Doyle's Radical Gondoliers Sails Into the LyricDate: 7 June 2001
John Doyle's acclaimed reworking of Gilbert & Sullivan's The Gondoliers will preview at the Lyric, Shaftesbury Avenue from 19 June 2001, with the opening night on 21 June. A Watermill Theatre production, the musical played at the Newbury Watermill earlier this year, before running as part of the Covent Garden Festival in May.
Doyle's version, described by The Guardian as, "Rather like The Godfather meets a spaghetti western", finds a Chicago mafia family descending on the suave surrounds of a jazz café in London's Italian quarter. In the café, known as The Gondola, the family searches out the Palmieri brothers, one of whom they suspect is the head of a powerful new mob. However, a welter of plots, intrigues and romances soon contrives to land them in hot water. Sullivan's (pictured) score has also been given a jazzy makeover from its original version.
Doyle also gave a radical reworking to Bizet's Carmen in 2000. His previous work includes stints as Artistic Director of the Everyman Theatres in Liverpool and Cheltenham, and a four-year engagement in the same role at York Theatre Royal. He is also a renowned Guest Director and has held numerous academic and consultant positions.
The Gondoliers first opened on 7 December 1889 at the London Savoy Theatre. The original story, which satirizes societal snobbery, follows Gilbert's favourite theme of topsy-turvydom. "I am told that the public like the topsy-turvy best, so this time they are going to get it", he reportedly said. After the first performance Gilbert wrote to Sullivan thanking him for the "magnificent work you have put into this piece. It gives one a chance of shining right through the Twentieth Century with a reflected light".
However, things didn't run quite so smoothly behind the scenes. When D'Oyly Carte, as Manager, purchased a new carpet for the front of the house, the cost was charged to their joint account. Gilbert considered this expenditure (£140) a major extravagance but Sullivan sided with Carte. Gilbert subsequently took a lawsuit against the pair but lost the case. Despite this, The Gondoliers ran for 554 consecutive performances and was honoured by a Command Performance before Queen Victoria at Windsor Castle in 1891.
- by Gareth Thompson