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Operetta highlights: New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players presents free virtual concert

Albuquerque native James Mills was at the helm of “I Have a Song to Sing, O!” (Courtesy of the New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players)

In theater, the show must go on.

During a pandemic, the sentiment rings true, with a technological twist.

The New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players put together a virtual concert. Popejoy Hall is presenting “I Have a Song to Sing, O!” at 7 p.m. Oct. 10. The presentation is free.

The presentation is under the direction of Albuquerque native and University of New Mexico alum James Mills.

“The biggest obstacle is that none of us have done this before,” Mills says in a recent interview. “We are trained theatrical actors. We started to brainstorm when our tours were all postponed. We were gifted this opportunity.”

Since its founding in 1974, the New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players has presented multiple productions of Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic operas. Founded by Albert Bergeret and his wife, Gail Wofford, the company cultivated a following, allowing it to expand outside New York. Each season features performances in New York and a nationwide tour.

The virtual event features songs from famous operettas such as “The Pirates of Penzance,” “HMS Pinafore” and “The Mikado,” along with some lesser-known pieces, such as “Patience,” “Ruddigore,” “Iolanthe” and “The Yeoman of the Guard.”

“We planned this 50-minute concert to be a celebration of the repertoire,” Mills says. “There’s no way to even crack the surface in that amount of time. We settled on a really nice program. There are favorites everybody knows and some of our own favorites.”

The plan was in place, and then came more challenges, including recording the acting and singing.

David Wannen in “I Have a Song to Sing, O!” by the New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players. (Courtesy of the New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players)

David Wannen, NYGASP executive director, says it was important to have good sound for the production, as well.

“Everybody has different equipment, and some of us had decent microphones,” Wannen says. “We would record an audio track and use that in our performance. We got better and better at the technique, and you’ll notice the quality of the audio. James worked hard in directing us.”

While live theater is on hold for the foreseeable future, Mills and Wannen are brainstorming ways to safely entertain.

“It’s hard (to be away from the stage), but this is what we have to do,” Mills says of the virtual performance.

Wannen agrees and says the pandemic has taken a toll on everybody.

“There’s nothing like creativity to act like a lighthouse in a storm,” Wannen says. “That’s what we’re in here. We’re really lucky as a company to be able to do it. We have grass-roots supporters in New York City, and our patrons are staying with us.”

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