Reviewed by Katherine Karlson
It is most appropriate that in 2022, Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee, this year’s Summer Savoyards production is the rousingly patriotic H.M.S. Pinafore.
Considered one of Gilbert & Sullivan’s “big three” operettas, Pinafore hinges on their usual tropes of topsy-turvy identities, thwarted love matches and digs at the stuffy social conventions of the Victorian Age. It’s also a welcome return to live performances after the two-year pandemic shutdown.
This year’s pr0duction, which opened Friday night (July 8) to a small audience of staunch G&S fans in the Anderson Center Chamber Hall, included some novel modern touches. For example, a cabin boy had a charming moment when he used a “clap-on, clap-off” technique to conjure up a huge full moon to light the way for eloping lovers as well as the deck lights. The arrival of Sir Joseph Porter, played to dignified perfection by Wm. Clark Snyder, is a surprise that won’t be given away here.
The signature musical numbers were given full justice by the orchestra, conducted by Musical Director Sherri Strichman. Stage Director Richard Vollmer stepped in as a last-minute replacement for Dick Deadeye, and with book in hand, gave the comic villain a real presence in the second act.
The romantic duo of Josephine Corcoran, the Captain’s daughter (Jana Kučera) and Able Seaman Ralph Rackstraw (Jarod Hinton) made their respective songs a treat to listen to. Each has a fine voice — Kučera in particular is decidedly operatic — and they had a believable chemistry on stage. They were careful with their asides not to make a mockery of inner thoughts and feelings.
As the older couple with secret longings of the heart, Gregory Keeler as Captain Corcoran and Jessica Pullis as Little Buttercup were also as touching as they were funny. Both have excellent stage presence and can well handle the somewhat stilted script’s language.
Julia Adams, who played Cousin Hebe, the eventual winner in the Sir Joseph Porter marriage lottery, deserves praise for her haughty command of all situations and excellent lyrical voice. She also was in charge of the costumes, and hers in particular was eye-catching.
The ensemble players — sailors and female relations of Sir Joseph — made their respective production numbers entertaining. In particular, “A British Tar,” which requires a variety of facial expressions and arm gestures along with belting out the tune, did the crew proud. Among their ranks, Franklin Krongold and Logan Pullis as Bob Becket and Bill Bobstay (ya gotta love those G&S nomenclatures) did indeed perform yeoman’s work.
The flag-waving finale of “He is an Englishman” reminds us that a) there will always be an England and b) why G&S is an integral part of it. If you can’t cross the pond to take tea with Her Royal Majesty this summer, a brief sailing on H.M.S. Pinafore will more than please without suffering any mal de mer.
IF YOU GO: Performances will be at 7:30 p.m. today (July 9) and 3 p.m. Sunday (July 10) in Binghamton University’s Anderson Center Chamber Hall. Tickets are $25; seniors (65 and over) and children (12 and under), $20.
Call the box office at 607-777-ARTS (777-2787) or visit www.summersavoyards.org/2022-hms-pinafore or anderson-center.secure.force.com/ticket#/.