A fortieth anniversary calls for celebration, and a celebration there will be. The Waterloo Regional Gilbert and Sullivan Society will mark four decades of music and theatre with the 40th Anniversary Topsy-Turvy Show on April 19. It will include former and new artists from around the region and country.Some of the returning cast members include Wayne Berwick, Alison Watson Moodie, Nancy Hiebert, Judith Bean, Barbara Brown, Alison Enns, Jason Hales, Dan Lenz, Paul Nowak, Tom Goerz, Brian Otto, Brian Black, Amanda Kind, Caroline Dery and Rachel Cleland.
“We have one person that is coming from Nova Scotia, one person coming from out west, several people coming from Hamilton and even more from Toronto,” Leslie-Gail Hill, secretary for the society, said. “Some of our singers that started out as basic singers have now become professional singers, which is just great. We were amazed. We sent out letters to everybody that had ever done a role with us and all but two said they’d be there with bells on.”
The society celebrates the production of operettas written by W.S. Gilbert and Sir Arthur Sullivan. They will also be putting on a youth abridged performance of “HMS Pinafore” at Elora Public School from May 7-9. It will star Grade 7 and Grade 8 students from the school.
“If we can get the kids interested in doing or even watching Gilbert and Sullivan when they’re younger, when they get to the age where they’re in high school, if you’re in the collegiate somewhere along the line you’re going to touch on a Gilbert and Sullivan song because they’re used as teaching songs as a way to sing properly,” Hill said.
The kids were running around the school singing the songs they learned for HMS Pinafore between classes and on lunch break, even the kids who aren’t in the production.
“That is really neat because Gilbert and Sullivan really are sing-able,” Hill said. “They’re very lyrical tunes and quick and easy to pick up. We may not fade into the mist. We may be able to keep things going here.”
She said they used to do productions every year, but with the cost of putting together costumes and sets, it’s just not feasible anymore. Perth Country Players did The Mikado last fall and she thinks a theatre group in Guelph will be doing one this coming fall.
“Any other community theatre around, they’re doing Broadway because you can sort of cheat on things,” Hill said. “People don’t really know the difference between the costumes of what people wore in the ‘30s and ‘40s. When you do a Gilbert and Sullivan you’re talking 1866 through to 1910. Finding garments like that at Value Village doesn’t work. You have to alter them somehow to give them that look.”
They haven’t put on a big production in a few years. The last was “Princess Ida,” which has a British background in the 14th century. They still do smaller concerts throughout the year though, which they use to save up for larger productions.
“It’s so important because with the rising cost in the world today when we put on a production we’ve got to have a jar full of loonies to the tune of around $50,000 to be able to put on a great big production,” Hill said. “Community theatres are not doing that sort of costume drama because it’s just too expensive.”
In June and July members of the society will perform Gilbert and Sullivan music in flash mob style at Victorian teas.
The anniversary will also be recognized by Drayton Entertainment with their production of the “Pirates of Penzance” at the St. Jacobs Country Playhouse in October.
“We’re really excited about this 40th anniversary – we’ve actually been around this long and it’s only because of our volunteers. They’re awesome,” Hill said.
There’s no price for admission for the Topsy-Turvy Show, but a goodwill offering will be accepted at the door. The society is a non-profit charitable organization.
“We have a ball and we make friends for life,” Hill said. “That is the best thing of all. We entertain the community but we make really good friends.”
The Topsy-Turvy Show runs at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. on April 19. To reserve your ticket email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 519-886-3932. More information about the group can be found online at www.gswaterloo.ca.