Thoroughly Modern Millie

The tune of “My eyes are fully open,” often referred to as the “Matter Patter Trio,” from Ruddigore, is used as “The Speed Test” in the musical Thoroughly Modern Millie.

Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries

Australian author Kerry Greenwood wrote the Phryne Fisher mystery series, set in the 1920s. The seventh book in her series was the basis for the Ruddy Gore episode in the televised Miss Fisher Murder Mystery series.

In Ruddy Gore, the sixth episode of the first season of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, the ghost of an actress who committed suicide in her dressing room twenty years ago, comes back to haunt the theater.  The night she appears, the curtain rises on a production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Ruddigore, in which one of the players dies on stage.  The series heroine, Phryne Fisher who was in attendance at the performance, takes on the case.  The episode features portions of the Ruddigore overture, the cast on stage singing “When Sailing O’er Life’s Ocean Wide,” as well as mentions of H.M.S. Pinafore, The Pirates of Penzance and The Mikado.

I, Robot

Isaac Asimov was a devoted Gilbert and Sullivan fan and the author of I, Robot, a collection of nine science fiction short stories about the interaction of humans, robots and morality. The stories, originally published independently, were compiled into a single book and woven together by a framing narrative. The second story in the collection, titled “Runaround,” takes place on Mercury, in a mining facility. Robot SPD-13, nicknamed “Speedy,” is missing after having been sent out on a mission. The two men responsible for the facility, Powell and Donovan, go out in search of him. Eventually they find “Speedy” who is obviously malfunctioning. He is running around in a circle, weaving and appearing to be drunk. When they try to speak to the robot, he responds, “I’m Little Buttercup, sweet Little Buttercup,” and then says “There grew a little flower ‘neath a great oak tree.” One of the men asks the other, “Where did he pick up Gilbert and Sullivan?” As the story goes on, “Speedy” continues to quote fragments of Gilbert and Sullivan, including, “I’ve made a little list … the piano organist … all people who eat peppermint and puff it in your face,” and “lover’s professions when uttered in Hessians.” At one point Speedy” says, “When you’re lying awake with a dismal headache and repose is tabooed,” to which Powell murmurs, “Iolanthe!” Later in the story, “Speedy” and Powell are watching each other “without a word of Gilbert and Sullivan gibberish as a greeting” and Powell thinks to himself, “Thank God for that!” In a subsequent story in the collection, the characters of Powell and Donovan appear again and are confronted with another malfunctioning robot. In response to the situation, one of the men says to the other, “Well, at least he’s not quoting Gilbert and Sullivan!”

Go Set a Watchman

Harper Lee’s novel, Go Set a Watchman, includes references to four Gilbert and Sullivan operettas, including Trial by Jury, Iolanthe, The Mikado and Ruddigore.

The Ruddigore reference occurs in Chapter 18.  Jean Louise’ uncle, Dr. Finch is talking with her as she is on her way to attempt to mend fences with her father.  Referring to her recent angry behavior, he says, “I was once an exceedingly odd young lady.  Suffering much from spleen and vapors.”  Jean Louise responds to him, “But ‘we only cut respectable capers,’ don’t we, Uncle Jack?”