Smooth sailing for Glee Club's rendition of 'H.M.S. Pinafore"
The light and melodically charming operetta "H.M.S. Pinafore" opened on Thursday night to a large audience ranging from pre-adolescents to senior citizens. "Pinafore," written by the British duo Gilbert and Sullivan, was performed last Thursday and Friday nights by the Dartmouth Glee Club, and was directed by Louis Burkot.
Performer Rick Owen '93 described the stage set as "minimal but effective." It merely consisted of several panels depicting vessels on the ocean. The orchestra played from the side of the stage, clearly visible to the audience, which enhanced the operetta's simplicity.
A chorus of hearty sailors began Act I, singing a jovial "We sail the ocean blue." The sailors were highly entertaining as well as energetic and were the backbone of the performance. Considering the display of talent in singing and stage presence, I would not have noticed if Gene Kelly himself joined in the fun.
The female chorus did a nice job in the dancing scenes, while maintaining the shy girlishness typical of the late 1800s. However, the costumes were distractingly unattractive and resembled frilly housecoats. Simple, solid-colored dresses would have been easier on the eyes, and would have more closely resembled the 'pinafore.'
Dick Deadeye, an able but pessimistic sailor (Matthew Welander '97), whose tunes and gammy leg were a pleasure to experience, added much humor to the production. Welander's Monty Pythonesque delivery fit the role well.
Itir Sayin '95 as Buttercup, who is secretly in love with Captain Corcoran (David Sullivan '92), sang with a mellow voice, though at first she was a little difficult to understand. In Act II, though, Buttercup absolutely shone in her singing of "Things are seldom what they seem." Here, one could easily have mistaken Buttercup as the bold and dramatic Carmen from Bizet's famous opera. A rich voice such as hers should not be confined to a role like that of Buttercup, who should sound simple and bright.
Captain Corcoran and Sir Joseph (Anthony Lipp '94) were amusingly stately throughout the show, and delivered punch lines perfectly. Sullivan's first song in Act II, with a few tough intervals and high notes, was handled nicely. Lipp's hammy performance featured priceless facial expressions. The two maintained a good stage rapport.
Kaja Schuppert '95, as Josephine, the captain's daughter, who is in love with a common sailor, has a sweet and gentle voice which matched her role. She was well received by the audience.
The common sailor, Ralph, was played by Michael Parsons '94, though there was nothing common in his performance. Ralph simply carried the show with his incredibly smooth voice, especially during the ballads. There is no doubt that Parsons is what Gilbert and Sullivan had in mind when they created the character of Ralph Rackstraw.
The musical numbers of "H.M.S. Pinafore" resulted in an entertaining operetta, enjoyable both for the serious fan and for the cheesy musical theater buff. If you missed this one, you missed out in a big way.