Welcome to the banquet

- October 28, 2008 The Grand Duke as dinner theatre at Dalhousie's University Hall." />

The Grand Duke (Duncan Miller) wooes the wealthy baroness (Dal grad Jolene Pattison) in The Gilbert & Sullivan's Society of Nova Scotia's The Grand Duke. (Jacqui Good Photo)

When’s the last time you’ve been to a wedding? Look, there’s the handsome groom, royally attired in his wedding finery. Oh, and there’s the bride—and another one, and another one and another one? Did I really count four brides?

You’ve probably never heard of The Grand Duke. And yet, says director Jacqui Good, it’s a lot of nonsense and fun, like all of Gilbert & Sullivan’s work.

“It’s a nutty little show that takes place at a wedding and no one has ever done it here before,” says Ms. Good, who has previously directed Iolanthe and Pirates of Penzance for the Gilbert & Sullivan Society of Nova Scotia. “It’s neat to find something that’s just as great but no one really knows.”

The Grand Duke was librettist W.S. Gilbert and composer Arthur Sullivan’s last opera, opening in March of 1896. It was supposed to be a comeback of sorts for the pair, but ran for only 123 performances. At the time, the reviewer for The Times of London warned “it is not by any means another Mikado” while the Musical Standard noted “it becomes very wearisome in places.”

Original 1896 poster.










You're invited...

The Gilbert & Sullivan Society of Nova Scotia presents The Grand Duke in a dinner theatre production. It runs Friday, Nov. 7 and Saturday, Nov. 8 at the University Club at Dalhousie. Cocktails begin at 7 p.m., with the show beginning at 7:30 p.m. A $60 ticket includes a three-course dinner, as well as wedding cake and champagne plus a $20 tax receipt. Advance tickets only. To reserve, leave a message at 429-1287 or order online at www.gandsnovascotia.ca

Could it have needed a judicious editor? By the time Gilbert & Sullivan wrote The Grand Duke in 1896, tastes had changed, says Ms. Good, and audiences were looking for big spectaculars with lots of dancing girls. And perhaps The Grand Duke was a little too long.

She’s edited the show—“keeping the best songs and the funniest bits.” And she’s also staging the production as dinner theatre; audience members will participate in the show as wedding guests while supping on a three-course dinner topped off with wedding cake. They’ll even get to toast the wedding party with champagne (and join in on a conspiracy if they want to by eating sausage rolls.)

The setting is suitably grand for the wedding banquet; it’ll be staged in Dalhousie’s Great Hall, located in the University Club.

There are more than 30 people involved in the production, including 16 who appear on stage. Cast members come from all walks of life: they’re lawyers, librarians, teachers and university professors. The Grand Duke himself is played by Duncan Miller, is a former vice-admiral with the Canadian Navy and a research fellow with Dalhousie’s Centre for Foreign Policy Studies.

“It’s excellent relaxation and a lot of fun,” says Ron Pelot, associate professor of industrial engineering. He also teaches at the School of Business Administration and is the director of the RBC Centre for Risk Management.

Dr. Pelot is playing a detective in The Grand Duke and will sing as part of the chorus. He loves the look of surprise that comes over the faces of students when they discover his love of singing and fondness for the light comedies of Gilbert & Sullivan.

“Sometimes they don’t see their profs as real people who have lives outside the classroom,” he says wryly.


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