It’s funny how some of the best things are completely unplanned. When I got to Seattle yesterday, I had a plan to go see the Space Needle, then go walk or sit in a park for a while. And that was the extent of my plan.
Before I headed for Seattle center, I noticed a shop in Pike Place Market called The Crumpet Shop. I love crumpets, and you don’t see them very often here, so I decided to stop in, and get something if it looked good. Sitting and eating my crumpet (which was regrettably not that good — sorry Crumpet Shop, but you need to step it up), I saw a poster for Seattle Gilbert and Sullivan’s production of Utopia Ltd. I could only see part of the poster because it was behind the door, but the part I could see was advertising next weekend and the weekend after. When I got up to look, I found that the hidden part listed this weekend! I didn’t decide right away to go, but it entered my mind as a possibility.
While I was waiting for the Space Needle (everyone in Seattle wants to be up there on a sunny day), I looked up Seattle G&S on my phone and called their number. They were not selling tickets until an hour and a half before the show, but the theater was nearby. When I showed up at 6 (after completing the “sit in a park” part of my plan, and finding out whether there were any vegetarian places nearby), they still had a few left. And thus my stop in the Crumpet Shop led to a fun evening.
The production was, in my no-longer-very-educated opinion, excellent. Very good orchestra, excellent singing (especially on the part of the woman playing Zara), quality acting, and fun choreography well-executed by the cast. I particularly enjoyed the glow-in-the-dark tambourines wielded by the King and the Flowers of Progress at one point. The choice of accents for each character was also, I think, carefully done. Notably, the Public Exploder sported a Scottish accent when not speaking Utopian — a clear and probably period-appropriate use of the stereotype of barbarous Scots.
It’s been a while since I’ve seen or done a G&S show, and I’d forgotten how much fun they can be. The audience was clearly an experienced one and laughed heartily at the in-jokes in the dialogue. The subject matter of Utopia, Ltd. is well-suited for adaptation to our current culture, and the adaptation was done well — very funny, but at points on-target enough to be a little painful in its humor.
I did find myself getting bored at times, though. I can’t say if I’d have this experience watching the G&S shows I particularly like with greater distance from them, but the development of the secondary (and even primary) romantic duos and the “plotting” song (“With wily brain upon the spot”) seemed weak and insipid to me, even if well-sung, and I wanted them to go quickly past it so we could get to something more fun. I don’t mean the “plot” (if you can call it that), which is always thin, but the songs themselves.
Overall, though, it was a fun and musically rewarding experience.
Other Seattle observations:
The Space Needle is fun, but it’s not as cool as the CN Tower.
At first I thought the monorail was bizarrely retro-futuristic and seriously lame, but I didn’t realize it can go over 45 mph and is 47 years old, both fairly impressive statistics. However, it is kind of lame to charge you $2 to go a mile.
There are a lot of mountains and a lot of water around here. I like it.
Bamboo Garden vegetarian Chinese restaurant is okay, but Garden Fresh is much better, despite the latter’s lack of atmosphere.
Unfortunately, sections of downtown smell like urine, to a greater extent than I’ve experienced in other downtowns. Ick.