Reviewed by Lee Shepherd
True confessions: I know Gilbert and Sullivan’s H.M.S. Pinafore inside and out – but only as a pit orchestra musician. I always wondered what was going on above my head, what all the foot stomping was about and why the audience was snickering, chortling and guffawing.
Friday night (July 15) in the Anderson Center, at the Summer Savoyards’ eighth production of Pinafore, I found out.
The operetta subtitled “The Lass That Loved A Sailor,” is simply hilarious – not just for the infectiously hummable tunes, but also for the clever dialogue, stage gags and broadly funny characters. The plot, of course, is really silly, but the show itself is sheer fun.
Typical of any G& S Production, up-to-the minute humor was injected into the script. A ghostly-voiced announcer read us our “Miranda rights” (turn off your cell phones, etc.) in the pre-show announcements, and we were asked to locate the “Brexits.”
How lucky we are to have opera singers right in our community, some lured here by Tri-Cities Opera and Binghamton University’s collaborative opera programs. Tenor Cole Tornberg (Ralph Rackstraw) is an up-and-coming TCO performer, and Dylan Ruffo (Capt. Corcoran), is a TCO chorus veteran. Both have wonderful lyrical voices. Jana Kucera’s soaring and sweet soprano as Josephine has as much to do with her BU Music Department training as her incredible innate talent as a singer, actress and comedian.
As Dick Deadeye, Wm. Clark Snyder (another TCO chorus stalwart) was the most menacing villain ever to grace a Pinafore production. I’d never want to meet him in a dark corridor at WSKG, where he’s the mid-day classical music host.
The “round, rosy and entirely pleasing” Little Buttercup was sung by veteran Summer Savoyards singer Danel Vaglica, a talented product of SUNY Fredonia.
A great big teddy bear award to Cabin Boy Tom Tucker (almost 12-year-old Molly Beckenhaupt), who stole the show with her impish antics.
In this, the Summer Savoyards’ 56th season, the backstage crew did itself proud. Stage DirectorTim Mollen must be applauded for all the schtick injected into the production, most notably a seasick admiral (Sir Joseph Porter, played by Sam Westover), who regularly hung his head over the side of the ship.
The set, designed by James Ulrich, is functional and attractive, although too much action takes place far upstage, where it’s harder to decipher the diction.
The pit orchestra was spirited and energetic, with a few minor intonation problems. Difficult and abrupt tempo changes were handled expertly. And, believe me, I know the music ain’t easy to play for any orchestra member. Early in the show, however, the chorus wasn’t paying heed to the conductor and lagged behind the music.
Music Director Kimberly Tyler, who coached the chorus as well as conducting the orchestra, did a truly professional job. The women’s chorus of Sir Joseph’s “sisters, cousins and aunts,” was especially well prepared, demonstrating the vocal beauty of merged female voices. They were dressed like gorgeous flowers in a field, thanks to the vision of costumiere Julia Adams, working off the 2002 designs of Stephen Dell’Aversano.
All the member of the chorus had obviously thought out a character for themselves, and they played their roles to the hilt. Even the minor roles — the Boatswain’s Mate (Bob Tyler), Cousin Hebe (Sharilyn Mitchell) and the Carpenter’s Mate (Franklin Krongold) — were full-blown personalities. Watching them added to the enjoyment.
Dammit (don’t tell Sir Joseph Porter I said that) — the whole evening floated my boat.
IF YOU GO: Performances continue at 7:30p.m. today (July 16) and 3 p.m. Sunday (July 17) in the air-conditioned Chamber Hall of Binghamton University’s Anderson Center. Call 777-ARTS for tickets, or visit www.binghamton.edu/anderson-center to reserve your general admission tickets. Ticket prices are $22 (seniors, $20; under $12). Check the website for box office hours.