Students at Bensenville's Fenton High School are putting the final touches on their spring play, "Fallen Fairies," being presented Thursday through Saturday, April 14-16. Director George Mussman explains why he passed up popular standards and, instead, chose an obscure collaboration between W.S. Gilbert and Edward German.
Q. Tell us a bit about the play and its plot.
A. Fairyland is a kingdom in the clouds above Earth, a perfect society in many ways but, unlike mortals, they are unable to experience love. After being pressured by the other fairies, Queen Selene agrees to bring two mortal men, Ethais and Phyllon, from Earth. The show explores the impact of the introduction of love, but also anger and jealousy, all of which lead to major problems in Fairyland.
Q. Why is "Fallen Fairies" so obscure even though it was done by famous playwrights?
A. The work was a collaboration between W.S. Gilbert and Edward German after Gilbert stopped working with Arthur Sullivan.
Gilbert's last operetta, "Fallen Fairies" has not been performed with an orchestra since the original 1909 production, after Gilbert ended his support for the show when his protégé Nancy McIntosh was replaced.
Fenton's revival of this "lost" operetta includes a new arrangement of the orchestration developed from German's original manuscript.
Q. Explain why this play seemed like a good idea.
A. Even though "Fallen Fairies" is essentially an unknown play, I felt the show would be a wonderful learning opportunity for our student performers and crew. We would be presenting a show in a style that we haven't approached in many years, since long before any of the students who are currently in our program became involved at Fenton.
In addition, the students would have an opportunity to essentially put on a completely new show, with no movies, YouTube clips or Broadway recordings to influence their character development or the direction of the show. We would be taking the words and notes off the page and breathing new life into them.
Q. Did the students rise to the challenge?
A. Although initially many of the students were unsure about performing a show that was unfamiliar to them and more than a century old, once the students began working on the show they found that its storylines and humor were understandable for a modern audience and that Gilbert's wicked word play and nuances, which were risqué in 1909, are still edgy today.
From the scene crew's creation of a beautiful setting to the actors who have committed themselves fully to their character development, the students have really done justice to this revival.