Ithaca's Kitchen Cooks Up Precious Nonsense, a "New" Backstage Musical by Gilbert & Sullivan, Jan. 13-Feb. 12 | Playbill

News Ithaca's Kitchen Cooks Up Precious Nonsense, a "New" Backstage Musical by Gilbert & Sullivan, Jan. 13-Feb. 12
The intimate 73-seat Kitchen Theatre Company in Ithaca, New York, is presenting Precious Nonsense, the very model of a modern musical comedy — with music and lyrics by not-so-modern Arthur Sullivan and W.S. Gilbert.

The world premiere plays Jan. 13-Feb. 12, at the Kitchen Theatre. Opening night is Jan. 15.

"Using the much-loved melodies and lyrics of Gilbert & Sullivan as a start, Rachel Lampert has fashioned a new play that promises the twists and turns from our favorite G&S operettas with the delightful comedy and romance their stories extol," according to the resident Equity troupe.

Lampert, artistic director at the Kitchen, gets book credit for the new project, a backstage musical about a scrappy family theatre company and the son who wants to escape it. The cast includes includes Eric Brooks, Jessica Flood, Shawn Puller, Krista Scott, Erica Steinhagen, Joey Steinhagen and Casey Sweeney. Sara Lampert-Hoover directs.

Is this a recently discovered, heretofore unknown musical operetta by Gilbert & Sullivan? "No!" according to Kitchen notes. "We've searched the trunks and still find only 14 operettas, but now is the time to add a new story to this timeless music."

Using "the much-loved melodies and lyrics of Gilbert & Sullivan as a start, Rachel Lampert has fashioned a new play so full of plot twists-and-turns, laughs, and romance that you may think that Gilbert and Sullivan themselves rose from the dead to create it," according to production notes. "Mistaken identities, unexpressed love, and madcap mayhem combine in this screwball backstage comedy about finding and falling in love." Set in 1938, Precious Nonsense introduces us to a ramshackle touring company, the Carter Family Savoyards. The founders and guiding forces of the company are RDC Carter (played by Eric Brooks) and his wife Angelina (played by Krista Scott). After years of touring, they long to retire and pass on the leadership of the company to their son, Frederic (played by Shawn Puller). The Company also includes enduring ingénue Josephine (Erica Steinhagen) and stage manager and philosopher, Pete (played by Joey Steinhagen). Desperate to join the company and take the stage are Samuel (Casey Sweeney) and Josephine's sister Mabel (Jessica Flood, a KTC newcomer), who dresses as a man in order to join the company.

According to KTC, the primary story line of Precious Nonsense mirrors the plot of Gilbert and Sullivan's classic The Pirates of Penzance: In Penzance, Frederic wants to leave the pirates on his 21st birthday; in the story of Precious Nonsense, Frederic expects to be set free from his obligation to remain with his parents' theatre company. His parents, of course, have other plans for him: They want him to marry Josephine and take over their family business. He longs to leave the thespian life and begin other adventures.

"The members of the Carter Family Savoyards are loosely based on the archetypes found in the screwball film comedies of the 1930s," said Rachel Lampert, in production notes. "I set the play in 1938 when America was struggling out of the Depression and war in Europe had begun. Like the Hollywood movies of the time, Precious Nonsense is also an escape."

Director Sara Lampert-Hoover, whose past directing work at KTC includes The Servant of Two Masters, Crumbs from the Table of Joy, Pretty Fire and Molly Sweeney, was the assistant director for Manhattan Theatre Club's production of Sight Unseen directed by Daniel Sullivan.

Musical director Richard Montgomery plays double duty as Herbie the musical director of the Savoyards and piano accompanist for the play.

Designers are Hannah Davis (scenic), Steve TenEyck (lighting) and Lisa Boquist (costume).

The Kitchen Theatre is located in the historic Clinton House, a renovated hotel in Downtown Ithaca, located on the southern tip of Cayuga Lake in central New York.

For ticket information, call (607) 273-4497 or visit

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