And so is Michael Albano’s new production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s HMS Pinafore which opened last night at the MacMillan Theatre. It’s been a long time since the UoT Opera Division did G&S but it was worth the wait. Fred Perruzza’s straight forward unit set was really brought to life by a fast paced and lively production. From the very beginning of the overture we had members of the crew cavorting and dancing (Choreographer Anna Theodosakis) in a manner perhaps owing more to Broadway than D’Oyly Carte and the better for it! The set, a quarter deck with a gallery, provided cabin doors and traps in the deck for characters to come and go (including conductor Sandra Horst appearing from “below” to take her bow). And of coming and going and dancing there was plenty. There were some more than decent dancers in the chorus too.
The singing and acting of the “lyric” parts was predictably excellent. Charles Sy, fresh from his triumph at Centre Stage, sang beautifully, acted well and, like the other principals, brought off the dialogue in a diction that was closer to rather dated British stage English than one might expect from Canadian students. Ryan Downey was a very fine Corcoran. He has a good voice and can act and was prepared and able to distort to comic effect when needed. Josephine was played by Karine White. Her pretty soprano is pretty much ideal for this kind of role and, as ever, her stage presence was impressive.
Ultimately it’s not a surprise that maybe the three best voices at UoT right now would nail the romantic roles. What was perhaps more impressive were the performances of the character roles usually sung by much older singers. Nicholas Borg’s Sir Joseph Porter KCB was splendid. He produced a perfect rendering of a self absorbed pompous ass rather than a doddery old git. Think Tony Blair in a naval uniform. And maybe that’s why the piece seemed quite relevant and timeless last night. Sir Joseph Porters still rule the Queen’s Navee and most everything else beside and still hide a deep elitism behind a faux nod to class equality. Back to the singing. Lyndsay Promane’s Little Buttercup was also impressive. There’s real depth and darkness in the voice that’s impressive in a young singer. Kristina Agur made a very decent fist of leading the sisters and cousins and aunts with just a hint that the Porter clan were not as upper crust as they affected. Rounding all this out was a thoroughly competent orchestra and chorus. Sandra Horst conducted and one wonders why she isn’t doing bigger gigs.
ETA: Not sure how I omitted Max van Wyck’s Dick Deadeye on the original post. He was spot on as the unpleasant contrarian who doesn’t buy into the “love conquers all” schtick. I think his weaselly unromantic approach to the role was a big part of making the whole thing feel timely and relevant.
It’s a fun show and everybody involved seems to be enjoying themselves. The MacMillan was packed and joyously noisy. Go see it if you can. There are three more performances; tonight, Saturday and a matinee Sunday. There are two casts so if you want to see last night’s lot you’ll need to go on Saturday.