CENTERVILLE — Having never seen a production of HMS Pinafore before, I wasn’t sure what to expect. However, quickly into this two act comic opera I found I was in for a treat. Rodgers Memorial Theatre (director Anthony Buck and co-producers Scott VanDyke and Robert Gibson) put on a fun and witty show to share the humorous love story aboard the HMS Pinafore.
The story focuses on Josephine, Captain Corcoran’s daughter, who finds herself in love with Ralph Rackstraw, a low class sailor on her father’s ship. She is betrothed to the pompous cabinet minister over the British Navy, Sir Joseph Porter and while she tries to follow her father’s wishes and marry the older Sir Porter, love rules her heart in the end. She and Rackstraw declare their love and decide to elope. Their plan is discovered; yet other surprises are revealed, changing the future for many aboard the HMS Pinafore.
The musical talent in this production was astounding. Josephine (Cecily Ellis-Bills) and Ralph Rackstraw (David K. Martin) amazed the audience with their strong and beautiful voices. The chorus held their parts through difficult harmonies and melodies. The acting was just as superb. It is hard to say which character shined the most, when they each had their turn in the spotlight. Chuck Gilmore was perfect in his portrayal of Captain Corcoran, a strong commander and concerned father. Breck England was hilarious as Sir Joseph Porter. Even the chorus members had their chance to bring a little comedy to the stage.
While this production was a solid performance, don’t expect it to be up to Broadway par. The choreography was fun, but sometimes sloppily executed. I noticed this most in the very first number “We Sail the Ocean Blue” with the Sailors. Some members of the cast were extravagant in their movements while other were more conservative. This made the choreography seem off. I also felt like the music was too loud, especially at the beginning, causing me to miss a few lines. There were a handful of noticeable slip ups on lines throughout the show. While these mistakes weren’t major issues, they were distractions.
This show isn’t a flashy one. There was only one set and little costume changes throughout the 2 hour production. However, on more positive note my friend who dislikes musicals and has even stronger negative feelings towards the opera accompanied me to this production. When it was through, I asked him what he thought and his response was that he actually liked it and thought it was funny. For those who aren’t sure about the opera, this performance is definitely a great way to dip your toe into the opera genre. Overall, I feel this light-hearted production is sure to entertain; just it has since its first performance in 1878.
Questions to our Readers
- Do you agree with this review? If you’ve seen this production of H.M.S. Pinafore, what parts do you agree or disagree with?
- H.M.S. Pinafore falls into the genre of “operetta” or “comic opera” and predates the modern musical by 65 years. Why is this 132-year-old work so enduring when so few other operettas are?