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1. The original lyrics to the Fairy Queen's solo in Act Two makes reference to a Captain Shaw:
On fire that glows / With heat intense
I turn the hose / Of common sense
And out it goes / At small expense!
We must maintain / Our fairy law;
That is the main / On which to draw --
In that we gain / A Captain Shaw!
Oh, Captain Shaw!
Type of true love kept under!
Could thy Brigade with cold cascade
Quench my great love, I wonder!
Captain Eyre Massey Shaw was the chief of the Metropolitan Fire Brigade at the time Iolanthe was first performed. He was well-known at the time for some romantic scandals. He also regularly attended opening-night performances of Gilbert and Sullivan's operettas, as he did in this case, and the Fairy Queen sung her lines directly to him.
Unfortunately for us, no one knows today who Captain Shaw was except inveterate Gilbert and Sullivan afficianados (and now you). Rather than include such an obscure reference, the director decided to try an alternate set of lyrics for this verse. After briefly toying with the idea of lampooning Dave Kemp (of the MIT Campus Activities Complex, who makes sure our productions are safe) or Mike Katz (our faculty advisor) or Bill Clinton, he settled on this set of lyrics which he wrote:
The fires that surge / With heat intense
I now submerge / In common sense
And quickly purge / At small expense!
We must apply / Our fairy law;
To pacify / Our passions raw --
And on the high- / est waters draw!
Oh, passions raw! [business of getting feelings under control]
Oh, South Pacific Ocean!
Could thy great tide, thy waters wide
Quench my romantic notion?
This seemed to him a good approximation of Gilbert's original intentions, replacing an obscure Victorian reference with one equally familiar both to Gilbert's audience and our own.
Permission is freely granted to other amateur theater groups to re-use these lyrics if they so choose. The author, Brian Bermack, requests only that a good-faith effort be made to let him know of any such use.
2. Earlier in Act II, Lord Mountararat refers to Strephon as "a Parliamentary Pickford - he carries everything!" Pickford's was a famous London moving company, whose slogan was "We carry everything." They would have been well-known to Gilbert's audience, but not to most of ours. This line is often changed in modern American productions - Strephon is sometimes called a Parliamentary U-Haul, a Parliamentary Wal-mart, or, as in our case, a Parliamentary Woolworth's. We chose Woolworth's on the theory that it is still reasonably well-known today, yet sounds old enough that it might have been known to Gilbert's audience as well - although we did not actually check to see whether it really is that old.
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Last updated: 2005/05/09 17:15 EDT