A Trip into the HRG&SP Board Office

When recruiting first-years to get involved with the HRG&SP, we emphasize that we are the oldest co-ed theatre group on campus, having been formed in 1956. One consequence of this longevity is that the HRG&SP has accumulated a lot of stuff over the years. Due to this massive accumulation of stuff and the general disarray that characterized the office we share with many other performing arts organizations at Harvard, one of our new board members, Mary Reynolds, took the initiative to organize the office earlier this semester on Presidents’ Day.  

As we began sorting through decades of materials, the task at hand seemed a bit overwhelming. However, we managed to go through everything in one day and in the process we found a number of interesting items and documents. We found boxes full of old media, including vinyl record recordings of old shows, cassettes, and even a performance that had been recorded on dictation tape. Mary is currently working on digitizing this media for us to post on our website and other social media. 

We also were not lacking in strange and interesting items to look at and excitedly show each other. Perhaps the strangest was an old rusty hand saw that had been labelled Goldilocks. Why? I wish I knew, and please let us know if you know anything about it! Additionally, we found a couple of old champagne bottles. What, you may ask, are we doing with a couple of old champagne bottles? Did one of our members leave them hanging around after one of our parties? Surprisingly enough, no. A closer inspection of the labels on them yielded the surprising discovery that they were in fact from the first cast party thrown by the HRG&SP in 1956 after a successful performance of Ruddigore.     

I am optimistic that years in the future a completely different board of the HRG&SP will have to perform a similar exercise, and in the process find all of the items we left behind. I just hope they can have as much fun as we had looking back at the previous 64 years. 

A Magic Lozenge?

Even W.S. Gilbert fought against one of many writers’ most dreaded adversaries: writer’s block. Following the conclusion of Princess Ida at the Savoy Theatre, Gilbert and Sullivan were at a standstill with regards to what form their next operetta should take. It was at this point, Gilbert suggested a plot regarding a “magic lozenge” that would introduce conflict into the plot. Sullivan was not keen on this idea, calling the idea lacking in “human interest and probability”, and it was also reminiscent of one of their first productions The Sorcerer where everyone falls in love with the wrong person as a result of a love potion. This resulted in production of a new Savoy opera being stalled until Gilbert came up with the idea for The Mikado, which went on to become the most successful of Gilbert and Sullivan’s collaborations.

However, do not fear, for the “magic lozenge” idea was not lost completely to history. In fact, Gilbert collaborated with two other composers, Alfred Cellier, who died in the process of creating the comic opera, and Ivan Caryll, who finished in Cellier’s place, to write The Mountebanks, which was a comic opera in which a magical potion is administered which transforms people into what they pretend to be. However, this was not a huge success, and it was on par with the moderate success of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Utopia, Limited, running for 229 performances. Critics praised Gilbert’s libretto at the time, but reviews of the score were mixed.

One can only wonder what might have happened should this plot have been used as the plot in Gilbert and Sullivan’s next collaboration and if it would have caused them to stop collaborating earlier or been a rollicking success, but alas, we must be satisfied with Gilbert and Sullivan’s six final collaborations: The Mikado, Ruddigore, The Yeomen of the Guard, The Gondoliers, Utopia, Limited, and The Grand Duke that were still to come.