by no means even a poor "professional non-professional" production. I can only hope that the director, who was new to the company, is to blame and that he will never again be hired to direct a Lamplighter show.
There were problems in every segment of the show. The Lamplighter choruses have been famous for their precision, but this chorus was not well drilled. One guy, who was wearing pants at least 2 sizes too big for him (something else you should never see in a Lamplighter production), was always out of step, and always checking with the guys on either side of him to see what to do next. You may expect this with some community theatres; you dont expect it at The Lamplighters.
Dick Deadeye is supposed to be a hunchback who is so hideous that everyone hates him or is afraid of him. He was played by a tall handsome hunk whose only deformity was a patch over one eye. (He apparently had a scar down one cheek, which could not be seen by the audience until they met him in the lobby after the show.) He didnt even walk with the traditional "three-cornered" gait referred to in the script. Whenever anyone recoiled from him in horror, it was ludicrous. He also had difficulty hitting the lower notes when he sang.
Ralph, the handsome hero, did not have the vocal range for the part. His voice cracked every time he went up for higher notes, he was off key several times, and the worst part was that he dropped lines all over the place. At one point the conductor had to audibly toss him a line (which I suspect half the audience could have given him). I cant remember the last time a performer on stage at The Lamplighters had to be fed a line during a performance.
The blocking was ridiculous. The Captain and the chorus of "sisters, cousins and aunts" and at one point the entire crew exited off the boat after numbers, rather than into the cabin of the ship. Where they were supposed to be going is beyond me, especially since later in the show, Dick Deadeye is thrown out the same exit they had made and lands in the water.
I was groaning by intermission and couldnt pretend that it was a good show when I saw the manager of the company, a friend of mine. I just muttered to her "youve done better. Youve done a lot better."
The production was saved by a fair Josephine, who took command of the role more in the second act than the first, and a Sir Joseph Porter (Lawrence Ewing) who has always been outstanding, and did not disappoint tonight either. Our friend Will Connolly, who played Captain Corcoran also gave a solid performance with a strong voice and stood head and shoulders above most of the rest in the cast.
It saddened me to see the show tonight. I have seen the company go through good times and bad times, but almost never have I seen them give a performance of the quality I witnessed tonight. I just hope that it was a fluke.
PHOTO OF THE DAY
Tom was in HMS Pinafore at The Lamplighters back in 1985.
Weight Lost to date: 46.6 lbs