As Anna Russell remarked in her classic 1953 recording How to Write Your Own Gilbert and Sullivan Opera, so many people do Gilbert and Sullivan operas, it's a pity there aren't more of them that might be more up-to-date. Julien Nitzberg and Roger Neill have supplied a perfect specimen for this desideratum with the brilliant The Beastly Bombing or A Terrible Tale of Terrorists Tamed by the Tangles of True Love, running in the NYMF after a well-received run in LA.
The plot begins with Patrick and Frank, two white supremacists (Jacob Sidney and Aaron Matijasic), who intend to blow up the Brooklyn Bridge ("A Delightful Little Bomb"). Elyssa and Clarissa, two beautiful twin sisters (Heather Marie Marsden and Kate Gabrielle Field), come to New York in search of lots and lots drugs ("We Like Mushrooms"). Meanwhile, Abdul and Khalid, two al Queda terrorists (Andrew Ableson and Russell Steinberg), are also in town to bomb the Brooklyn Bridge. When Frank and Khalid meet on the bridge, sparks fly, and they are united in their hatred of ZOG and... well, they have an entire synopsis (only slightly changed from what I saw) on the show's website, and as they say there, "If you read this synopsis in its entirety, it will reveal every excruciatingly exciting event in the show and diminish your future enjoyment of the operetta". God forbid I should do that, since it was so very enjoyable. Suffice to say that the President of the United States (Jesse Merlin) gets involved, a very fey Jesus (John Quale) shows up, and, as in any good operetta, people are never what they seem at first glance.
Julien Nitzberg's book and lyrics are exquisitely funny- poking fun at our current political foibles and turning them into fodder for a Gilbertian topsy-turvy. So often when people do G&S, they'll update the outdated political references to something parallel that's current, but there's no need for that here- everything is clearly accessible- it is theVery Model of Postmodern Operetta Plots.
Roger Neill's music hits all the Sullivanian tropes, and manages to be entirely new, drawing chuckles from the audience. And it's often beautiful- I was humming the final tune all my way home.
The cast of 11 is flawless. Most of the cast plays more than one role, often serving as the chorus for the others (e.g. when they all come in as the president's Secret Service). Jesse Merlin is full of brio as President Dodgeson, Jacob Sidney as Patrick manages to be sympathetic even with a swastika tattoo on his back, and Aaron Matijasic is adorable as the "Sensitive White Supremacist" Frank. Andrew Ableson is priceless as Abdul, and Russel Steinberg is sweetly funny as Khalid. Natalie Salins shows off a glorious soprano as Secretary of State, Joel Bennett is appropriately gruff as Secretary of Defense, John Quale steals the show as Jesus, Curt Bonnem steals it back as a Jewish tailor and a pederastic priest. Really, this whole cast is so funny, they all get their moments to shine.
There's only one more performance in their NYMF run (Sunday, October 7 at 1PM) so if you like G&S, get to see it if you can!
The Beastly Bombing at The Julia Miles Theatre 424 W. 55th Street (between 9th and 10th Ave)
Photos by Patrick J. Shields: John Quale as Jesus, Russell Steinberg as Khalid, Andrew Ableson as Abdul, Jacob Sidney as Patrick and Aaron Matijasic as Frank