Although the late Anna Russell is best known for her entertaining analysis of Richard Wagner’s “Ring Cycle” the skit which I most enjoyed was her piece entitled, “How To Write Your Own Gilbert & Sullivan Operetta.” There are three reasons for my feelings.
The first is that while I do love grand opera, I can only take Wagner’s music in small doses. I would grant that he probably composed some of the most lyrical melodies of all time – but you have to sit through so much other incredibly cacophonous stuff that it hardly seems worth the wait. He is one of the few composers whose music I will only buy in it’s highlighted form.
Second, as a freshman in college I lived down the hall from a person who went far beyond the definition of being a devotee to Wagner. This student played the entire Ring Cycle from beginning to end interminably – and at such a high volume that it could be heard two counties away. This did nothing to elevate my feelings for Wagner nor did Wagner’s political philosophy which Hitler greatly admired.
Third, in a grammar school production of Gilbert & Sullivan’s, “The Mikado” I got the part of Yum Yum – thus endearing those two collaborators forever to me. So I’m going to take diva Russell’s advice and use the formula she set out and embark on writing my very own G & S operetta.
I’ve entitled it “The Abominable Snow Job.” Although I’ve only completed the libretto thus far I have also penned the words for many of the songs and have just started sketching out the music – so the completed work will have to wait for a bit and you’ll have to check back later.
Our operetta is set in Flimflamington, the capital city of the country Dweeblandia. There is much stirring as the citizens of Dweeblandia are distressed that they are being forced to work in order to learn a living. They are outside the Commander of Cheats’ home, calling for an end to their suffering. They break into the opening chorus, “We Aint Gonna Work No More No More, We Aint Gonna Work No More.” At the conclusion of their song Huzzahs go up from the throng.
Our next scene takes us to the legislative center of Dweeblandia where the leader of the House of Ill Repute, Ninny Pepperoni is planning to seize even more power. She sings her solo, “Promise Them Anything But Give Them Arepege” in which she describes her plan to cover the stench from the rapidly failing infrastructure by casting perfume on the refuse and offal that are rapidly accumulating throughout the land.
At the conclusion of her aria she is joined by the leader of the Upper House, Hapless Henry Road-Kill who confesses that he hasn’t had an original thought in his entire life and is happy to go through the balance of it without entertaining one. He then sings his solo, “Life Is Like A Box Of Buffalo Chips.”
The two of them exit as a new player enters the stage. This is our hero, a strange and exotic minstrel with a propensity for Rhythm & Blues music which he performs with difficulty on his one-string guitar. His name is Jumbled Lyah – and other than the fact that he comes from somewhere out west, he reveals little of his own background. He has come to Flimflamington to seek fame and fortune as he describes in his solo, “Gimmee, Gimmee, Gimmee.”
As he finishes his song, the chorus of Dweeblandians come on stage. Charmed by this interesting stranger they kneel at his feet and explain their plight. Jumbled Lyah promises that if he were ensconced as Commander of Cheats he would remove their suffering, take away their pain, make their lives enjoyable and they would forevermore have all that they wanted and far more than they needed. He would bring equality and fairness to the land.
The ecstatic crowd picks Jumbled Lyah up and carries him triumphantly off the stage as they sing “Happy Days Are Here Again” and then refrain, “We Aint Gonna Work No More.”
The curtain falls as Act I concludes.
The Madding Crowd has elevated Jumbled Lyah into the office of Commander of Cheats – sweeping his predecessor, Dunderhead Bush-League into a well deserved obscurity. But all is not well as Jumbled Lyah begins to assemble the staff who will assist in his dominance over the Dweeblandians.
The annoying people who opposed him, members of the Garrulous Old Poppycockers have challenged his appointment for Chancellor of the Exchequer – Tomothy Can’t-Get-It-Rightner. They have challenged his capability to run the country’s finances since it has come to light that he doesn’t comprehend the tax code which he will be sworn to uphold.
But Can’t-Get-It-Rightner defends himself in the energetic song, “It’s All Done With Smoke And Mirrors.” At the conclusion of the aria, he is confirmed in his position as the members of the upper chamber understand his thinking and explanation – true models of their own actions.
Meanwhile, in another part of the House of Ill Repute, Jumbled Lyah, Ninny Pepperoni and Hapless Henry Road-Kill are having a clandestine meeting in one of the cloak and dagger rooms. They are distressed that they are unable to deliver on the promises that they have made to the Dweeblandians and decide that the only way they can stay in power is to make even greater promises that they will not be able to fulfill – putting off the day of judgment. They sing the trio, “It’s Our Party And We’ll Lie If We Want To.”
As Dweeblandia falls into yet greater ruin an elder statesman, Romulus Paulinus attempts to set things right but is castigated by the state-dominated media and his message is lost on the general populace. He sings the dirge, “If I Could Give My Life To Set Things Right.”
At the conclusion of his song the populace decides to grant his wish by burning him at the stake. They seize this elder statesman and prepare to execute him as they bind him to a post and fuel the fire with all the bonds that their government has printed – thus killing two birds with one stone.
Alas, the fury of the flames does more than immolate statesman Paulinus. A strong gust of wind comes up during the execution spreading the flames to the House of Ill Repute which burns to the ground and which ignites further devastation ultimately razing all of Flimflamington.
Amid the disaster the Dweeblandians rejoice and sing the final chorus, “We Are One.” They have brought equality to their land. Nobody any longer has anything and in that abundance there is more than enough for all.
The curtain falls on Act II.
End of the operetta – and perhaps much more.