What happens when elderly Greek gods, no longer appreciated by mortals on Earth, decide to go on holiday?
A lot of hilarity and mishaps — according to Gilbert and Sullivan's lighthearted romp.
This weekend and next, the Gilbert and Sullivan Players present Thespis (or, the Gods Grown Old) at the Tarpon Springs Performing Arts Center. The comic opera is directed by Jamie Bierchen, who also performs the role of Thespis. Constantine Grame is the musical director and pianist.
Thespis premiered in London in 1871; it was the first of 14 collaborations between Victorian-era composer Arthur Sullivan and librettist W.S. Gilbert.
"The musical score was never published," Grame said. "The reason for that remains unknown."
Thus the show is seldom performed, but this production features mostly new music, composed by Grame, which follows Sullivan's style.
"I had a blast writing it," Grame said. "The words that Gilbert wrote just suggested the lightness and whimsy of the music."
The fanciful spoof revolves around a troupe of successful comedic actors led by Thespis, often called the father of drama. They make their way to Mount Olympus and agree to stand in for the Greek gods so they can party on Earth. When the actors make a mess of things under Thespis' liberal rule, well, the Gods get angry and take revenge.
The libretto is posted on the Thespis page on Tarpon Springs Performing Arts Center website, www.tarponarts.org, for those who wish to print it out and follow along.
The 29-year-old community theater group plans to present a complete series of all of Gilbert and Sullivan's works in the order in which they were written over the next several years. They think the cheery music and adventuresome themes of Gilbert and Sullivan's works will attract opera novices as well as seasoned aficionados.
"It's just a lot of fun and it's sung in English, its original language," Grame said. "We think audiences will love it."
Terri Bryce Reeves can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.