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Lamplighters’ Gala Fondly Teases Downton Abbey

October 7, 2019

Besides representing the glorious Gilbert & Sullivan tradition since 1952, San Francisco’s Lamplighters have also been producing timely spoofs of current events, set mostly to Arthur Sullivan’s music, for the past 40 years.

An especially memorable pairing of G&S-old-and-new was the production of the 1875 Gilbert and Sullivan Trial by Jury with the Lamplighters’ own 1997 sequel/spoof of Trial by Jury Duty as the second act.

If you either missed past frolics or, more likely, want to get more of them, you’re in luck: Coming up on Oct. 20 in Herbst Theatre is the Lamplighters’ Champagne Gala, Downton AirBnB. The what?

It is, apparently, the musical tale of Downton folks who mysterious time-travel a century forward to 2019, where they are thought to be from an Edwardian cosplay: “Edwardian party-in’ sounds like a blast! A blast from the past with this cast of Edwardians party-in’!”

So sing the present-day clients of Downton AirBnB — participants in an annual festival called “Bloke-on-Fyre,” the fictional British equivalent of a certain Black Rock City festival in the Nevada desert.

As the Crawleys — even the Dowager Countess of Grantham (“What is a Wi-Fi?”) — encounter cellphones, iPads, drones, and the like, they are even more befuddled than usual. The kitchen maid Daisy goes out on an errand and comes back to report that “People’s hair is green or blue, and everyone has a tattoo — it’s like a zoo, it can’t be true, it’s just cuckoo!”

Lamplighters Executive Director Cheryl Blalock says there is also a visit from Mary Poppins, a sprinkle of Brigadoon magic, and more as Downton is transformed into a stylish Airbnb. To stay with the Merry Old meme, Anna Russell comes to mind: “I am not making this up, you know.”

The book is by Mike Dederian, and lyrics are provided by Lamplighter worthies Barbara Heroux, Jonathan Spencer, Mike Dederian, Judith Dara Epstein, Cary Ann Rosko, and Kelly Powers.

Phil Lowery is stage director, Robert Stafford and Baker Peeples music directors/piano, Nicolas Aliaga Garcia production manager, and Gabriella Howell stage manager.

Dederian is responsible for this altered passage lifted from the Ruddigore Act I finale:

With AirBnb, you can book out a rental;
You book out a rental with AirBnB.
So many rooms free, booking one would be mental;
No need to go mental, with so many free.
So I’ve branded your court, with your cosplay Edwardian
(Your cosplay Edwardian is catching on fast)
As a sort of resort we can all come and party in -
Edwardian partyin’ sound like a blast!
A blast from the past with this cast of Edwardians partyin’!

Although the Lamplighters used the Downton theme in another event several years ago, this fund-raising gala is a new and original show. Doors open at 2 p.m. for a silent auction in the lobby of Herbst; the performance will start at 3 p.m.

Breaking down the rather flimsy fourth wall at such events, the top of the second act will feature a short live auction and then, after the show, champagne will be poured by the cast in the Green Room upstairs in the Veterans Memorial.

Janos Gereben appreciates news tips, corrections, and words of encouragement at [email protected].