He wrote and performs one-man show featuring 75 characters
George Jarden ’58 enjoys being a character, literally. The fun-loving pediatrician has turned his lifelong interest in Gilbert and Sullivan into a one-man show with a loosely connected medley of songs and dances written by the duo. It debuted this month at the Rio Grande Theatre in Las Cruces, N.M.
Gilbert and Sullivan, the British forerunners of Rogers and Hammerstein, wrote numerous comic operas in the 1870s-’90s. Jarden’s show, Gee ’n Ess ’n I (G and S and I), features parts of 11 of these comic performances — such as the The Mikado, The Pirates of Penzance and H.M.S. Pinafore — stitched together using the computer program CGM to create the musical scores.
“There were Gilbert and Sullivan shows all over during the Great Depression,” says the chemistry graduate, a member of the Graduates alumni choir. “My parents really got into it, so I grew up with it and it’s been a huge part of me ever since. I just never stopped singing those songs.”
During his performance, Jarden sings, dances, and plays 70 different characters. He interacts with recorded versions of himself portraying these various characters that are projected onto a screen during the show.
Though Jarden has had no official musical training, he sang in the choir at Lafayette and played clarinet in the orchestra. He also founded a male chorus in his hometown in 1970 and brought it to Lafayette to perform with The Graduates on two occasions. He holds benefits for sick children during Christmas and a special July 4th concert in a local park featuring children, and frequently visits pediatric wards to sing with the children.
Jarden arranged a version of Jimmy Webb’s cantata, The Animals’ Christmas, originally performed by Art Garfunkel and Amy Grant with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, which he performed to benefit the arts in local elementary schools.
Along with his musical endeavors at Lafayette, Jarden participated in varsity cross country and swimming as well as fraternity life. Yet even with his diverse mixture of aspirations, Jarden does not consider himself a Renaissance man.
“Renaissance people pave new paths and revolutionize ways of doing things. Most of what I’ve done is not incredibly unique,” he says. “I would consider myself a product of the Renaissance, rather than an actual Renaissance man.”