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The Ford Show Operettas ~ The Mikado and HMS Pinafore


Show 107  April 16, 1959 -THE MIKADO

Script Notes: This Ford Show Classic began as  an idea for a musical sketch, built around a three-song medley arranged for The Top Twenty- from Gilbert & Sullivan's classic Opera, 'The Mikado'. As  production discussions progressed,  however, the sketch continued to expand and eventually, Ernie himself suggested that they consider doing their own version of the Opera, with full costumes and sets. The idea took hold and within days, storyboards and a rough draft of a condensed script was ready. But while Ernie, The Top  Twenty and The Ford Show crew were becoming more excited over the concept, others at the network and at Ford Motor Company were not. The Ford Show was holding the number one spot for half-hour variety shows in the Nielsens  and was consistently higher in the ratings than its closest competitor over at CBS -- 'Playhouse 90'. An operetta? Set in Japan? Starring ...Ernie Ford? "Obviously, we'd never done anything like this before", Ernie said. "It was an experiment we all knew could blow up in our faces...we were fooling with our own success and we knew we could hurt ourselves". It didn't matter that Ernie himself was covering every dollar over The Ford Show's usual line, or that he was familiar with the Opera, having done the show while at music school in Cincinnati. To the brass in Madison Avenue and Detroit, this wasn't the time to experiment--and for that matter--not the show to experiment with. On top of it, the press had learned of the planned show, and was also questioning whether or not Ernie and The Top Twenty were up to the task. It didn't take long for that question to be answered.

  • Dateline - New York Times ~ April 17, 1959: "Tennessee Ernie Ford came up last night with a charming little sleeper; a thirty-minute version of the Gilbert  and Sullivan operetta "The Mikado". (The result was a delightful sampling of G&H, presented with professional taste and style worthy of a major production. The Top Twenty, regular singing group on Mr. Ford's program, showed themselves to be much more versatile than might be expected. The costumes and sets can only be described as absolutely beguiling. The only complaint  about last night's 'Mikado' was that it didn't last twice as long. Mr. Ford certainly fooled those who might tend to think of him only as a Peapicker."

  • Dateline - Variety ~ April 17, 1959: "Viewing a half-hour version of "The Mikado" is like making a  one-week tour of Europe; it leaves one thirsting for the rest of it. Tennessee Ernie Ford managed to compress the Gilbert & Sullivan into thirty minutes, and to Ford's credit, it was one of the most entertaining half-hours of this season."

To the paper, every single review was a rave. 'The Mikado' was an unqualified success and went on to earn the second-highest numbers for the series' entire five-year run.

Cast: KoKo/Narrator: Ernie Ford / Nanki-Poo: Ken Remo / Yum Yum: Deltra Kamsler / Katisha: Karen Wessler / Mikado: Ted Wills / Peep Bo: Donna Cooke / Pitti-Sing: Joanne Burgin / Chorus: The Top Twenty

Musical Numbers: If You Want To Know Who We Are: Nanki-Poo and the Gentlemen / A Wandering Minstrel, I: Nanki-Poo and Chorus / Three Little Maids From School Are We: Yum Yum, Peep Bo and Pitti-Sing / Behold, The Lord High Executioner: Chorus /They'll None Of 'Em Be Missed: KoKo and Chorus / Were You Not To KoKo Plighted?: Yum Yum and Nanki-Poo / Ye Torrents Roar: Orchestra / The Sun Whose Rays: Yum Yum / Here's A How -De - Do: Yum Yum, Nanki- Poo and KoKo / A More Humane Mikado: Mikado and Chorus / Finale: All

Musical Director: Harry Geller / Choreography: Ward Ellis / Art Direction: Ed Stephenson / Costumes: Ret Turner / Adaptation by Howard Leeds and Norman Paul / Directed by Selwyn Touber

Show # 133  Jan.  14, 1960 - H.M.S. PINAFORE

Script Notes: Following the incredible success of The Ford Show's first foray into opera with Gilbert & Sullivan's The Mikado in April of '59, Ernie and the production team were confident that another Ford Show operetta could be equally well-received. They were right. On January 14, The Ford Show aired its version of Gilbert & Sullivan's classic, H.M.S. Pinafore, to rave reviews from coast-to-coast. As with The Mikado, the production stayed true to the original songs, condensed the story to fit all three acts into 26 minutes,  featured members of The Top Twenty in major roles, and was restructured in a way that allowed Ernie to not only carry the lead role (Sir Joseph Porter) but also that of the narrator (Ernie himself) tying the story's events together as only Ernie could tell them; and all driven with the sure hands of the Mikado's stellar production team. The result? An instant Ford Show Classic.

  • Dateline: Variety - January 18, 1960: "Ernie Ford's version of H.M.S. Pinafore was deliciously irreverent. Spiced with Ernie's patented narrative, it was Gilbert & Sullivan by way of Tennessee....A gem of a narrative-and a vital approach to the overall stylized treatment. Credit writers Howard Leeds and Norman Paul for an outstanding job, and a tip of the old straw hat to Ernie Ford for putting it across."

Cast: Sir Joseph Porter: Ernie Ford / Captain Corcoran: Dick Wessler / Ralph Rackstraw: Chet Fisher / Josephine: Donna Cook / Little Buttercup: Susan Lovell / Dick Deadeye: Ken Harp / Bill  Bobstay: Howard Chitjean / Bob Beckett: Don Kent / Hebe: Joanne Burgin / Sir Joseph's Sister: Katherine Steele / Chorus: The Top Twenty

Musical Numbers: We Sail The Ocean Blue: Men's Chorus / I'm Called Little Buttercup: Buttercup / I Am The Captain Of The Pinafore: Capt. Corcoran / British Tar: Male Chorus / Sorry Her Lot: Josephine / I Am The Monarch Of The Sea/When I Was A Lad: Sir Joseph / Never Mind The Why And Wherefore: Sir Joseph, Capt. Corcoran, Josephine / Carefully On Tiptoe Stealing: All

Musical Direction: Harry Geller / Art Direction: Ed Stephenson / Costumes: Ret Turner / Adaptation: Howard Leeds, Norman Paul / Directed by Selwyn Touber

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