Let me preface this by admitting that I do not consider myself a Gilbert and Sullivan fan or a fan of opera in general. The only other time I have seen a U of M Gilbert and Sullivan Society production was decades ago when I was in elementary school. That being said, with the current production of H.M.S Pinafore (which continues through Sunday), I can’t say I’ve become a devotee, but I can understand why some people come back year after year.
In brief the story revolves around Josephine (Adina Triolo), the Captain’s (Phillip Rhodes) daughter, who falls for lowly sailor Ralph Rackstraw (an outstanding Tom Cilluffo), but duty demands that she marry the lofty Sir Joseph Porter (Don Regan) instead. The mysterious Little Buttercup (Lori Gould) carries a deeply held secret which involves mistaken identities and reversal of fortunes that ensures that true love will prevail.
Director, David Andrews keeps the pace brisk and the choreography by Beth Shippey Ballback and Phillip Rhodes is fun and doesn’t push the multigenerational cast beyond their abilities. I loved the gorgeous set by Laura Strowe and the colorful and detailed costumes by Marilyn Gouin.
But the reason most people see a Gilbert and Sullivan production is for the music and music director Ezra Donner does not disappoint. Under his direction the large orchestra is nuanced and does not overpower the singers and the chorus sounds terrific. Triolo has a beautiful voice and Cilluffo is a star. His voice actually gave me goosebumps. Another standout is the comic character turn by Andrew Burgmayer as Dick Deadeye (I had the honor of sitting near his proud parents and had the opportunity to tell them how much I enjoyed his performance).
So though, I don’t think Gilbert and Sullivan is particularly my cup of tea. As a big Shakespeare fan who has seen many of his shows multiple times and loves making a pilgrimage to Stratford every summer, I can understand those who have such a passionate devotion to this other pair of Brits. If you are a fan of G & S, I think this version of Pinafore will not disappoint.
HMS Pinafore continues at the Lydia Mendelssohn Theater through April 10th with matinees both Saturday and Sunday. Tickets at the door or online at http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2494971