Monday, June 5, 2017


Reviewed by James Karas

HMS Pinafore is the Stratford Festival’s second musical offering this year and this one is done in the more intimate Avon Theatre.  Savoyards will tell you that there are few more delicious evenings at the theatre than a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta. From the first line of the Chorus who “sail the ocean blue,” to the love madrigals, to Sir Joseph’s patter song “I am the monarch of the sea” to the joy and rapture and orb of love that bring serenity at the end, this is a work to be relished. The production is quite successful subject to some questionable choices by the director.

Sir Joseph, the First Lord of the Admiralty who never went to sea as played by Laurie Murdoch steals the show. He gets some of the most memorable tunes and comedy and Murdoch is splendid in the role.
 Members of the company in HMS Pinafore. Photography by Cylla von Tiedemann. 
Steve Ross is funny as Captain Corcoran, the commander of HMS Pinafore. He is Middle Crust and wants his pretty daughter Josephine (Jennifer Rider-Shaw) to marry the Upper Crust Sir Joseph. She is in love with the Lower Crust sailor Ralph (Mark Uhre) and you got the whole plot. But do pay attention to Little Buttercup because Lisa Horner is very entertaining as a bumboat woman and she (the character not Lisa) may provide a solution to the class issue.     

Rider-Shaw has a beautiful voice that she uses to fine effect. She can rev her vocal chords to high gear with ease while maintaining control of the melody. Uhre’s Ralph sings movingly and forlornly as a stage lover and deserves to get Josephine no matter what his social niche.
Members of the company in HMS Pinafore. Photography by Cylla von Tiedemann. 
There is a chorus of sailors and Sir Joseph’s sisters, cousins and aunts who sing the ensemble songs. The sailors can mop a deck and dance and sing something fierce.

Lezlie Wade takes care of the directorial details and Patrick Clark designed the costumes. Easy for the sailors and very beautiful for the ladies.      

Wade and Set Designer Douglas Paraschuk have the operetta open with a picture of the exterior of the stately Portsmouth Manor and give some frantic activity in the interior of the grand house. Parts of the set is removed and we see the quarter-deck of the ship. Quite impressive but the programme tells us that the manor-home is a naval hospital.

A naval hospital in World War I? What is the point of setting a silly love story with wonderful music and humour in a hospital during a war? I have no idea except to toss the notion of directorial attempt to give a personal twist to the production. It does not work but lucky for us HMS Pinafore is unsinkable.
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 HMS Pinafore by Gilbert and Sullivan opened on May 31 and will run until October 21, 2017 at the Avon Theatre, 99 Downie St, Stratford, ON N5A 1X2.

1 comment:

  1. I think the naval hospital was chosen to show that in 100 years things haven't changed. Also, often prisoners of war and hospitals would do light entertainment to raise the moral. The patients would be familiar with Gilbert & Sullivan so this makes perfect sense. Just like people of 2017 are watching and doing shows that were first produced in the 1950's (Guys & Dolls)