Welcome to the Gilbert & Sullivan Society of Bermuda

Article published October 8. 2010 07:24AM
'What an amazing opportunity'::


By Jessie Moniz

They may not be dressed as felines, but London West End stage director Jennifer Sawyer is having a ball working with Gilbert & Sullivan performers in Bermuda.

Ms Sawyer who has previously directed such high profile London musicals such as 'CATS' and 'Dirty Dancing' is currently directing Gilbert & Sullivan's production of 'Best Little Whorehouse in Texas' on now at City Hall. "I have loved every minute of working with the Gilbert & Sullivan Society in Bermuda," said Ms Sawyer. "What an amazing opportunity to work with them. You get to do a job you love in such a beautiful place. I have never worked with an amateur company before, and I did not know what to expect."

But she said she has been pleasantly surprised by the company's talent, enthusiasm and dedication. She urged Bermuda audiences to come out to 'Best Little Whorehouse in Texas'.

"They are working so hard," she said. "It is quite a company piece, so everyone literally has a role to play of some description. They have stunned me with their enthusiasm and dedication. They really have. I am not making it up. It is quite a fun little play and it has some great music."

Ms Sawyer got her early start in drama working as a dancer in the West End, London at the age of 18. As a performer, she was in such musicals as 'West Side Story' at Her Majesty's Theatre, 'Me and My Girl' at the Adelphi Theatre, and 'Mystery of Edwin Drood' at the Savoy, among many others.

"I really enjoyed my dance career," she said. "I also managed to get promoted to doing roles. I had a wonderful time. But one day, at 28-years-old, I looked around the dressing room and thought if I am not careful I will be the oldest chorus girl around here. A dancer's career is typically a short one. Musicals are where my heart is and I was never that great a singer. I also wanted more responsibility at this point. I wanted to work in production if at all possible."

On one West End Production, she was lucky enough to assist a choreographer who had come over from America, Graciela Daniele. Ms Daniele won a Tony for her choreography for 'The Mystery of Edwin Drood'.

"I went back to performing after that but it gave me a taste for what it was like to work in production," said Ms Sawyer. "I really liked it. It just so happened that theatre producer Sir Cameron Mackintosh was putting on a new musical in the West End and they needed a resident choreographer. So I was on the resident team, and then on 'CATS', 'Grease' and other productions. Around that time I moved from assisting and being resident choreographer to resident director. I never really planned it, I just took the opportunities that came my way."

Before coming to Bermuda she was with 'Dirty Dancing' for four years. "I was on that show from the beginning," she said. "It was one of the longest contracts I have ever done. I had a great time with it. Our stage manager who has come here from England with me is a brilliant guy called David Curl."

Mr. Curl had been involved in several Gilbert & Sullivan Society Productions in Bermuda including 'Dream Girls' and 'Full Monty'. It was through Mr. Curl that Ms Sawyer first heard of the opportunity to work with the Gilbert & Sullivan Society in Bermuda. "They are really nice people and they have been so generous with their time, and making me feel welcome," said Ms Sawyer. "I would love to come back if I was asked, but that is up to my employer."

She said although she has done tours of Europe with the musical 'The Rat Pack' and also been to Scandinavia and the Mediterranian, she has never been to a place like Bermuda.

"I don't think I really thought about what Bermuda would be like. I knew it would be hot, which I was looking forward to," she said. "I had seen pictures from David Curl's album. If you have never been to an island of this nature there is nothing that can prepare you for it. My first impression was 'oh my God, it really is that beautiful'."

She said touring the world with plays such as 'CATS' has led to some interesting experiences. "The interesting thing was rehearsing in Russia," she said. "This was the first time I had to work with an interpreter. You are never sure if the interpreter is saying what the actor said. Translations are funny. When we did 'CATS' in Antwerp, Belgium, we gave a text to a translator, he translated for us, and then gave us a back-translation so we knew exactly how it has been translated. It is funny. There is a song called 'Macavity: The Mystery Cat'. There is a line in it that goes 'Or the greenhouse glass is broken and the trellis past repair', and it came back with the back-translation 'when the pane is shattered and the bird is in the bush'. We were doing it in Flemish and that is what they came up with."

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