Educate a Gilbert And Sullivan Tyro

So I’ve just seen my very first Gilbert and Sullivan play - it was a high school production of The Pirates of Penzance - and I believe I may be hooked.

So I know that the big three are The Mikado, HMS Pinafore and Pirates but the most popular aren’t always the best. For that reason I come to you all with two questions:
1)What is the best of Gilbert and Sullivan’s plays?
2)Which play has the best of their patter songs?


Moved Great Debates --> Cafe Society.

Thanks, sorry about that. I went to GD because I’m told G&S afficianados can get rowdy - if Frasier is anything to go by :wink:

I lean toward the Mikado, especially after seeing Itzhak Perlman in it.

I believe the best, or at least best-known, G&S patter-song is the “Major-General’s Song” from Pirates of the Penzance.

BTW, if you’re getting into G&S, I highly recommend you rent a DVD of Topsy-Turvy. It’s about the conception, writing and production of The Mikado.

I adore Gilbert & Sullivan, so it’s hard for me to pick a best. The big three are certainly very good and worth seeing. Of the lesser-known operettas, my favorites are The Gondoliers and Patience.

The Sorcerer has a nifty patter song, “My Name is John Wellington Wells.”

No one performs The Sorcerer :frowning: (if anyone knows of a good recorded performance I’d greatly appreciate it.)

*The Yeomen of the Guard *is my personal favourite with Pinafore at #2. But they’re all good. Just don’t expect the plots to make a great deal of sense.

I saw The Sorcerer once. It was put on by the Stanford Savoyards maybe 20 years ago.

We did The Sorcerer one year at my school. We also did Utopia, Limited. Our musical director liked doing the lesser performed ones.

Musically I think the best are The Yeoman of the Guard and Iolanthe.

Seconded on Topsy-Turvy. I love that movie!

I’m baffled as to why the film of The Pirates of Penzance still hasn’t come out on DVD. I know G&S purists might have some problems with it, but it was a great introduction to their work.

My personal favourite of their second-tier works is Ruddigore for the character of Mad Margaret and for Robin’s ancestors berating him for the uninspired crimes he commits.

A close second is Patience, but only because a good friend of mine does an scary-good Bunthorne.

Iolanthe has a really great patter song, “When You’re Lying Awake”, featuring both verbal dexterity and an amusing description of a really strange nightmare. Musically, the Finale to Act 1 takes a lot of beating too. Most G&S’s also feature one genuine Tear Jerker, too, and Io is no exception with the sniffle-inducing “He Loves! If In The Bygone Years” sung by Iolanthe to the Lord Chancellor.

Yeoman actually goes further with a Downer Ending with Point the jester collapsing senseless, although it’s not clearly established whether he does in fact die of a broken heart.

It may not be on DVD, but it appears to be available on Hulu - not quite the same, but still better than nothing: Hulu

Nitpick: they’re not plays, they’re operettas.

I actually played the title role in an avant-garde production of The Mikado about fifteen years ago and had a roaring, campy good time in the part. I highly recommend it.

Thanks for this.

I’m glad that you suggested I not expect the plots to make much sense. Pirates left me staggered by the lyrical virtuosity but the story (and the ending) left a little to be desired.

I’m really looking forward to better acquainting myself with G&S :slight_smile:

Well, I WAS going to try to be productive this afternoon…

Thank you all for your suggestions!

Sine Nomine - I checked out John Wellington Wells on Youtube, you’re right it is cool!

CommaSense - Thanks for the nitpick :slight_smile: I really wasn’t sure if I should call them plays, light operas, operettas or operas (I was pretty sure they weren’t operas). Consider my ignorance fought on this front.

Any other particular favourite songs I should hunt down (they are still called songs right ;))?

“Play” vs “operetta” is like “rectangle” and “square.”

Run out in a frenzy and buy a copy of Topsy-Turvy this instant. You won’t regret it. In addition to the songs from The Mikado, it has snippets from earlier works including “The Sorcerer” “Patience” and “Princess Ida”.