BRATTLEBORO -- Before Broadway hits such as "Les Misérables," "Phantom of the Opera," "The Sound of Music" and "Oklahoma!," there were Gilbert & Sullivan.
The two Englishmen, who collaborated on 14 comic operas from 1871 to 1896, are considered the fathers of modern musical theater, and one of their most popular works is coming to the New England Youth Theatre. Valley Light Opera will perform "H.M.S. Pinafore," or The Lass That Loved a Sailor at NEYT on Saturday, April 26, at 8 p.m., and Sunday, April 27, at 2 p.m.
Although Gilbert and Sullivan had worked together on three projects before "Pinafore," this is the show that established them as a theatrical force to be reckoned with. Pinafore opened on May 28, 1878, at the Opera Comique in London and ran for 571 performances. It became a huge hit in both England and the United States.
In November, Valley Light Opera had a successful run of "Pinafore" at Northampton’s Academy of Music. Although the version being presented at NEYT has been somewhat scaled back to accommodate the smaller space and more limited resources, it will feature period costumes, live musical accompaniment and a cast of 22. All of the actors who had principal parts in November’s production are returning to reprise their roles.
"In many ways, Pinafore set the standard for many of Gilbert and Sullivan’s subsequent successes. There’s something about this particular libretto and music that draws people in and has made this show one of the most popular pieces of musical theater ever created," said Jonathan Evans, VLO’s publicity manager. "It’s a great show for the entire family, and we hope to see many families on our visit to Brattleboro."
Admission for these general seating performances can be purchased at the door. No tickets are being sold online or by phone. Prices are $10 for adults and $3 for children and students. New England Youth Theater is located at 100 Flat St.
Valley Light Opera, based in Amherst, Mass., is a nonprofit corporation founded in 1975 by a group of Gilbert and Sullivan devotees. The company’s mission is to produce excellent light opera, primarily but not restricted to the works of Gilbert and Sullivan, to provide members of the community the opportunity to participate at all levels of these productions, and to afford both participants’ and audiences’ enjoyment and a deeper appreciation of light opera. VLO presents a fully staged opera in the fall of each year, and less formal productions in the late winter or early spring.
Over the years, Valley Light Opera has produced all 14 G&S operas as well as "Cox and Box," "The Zoo," "The Rose of Persia," "The Chieftain," "The Emerald Isle," "The Beauty Stone," "Haddon Hall" and Sullivan’s oratorio "The Prodigal Son." In addition, VLO has performed Rudolf Friml’s "The Vagabond King," Franz Lehár’s "The Merry Widow," Jacques Offenbach’s "Orpheus in the Underworld," John Philip Sousa’s "El Capitan" and Warren Martin’s "The True Story of Cinderella." For more information about VLO, visit www.vlo.org.