Perky “HMS Pinafore” Sails into Northampton With Huge Crew of Singers, Musicians [Berkshire on Stage]

November 14th, 2013, 1:00 pm by Sara
Philip Hart Helzzer as Captain Corcoran and Kathy Blaisdell as Mrs.Cripps (Buttercup)

Philip Hart Helzzer as Captain Corcoran and Kathy Blaisdell as Mrs. Cripps (Buttercup)

Review and Discussion by Gail M. Burns and Larry Murray

Larry Murray: This is one of my favorite G&S shows, how about you…

Gail M. Burns: One of them, yes. I have a special fondness for H.M.S. Pinafore because it was the first G&S operetta that I directed, but looking at it with an impartial eye, it is just Baby Gilbert & Sullivan. Although it was their fourth collaboration, it was their first mega-hit, and in it you see the solidification of the components that they would later hone to perfection in their mature classics – The Pirates of Penzance, Iolanthe, and The Mikado.

Larry: What could be more British than the nautical themes of Pinafore and Penzance, so I am always willing to sail the ocean blue with W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan’s first big hit. It’s a big production and there’s room for everyone at the grand Academy of Music in Northampton. The stage is larger than the school halls they have used in the past, and it has the ability to drop set pieces in from the flies, and fit 50 people on stage at the same time if needed.

Gail: I love to see how many people are involved in Valley Light Opera productions year after year – as you said, about 50 on stage, 25 in the orchestra, and countless others behind the scenes. And I love to see Gilbert & Sullivan performed in houses like the 1891 Northampton Academy of Music (Gilbert & Sullivan’s final collaboration opened in 1896) which has probably seen the H.M.S. Pinafore dock in her port a few dozen times over the years.

All that being said, director Graham Christian has made this a MUCH bigger production than it needs to be. Pinafore is a one-set show, but Christian has taken the action ashore and added two unecessary ballroom scenes. I remarked on our way to the show that I hoped this wouldn’t be one of those stuffy preserved-in-mothballs productions, but in hindsight I wish that Christian had reined in his inventiveness considerably.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.


LIVE: The Sorcerer @ Valley Light Opera, Amherst [GailSez]

November 10th, 2011, 2:00 pm by Sara

Heather Davies as JANE Wellington Wells in Valley Light Opera's gender-bending production of Gilbert & Sullivan's "The Sorcerer."  (photo: Rick Roy)

Heather Davies as JANE Wellington Wells in Valley Light Opera's gender-bending production of Gilbert & Sullivan's "The Sorcerer." (photo: Rick Roy)

Forgive me, gentle readers, for it is impossible for me to be objective about the work of William S. Gilbert (1836-1911) and Arthur Seymour Sullivan (1844-1900). I try to see the Savoy operas through the eyes of a virgin, to pretend I do not know every note and every lyric, but it is no use. I am way to close to this particular forest to see the trees. And that’s why I just love the Valley Light Opera and drive all the way over from Williamstown to Amherst (inevitably right after daylight savings time has ended) to see their productions. They have presented all fourteen Gilbert & Sullivan operettas – including the one that has no score. Now that’s MY kind of people!

This year’s offering is The Sorcerer, the duo’s problematic third collaboration. Like all the other wildly successful and oft-produced operettas that came after it, The Sorcerer is tuneful and funny, but the humor is solidly British and Victorian, so it is almost inscrutable to a modern American audience. If a director approaches it as a purist, s/he is doomed flame out and perish like the title character in the final scene.

Now there is no such thing as a bad production of The Sorcerer simply because it is done so seldom that any glimpse is a welcome treat for true Savoyards – I haven’t encountered it since I directed it myself in 1984 – but if I were going to quibble with Chris Rohmann’s fine production I would fault it for being a little too by the book, but then I am NOT a purist. Purists – and there are those who consider any deviation from Gilbert’s original promptbooks to be sacrilege – should be warned that Rohmann has cast a woman, the charming and talented Heather Davies, in the title role, who is now Jane (rather than John) Wellington Wells. (Quick! Get the smelling salts!)

Click to read the rest of this story at GailSez.

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