The mission of the PittsburghSavoyards is to present the works of the most successful musical theater team of all time, Gilbert and Sullivan. The Pittsburgh Savoyards have been on this mission for 80 years. They give theatergoers the opportunity to experience the most popular works of Gilbert and Sullivan as well as some of their less known and appreciated productions. On the 2nd of March 2018 the Pittsburgh Savoyards presented their most recent production of the Gilbert and Sullivan musical, The Grand Duke, at the Andrew Carnegie Free Library in Carnegie PA. The last time this work was seen in Pittsburgh was in 1977. The Grand Duke was the final musical on which the great team collaborated. This very long production was the only financial failure that Gilbert and Sullivan experienced. It was one of their least appreciated works.
The good news is that the Savoyards didn’t let press releases from yesteryear get in their way. They trimmed The Grand Duke’s length to about two hours while managing to keep the story intact and the audience in their seats. Watching the high steps and facial expressions of the on-stage talent, I was convinced that they were delivering one of the best of the Gilbert and Sullivan works.
It’s a fun plot. A local theater group devises a plan to replace the current Grand Duke with one of their own. While on route to make this plan a reality everyone discovers the unthought-of consequences for their actions.
The songs in The Grand Duke were ones that I, and possibly most of the audience, have never heard before, so I believe it was an accomplishment for most of the musical numbers to be followed by at least polite applause, with a half of dozen numbers receiving ovations showing sincere and enthusiastic appreciation.
Among the numbers that the audience seemed to appreciate the most were Sally Denmead, who played the penny-pinching Baroness, sing “Come Bumpers, Aye E’er So Many.” Anna Lahti who played Julia performed a beautiful rendition of “So Ends My Dream. “ And finally the rendition of “The Prince of Monte Carlo” by Mark Harris as Herald was a real show stopper.
As always the Pittsburgh Savoyards delivered a great show. If you are a Gilbert and Sullivan fan that passes on this one because it’s not considered one of their “best” shows, all I can say is you’ve missed a very good evening at the theater.
To the 20 some musicians who volunteer their time to provide that live music experience I can only say, “Thank You.”
The 8th, 9th, 10th and 11th of March will be your last opportunities to see the current version of The Grand Duke. I hope it doesn’t take another 40 years for it to return to a Pittsburgh stage.
By Tom Pollard