Cell Phone Songs
When one attends a theatrical performance, one expects to hear an all too predictable, but all too necessary announcement, asking people in the audience to turn off their cell phones. For a number of years, the Gilbert & Sullivan Very Light Opera Company felt that it wasn’t necessary for us to make such an announcement, trusting that everyone attending our performances would act appropriately. Unfortunately, we were wrong.
During an early performance of our 2004 production of Iolanthe, someone’s cell phone began ringing. We assumed, of course, that the phone’s owner would quickly find and turn it off. In the center of the house, however, a man answered the phone with a loud, “Hello.” As the performance continued on stage, he stood up, and stepped over the ten or so people next to him in the row to make it out to the aisle. He walked up the aisle and out of the theater, continuing his conversation with the caller the entire time.
We suddenly faced a dilemma. Would it be necessary for our company to begin to make a typical, mundane cell phone announcement? Fortunately, we didn’t need to do so as Ernest Brody, one of our company members, hit upon a wonderful alternative. He selected a song from the show, “Spurn Not the Nobly Born,” and wrote humorous alternative lyrics, to be sung to the audience, asking them to turn off their cell phones.
In the performances of Iolanthe that followed, James Ahrens, who was playing Lord Tolloller, and the Men’s Chorus, sang the new announcement to the great amusement of the audience.
Since then, Cell Phone Songs have become an established tradition for the company. Before every performance, a member or members of the cast will perform a song from the show for which alternative lyrics have been written.
Our audiences have told us how much they enjoy the humorous approach of these songs and they are happy to turn off their cell phones … mostly!
“A pleasant journey, very,
To your convenient cell
In yonder cemetery!”
The Grand Duke