Sheffield theatre group enjoy a bit of Parisian sauce!

Mike Tipler as Styx, Steve Andrews as Orpheus and Carolyn Bean as Cupid
Mike Tipler as Styx, Steve Andrews as Orpheus and Carolyn Bean as Cupid
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First things first…

It might be saucy in a Carry On sort of way but don’t expect Dore Gilbert and Sullivan Society to follow the lead set by one recent professional revival of Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld and dress the chorus in revealing bondage gear.

Dore’s actors and singers are more used to performing Gilbert and Sullivan – and even the most avant garde director has never dreamed of dressing the Pirates of Penzance in sex shop cast-offs!

Offenbach is a very different musical kettle of fish, however, as European as G&S are English. Perhaps that is why some productions of possibly his most famous work have taken a few visual liberties in a bid to add a little extra spice to the mix of music and comedy.

First performed in 1858 – just a few years before Gilbert and Sullivan hit their stride in the early 1870s – Orpheus is usually said to be the first classical full-length operetta.

It also marked the first time that Offenbach used Greek mythology as a background for one of his pieces, creating an irreverent parody of Gluck’s Orfeo and Eurydice and possibly also commenting on the morals and scandals of 1850s Paris at the same time.

Making his directing debut for Dore is Alan Wade. He admits that his is enjoying the challenge of encouraging a group more used to G&S to loosen their stays just a little.

“It’s a very funny piece and very irreverent,” he points out. “But although Offenbach is almost a contemporary of Gilbert and Sullivan, it is very different in style and pace.

“Most G&S has a love story at the heart of it but this doesn’t because the joke is that the two people who should be in love, Orpheus and Eurydice, actually hate each other in this version of the story.

“Offenbach has turned one of the most tragic of the Greek myths entirely on its head!”

The last time the Dore team moved away from their usual G&S range was a couple of years ago with an acclaimed revival of The Merry Widow, an experience the company enjoyed so much that they decided they’d like to try again.

And the good thing for Alan is that the piece has plenty of opportunities for the whole cast to have some fun.

“There’s a lot more scope for messing around with the original,” he says. “We always think of Gilbert and Sullivan as satire, often very sharply satirical but Offenbach is satirical too, perhaps in a more directly lampooning way.

“I think the Gods represent the establishment – they’re supposed to be all powerful and omnipotent but they’re not like that at all and they have just the same failings as the rest of us.

“It seems to me that Offenbach is comparing them to the people at the top of French society and making fun of the country’s authority figures.”

There’s plenty of Parisienne sauce to look forward to, including the legendary music for the can can, originally called the Infernal Gallop.

“We’re bringing dancers in to do it,” Alan says. “I don’t think I’ll be offending anybody if I say some of our members might not feel they are of an age to do the can can.”

Orpheus in the Underworld runs at The Montgomery in Surrey Street from April 6 to 9. For tickets, call 0114 250 7155 or visit www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk