Reviewed by Sherri Strichman
The Forum in downtown Binghamton hummed with excitement Sunday afternoon (April 28) for Tri-Cities Opera’s single performance of Gilbert & Sullivan’s operetta H.M.S. Pinafore. From the downbeat, the orchestra was light and together under the direction of Joshua Horsch.
Director Nicholas Wuehrmann had his leads and chorus choreographed to the max. The unison moves were a little out of synch for the opening sailor chorus, but it came together soon enough to delight the audience. Both the men and women of the chorus (prepared by John Cockerill) sang and moved well. The stretto near the end of the first act was thrilling with the chorus — as it should — pacing the orchestra, beat for beat.
The movement was well-thought out and clever except in two instances. There was a bit during Josephine’s second act aria that, while funny, upstaged the lead soprano, which should not have happened. Also, the wheelhouse, the highest point on the multi-level representation of the H.M.S. Pinafore, was not a good acoustic for the voice. It should not have been where John Shelhart (Dick Deadeye) was staged for the finale of Act I. During “Shall We Submit,” the wonderful counterpoint Dick sings against the entire chorus was buried. He should have been downstage.
Costume coordinator Susan Johnson, working with designs by Stephen M. Dell’Aversano, made sure everyone was attractively dressed and that the women’s pinks and greens melded suitably with the sailors’ uniforms.
As far as the performers went, the most consistent was Jake Stamatis as Sir Joseph Porter K.C.B. Voice, accent, characterization – all were uniform throughout. As usual, he made us love him, with too many fine moments to pick and choose among them.
Kevin Bryant as Ralph Rackstraw added his clear, pleasant voice to an endearing and pleasant character.
I found Gina Moscato less pleasant as Josephine. The center of her voice sometimes lies below the pitch. I also found her characterization to be less sympathetic than I would have wished. Still, she had great stamina and verve, and the audience adored her.
Aaron Stepanek was a stronger actor than singer. His voice is lovely but not very authoritative unless he’s staged downstage. His character was great fun to watch, though.
The moment I most enjoyed was the “Never Mind the Why and Wherefore” trio and its three encores. Stamatis, Moscato and Stepanek sang and danced, played instruments, and performed other physical antics with skill and apparent ease, although there was nothing easy about it.
Tesia Kwarteng (Buttercup) has shown her versatility over the course of this season with four completely different characters. Her voice is always solid. I loved the red wig she sported (hair and makeup by Shushu Vaughn) so that she could be “round and red and rosy.”
Shelhart gave an enjoyable performance as the curmudgeonly nay-sayer.
The rest of the cast included Erik Tofte, Deanna Morgan and Evan Nelson as the Bo’sun, Cousin Hebe and the Carpenter.
Gary C. Eckhart designed the set, first used by TCO in 1994. The rest of the fine production team included AmarA*jk (scenic art) and Joshua Rose (lighting).
Worth the price? Yes. A pity it was only to be performed once.