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April 11, 2000

HMS Pinafore Sails High

A Review by Pat and Ernie Pinson

The queen’s navy surely was never like this! Such rollicking satire on the august establishment of British society was the keynote of Gilbert and Sullivan and one of the things that made their Victorian operettas into such major hits. The British loved it then, and we love it now. After all, it is not such a quantum leap to fit the parody into the politics of our own society. The satiric brilliance of the 14 operettas that Gilbert and Sullivan produced 1870 - 1890 transformed English theater, and have been keeping audiences in stitches and managers in riches ever since.

The Mobile Opera’s spring production was for only two nights, March 30 and April 1, but Her Majesty’s Ship brought in gales of laughter and torrents of travesty.

Perhaps the most outstanding duo was Stage Director Bill Fabris and Conductor Jerome Shannon. They seem to play off each other -- much of the clever business came from the use of the orchestra -- which almost became a character itself in the operetta. And the audience loved it when Shannon leaped out of the orchestra pit to go up on stage to get the attention of the daft and dallying lord of the queen’s navy.

In fact Bill Fabris gave this Victorian farce a face lift with the telephone conversation between the Captain and the Admiral, the Admiral’s interplay with the orchestra, the trio’s treble try-out of an upside-down score, and all the other touches of hilarity which made the libretto take on new life.

The performers were also top-notch. Fine voices and equally fine acting was everywhere on deck. Keith Jursoko made the Captain a chameleon of character change from dignified dictator to a tipsy father and finally to just one of the crew. His facial expressions, body language and accent were subtle or broad as the moment required.

The Admiral Stephen Quint was really the greatest caricature and he played the part to the hilt. His small stature encompassed an enormous ego, spaciness (and propensity for seasickness), and his jolly attitude about his very serious position in the world made him the height of satire.

Sarah Wright, our native Mobilian Buttercup, was one of the best on stage. She could have a broad Cockney accent when she wanted and her voice and portrayal of Buttercup couldn’t be improved on. The chorus of the Admiral’s sisters, his cousins and his aunts, and the ships crew were excellent as well -- no standing around singing here. They were the sisters and the sailors. Bravo chorus!

And Bravo Mobile Opera!! Few Gilbert and Sullivan’s can match this one!


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