The Gilbert & Sullivan Society of Maine’s annual production this year was the rousing H.M.S. Pinafore, G&S’s first hit and the model for comic operas for many years. The Society, one of the best G&S repertoire companies in the country, gave six performances this month at The Grand in Ellsworth. All performances were dedicated to three of the Society’s talented company members who died recently: Margaret Ames, Phyllis Gibson, and Brooklin’s Jean Porter.
Above, prior to the two-act comic opera, Society players put on a home-grown skit in which lyricist Sir W.S. Gilbert (Aidan Pasha) and music composer Sir Arthur Sullivan (Brooklin’s David Porter) discuss and try out some of their favorite comic opera ideas with members of the company.
Act I of the real play takes place at Noon on the quarterdeck of H.M.S. Pinafore, which is anchored off Portsmouth, England.
The commander of the ship, Captain Corcoran (Roland Dube), is trying to advance his career. He’s arranging the marriage of his reluctant daughter, Josephine (Eileen York), to Sir Joseph, the First Lord of The Admiralty (Maurice Joseph Marshall). The Lord is expected to board the ship soon.
Meanwhile, there are several other mismatches in the making. First, Raif [Ralph] Rackstraw (Peter Miller), an ordinary sailor, adores Josephine and she has eyes for him. But, class differences make Josephine feel that a loving relationship with a commoner would be impossible and she discourages Raif. Second, Little Buttercup (Debra Hangge) is attracted to the Captain and he to her, but, again, their class differences get in the way. She’s a bumboat woman who has boarded the anchored ship to sell ribbons and other wares.
Sir Joseph arrives resplendently by barge accompanied by a covey of dancing and singing “sisters, cousins, and aunts,” much to the joy of the crew.
In the show’s most famous number, When I Was a Lad, the Lord Admiral steps to the fore and gives the Pinafore crew advice, a few expurgated stanzas of which follow:
When I was a lad I served a term
As office boy to an Attorney's firm.
I cleaned the windows and I swept the floor,
And I polished up the handle of the big front door.
I polished up that handle so carefullee
That now I am the Ruler of the Queen's Navee!
Of legal knowledge I acquired such a grip
That they took me into the partnership.
And that junior partnership, I ween,
Was the only ship that I ever had seen.
Now landsmen all, whoever you may be,
If you want to rise to the top of the tree,
If your soul isn't fettered to an office stool,
Be careful to be guided by this golden rule.
Stick close to your desks and never go to sea,
And you all may be rulers of the Queen's Navee!
After jubilant celebration, Sir Joseph and the Captain exit to plan the Lord Admiral’s marriage to Josephine. At this point, Raif and Josephine are alone and he confesses his love for her and seeks her hand. Josephine pretends that she is shocked and insulted. Raif then puts a gun to his temple and announces that he’s going to commit suicide. This gets Josephine’s attention and she agrees to elope with Raif.
After a brief intermission, Act II of the play takes place in the same location, but during the moonlit night. Josephine’s reluctance to marry Sir Joseph has become obvious, Captain Corcoran has been informed by Buttercup that she knows a secret that will change everyone’s lives (but she does not disclose it), and the Captain has persuaded the Lord that Josephine is merely nervous about marrying such an exalted personage as he. Sir Joseph agrees to assure Josephine that “love levels all ranks.”
There's glee when Sir Joseph tells Josephine that love levels all ranks and she responds positively to the notion. She misunderstands (or pretends to misunderstand) and takes away the message that she is free to elope and marry Raif and he thinks she's agreed to marry him.
Dick Deadeye (Irv Hodgkin), a disgruntled crew member, reveals the elopement plot to the Captain, who disrupts it with improper curses. Sir Joseph orders the crew to throw the Captain in the ship’s brig for cursing and to take Raif into custody for his elopment plot.
Then, Buttercup reveals the long-kept secret from her days as a nurse: When they were babies, the Captain and Raif were switched and given to each other’s family; actually, the Captain is low-born and Raif is high-born.
Thus, Sir Joseph couldn’t possibly marry the low-born Josephine; the Captain and Buttercup being of equal rank may do so; and, if Raif wishes, he may condescend to marry Josephine. Being left out, the Lord reluctantly decides to marry Hebe (Demelza Ramirez), one of the well-born and more active cousins in his entourage. Suddenly, the Captain reappears in an ordinary seaman uniform and Raif appears in a Captain's uniform. All celebrate the changes.
All swarm into a patriotic finale, waiving the Union Jack.
.As the curtain goes down on the clever set of Artistic Director Sandra Blanchette, the memorable Arthur Sullivan melodies are reprised by the excellent orchestra, led by Music Director and pianist Scott Cleveland, who also is from Brooklin:
For larger versions of the above images, as well as many additional images of special moments in this comic opera, click on the link below. (We recommend that your initial viewing be in full-screen mode, which can be achieved by clicking on the Slideshow [>] icon above the featured image in the gallery to which the link will take you.) Here’s the link for more: