In the late 1980s and 1990s, D'Oyly Carte, which is dedicated to reviving the works of Gilbert and Sullivan, was absent from the West End for nearly a decade. But since the company returned in 1998 with a production of The Pirates of Penzance, they have helped to fuel a renewed interest in the famous duo's operettas. In the past two years, they have made regular appearances at their "spiritual home", the Savoy, with Pirates, The Mikado and HMS Pinafore, the last two of which were both nominated for Outstanding Musical Production in the 2001 Laurence Olivier Awards.
Premiered at the Savoy in 1882, when it ran for 400 performances, Iolanthe is a satire on the Parliament of the day. Iolanthe has been banished from the fairy kingdom for marrying a mortal. When her half-breed son wants to marry Phyllis, a ward of the court who has captured the hearts of all of the House of Lords, Iolanthe returns to plead his cause.
The later G&S operetta, The Yeoman of the Guard, first opened at the Savoy in 1888 and ran for 423 performances. It concerns a colonel who is falsely sentenced to death for practicing sorcery. But he escapes and marries a minstrel girl, causing heartache for her boyfriend.
In 1876 Richard D'Oyly Carte formed the Comedy Opera Company and the following year produced The Sorcerer, his first collaboration with Gilbert and Sullivan. The ensuing success of their partnership enabled D'Oyly Carte to build the Savoy in 1882. It was the first public building to be lit throughout by electricity. The theatre was virtually destroyed by fire in 1990 but, after extensive refurbishments, it reopened in 1993. The D'Oyly Carte Company continues to be dedicated to producing faithful recreations of the Savoy Operas of Gilbert & Sullivan.
The operettas are preceded by the West End return of sci-fi musical Return to the Forbidden Planet, which runs from 11 December 2001 to 19 January 2002.
- by Terri Paddock