Smooth sailing for UMGASS' enduring 'HMS Pinafore'
Give three cheers (and once cheer more) for the cast and crew of the “HMS Pinafore.” The current production, by the University of Michigan Gilbert & Sullivan Society, is shipshape in all regards.
The show, which opened Thursday, will continue through Sunday afternoon at Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre.
Gilbert & Sullivan’s familiar comic operetta is one of the duo’s most enduring, and it’s easy to see why, with so many catchy melodies and a lighter-than-air love story that pokes fun at the English class system in place in the late 1800s.
Co-directors Greg Hassold and David Andrews, along with Music Director Dave Day, choreographer Ann Miller, Costume Designer Marilyn Gouin and Scenic Designer Laura Strowe should all take a bow. The pacing was spot on, the music and dancing (in particular the jaunty hornpipes that kept popping up) more than got the job done, and the colorful look of the set and costumes was a treat for the eye.
Tom Cilluffo (Ralph Rackstraw) and Katrina Van Maanen (Josephine) were perfect as the lowly sailor / captain’s daughter who fall in love despite differences in their rank. Not long ago, Cilluffo - who according to the program has already appeared in more than 40 productions - was still in high school in Traverse City. Now he’s a freshman in voice performance and was so good he might just as well be considered a professional. Van Maanen is also a pro, about to pursue her master’s degree in opera performance. The two together were exceptional.
Paul Brumfield (a dashing Captain Corcoran) and Lori Gould (Little Buttercup), were likewise excellent. Don Regan (the patrician and oh-so-polite Sir Joseph Porter KCB) looked like he was relishing his role, with every glance and facial tic bringing depth to his character.
Jeremy Williams (the scurvy Dick Deadeye) who looked a bit like a garden gnome with his beard and hat, kept the audience laughing, and his "Kind Captain, I've important information" proved he had vocal chops as well. The same went for Phillip Rhodes, whose smaller role got suddenly bigger thanks to his terrific "He is an Englishman."
"Never mind the why and wherefore" always gets laughs, this time with Regan milking the song’s many go-‘rounds for all they were worth. The bit with the bells (and stockpot) was funny, and although the appearance of a marionette cat (Basingstoke in the program) was a bit perplexing, it made sense later.
In short, it was a real treat to see a show so smoothly executed. No walking the plank for this bunch, but an extra tot of rum all around - if you please.
"HMS Pinafore" continues through Sunday. For more information, see the UMGASS website.