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HMS PINAFORE Avon Theatre/Stratford Festival
By
Jul 17, 2017, 12:59
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Stratford Festival
Through October 21
HMS PINAFORE Avon Theatre/Stratford Festival

In these current days where there are concerns about all kinds of issues, Gilbert and Sullivan’s “HMS Pinafore” may be one of the few shows which makes it onto stages without selective slashings.
Of course, a wonderful production on Stratford Festival’s Avon Theatre stage may also have something to do with it.
Stratford for many years balanced its budgets on Brian Macdonald’s marvelous productions of G&S, with their pokes at modern Canadian politicians of the day, some in the theater seats for the show.
That may never happen again, with shows like “The Mikado” not likely to show up on any theater company’s season list any time soon.
So, enjoy this “Pinafore” production.
It has some quirks, especially director Lezlie Wade’s decision to do a wraparound story for the show, here patients and staff in a Naval hospital in Spithead, in the last hours of wartime 1917.
That was certainly a time when military, naval and civilians would understand the doltish tendencies of First Lord of the Admiralty, Sir. Joseph Porter (Laurie Murdoch), with his weaknesses exemplified by the life jacket he wears over his gaudy uniform.
Gilbert & Sullivan wrote the show in an earlier time, when the long peace after Waterloo meant Britain had a Navy with serious weaknesses and retaining the routine brutality which led to a fleet mutiny in Spithead during the Napoleonic wars.
In wartime, there wouldn’t have been the camaraderie between officers and men of this show.
OK, what about the show?
It’s great.
Captain Corcoran (Steve Ross) has a strong ship and an available daughter, with Sir Joseph interested in Josephine (Jennifer Rider-Shaw) while she’s interested in Able Seaman Ralph Rackstraw (Mark Uhre).
There’s also Dick Deadeye (Brad Rudy), an informer for Captain Corcoran.
There are a lot of people looking for companions here, including Glynis Ranney’s Little Buttercup.”
There are the usual confusions, misapprehensions and the weak colluding against the strong.
And, they sing and dance, with strong choreography from Kerry Gage, more ballet than Bob Fosse.
Wade contributes some quirky stage gimmicks while doing the show in the overdone format traditional with G&S.
Set Designer Douglas Paraschuk contributed a set which converts quickly from the hospital to the ship and that ship can be shifted for different purposes, it reminds me of the set from an old Stratford production of “Anything Goes!”
For music, there are some classic songs here, “We Sail the Ocean Blue,” “When I Was a Lad,” “I’m Called Little Buttercup” and “Never Mind the Why and Wherefore.”
There are some wonderful voices here, including Ranney, Murdoch, Uhre and Ross.
I thought Rider-Shaw was working too hard and pushing her vibrato.
This cast is working hard, particularly the dancers and they have been drilled hard, this far into the season.
Skipping the wraparound, this production of “HMS Pinafore” is wonderful, making the trip from Western New York worth your time and there are a couple of other shows available to complete a long day, two show trip.
It’s worth it.

A.W.

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