Light Opera Works H.M.S Pinafore Review – Musical Absurdity on the High Seas

Light Opera Works has done it again with their new production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s famous H.M.S. Pinafore, or The Lass That Loved a Sailor. Being a singer and performer myself, and having been in Gilbert and Sullivan productions as well, I have always been familiar with their operettas. However, this is one show I had not had the opportunity yet to perform in or see onstage. I felt thrilled that I was able to experience H.M.S Pinafore at Light Opera Works at Cahn Auditorium, 600 Emerson Street, at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois on opening night, June 8th, 2013.

Michael Cavalieri (Captain Corcoran) with ensemble in Light Opera Work's H.M.S. Pinafore at Cahn Auditorium in Evanston, IL

 

Light Opera Works is a talented and professional non-for-profit theater company in Evanston, Illinois, founded in 1980. The company brings a vast variety of professional and local theater to its local audience such as opera, classical music and musical theater. This new production of H.M.S. Pinafore has begun Light Opera Work’s thirty-third season with a twenty-six piece orchestra. It is directed and choreographed by Rudy Hogenmiller and conducted by Roger L. Bingaman. It is the fourth production of the operetta, including performances from 1981, 1997 and 2004.   

 

H.M.S. Pinafore, Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic opera in two acts, first debuted in London, England, in 1878 and ended up running for 571 performances. It became the second longest run of musical theater during that time. The synopsis takes place on a British ship, the H.M.S. Pinafore, where the captain’s daughter, Josephine, falls in love with a sailor, Ralph Rackstraw, who is lower class. Her father forbids them to marry and instead intends for her to marry Sir Joseph Porter, First Lord of the Admiralty. Though Josephine wants to please her father with his wishes, she and Ralph declare their mutual love and hope to elope. Unfortunately, Josephine’s father, the captain, finds out about their secret plight and a surprising and dramatic ending occurs.

Sarah Kelly (Josephine), Michael Cavalieri (Captain Corcoran) and James Harms (Sir Joseph Porter) in Light Opera Work's H.M.S. Pinafore at Cahn Auditorium in Evanston, IL

 

H.M.S. Pinafore is an over-the-top comic opera where the characters are not aware of their silliness and absurdity. The show makes fun of the different social classes of the time, including the British class system, the British Royal Navy, and politics. The operetta helped lay the foundation and inspiration for modern musical theater. Well-known musical numbers include I’m Called Little Buttercup, When I Was a Lad and I Am the Captain of the Pinafore.

James Harms (Sir Joseph Porter) with ensemble in Light Opera Work's H.M.S. Pinafore at Cahn Auditorium in Evanston, IL

 

I was very impressed by the talented actors and singers of H.M.S. Pinafore. I felt that every performer was well cast in their role, and helped contribute to what makes this show so delightful to watch. Personal favorites of mine included Jeff Award Winner, James Harms (Sir Joseph Porter), who applied professional humor to his role, and Ryan de Ryke, who gave  comical relief as the unattractive and despised sailor, Dick Deadeye, abroad the ship. I also really enjoyed the rich, deep baritone voice of Dane Thomas who played the sailor, Rick Rackstraw. Michael Cavalieri was hilarious as Captain Corcoran, Josephine’s father, and Josephine herself was lovely, played by the light and airy soprano, Sarah Kelly.

Sarah Kelly (Josephine) with in Light Opera Work's H.M.S. Pinafore at Cahn Auditorium in Evanston, IL

  

Dane M. Thomas (Ralph Rackstraw) in Light Opera Work's H.M.S. Pinafore at Cahn Auditorium in Evanston, IL

  

Michael Cavalieri (Captain Corcoran) and Ryan de Ryke (Dick Deadeye) in Light Opera Work's H.M.S. Pinafore at Cahn Auditorium in Evanston, IL

The one casting flaw, in my opinion, was the slight lisp I heard from Dawn Bless, who played Little Buttercup. While I found Ms. Bless’ mezzo soprano voice to be very beautiful, paired with appropriate acting necessary for the role, the lisp was rather distracting for me. I felt that it took something away from her otherwise great performance.

 

Dawn Bless (Little Buttercup) with ensemble in Light Opera Work's H.M.S. Pinafore at Cahn Auditorium in Evanston, IL

    

Overall, the near perfect casting, simple but beautiful sets, staging and time period costumes, all put together resulted in a very talented and entertaining show. It was “musical absurdity on the high seas” at its best!   

 

H.M.S. Pinafore is Light Opera Work’s debut show for the 2013-2014 season and runs with performances Saturday, June 8, Friday, June 14, and Saturday, June 15 at 8pm, Sunday, June 9 and June 16 at 2pm, and Wednesday, June 12 at 2pm. The 33rd season’s other productions include Cabaret (August 10-25), the concert production Gershwin’s Greatest Hits (October 4-13) and Annie Get Your Gun (December 21-31).

Discounted season ticket packages are still available.

 

Main Floor tickets: $48, $68, $77, $92
Balcony Tickets: $32, $48, $68, $77

Age 21 and younger: 1/2 price
(suitable for ages 8 and older)

 

Photos: Chris Ocken

 

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