THEATER REVIEW: ‘H.M.S. Pinafore’ @ Ohio Light Opera by Kelly Ferjutz

Through Sat 8/12

One of the great favorites by Gilbert and Sullivan, H.M.S. Pinafore, or The Lass That Loved a Sailor is also the oldest piece of musical theater to be presented this season at Ohio Light Opera, as it dates to 1878.

In it, the wonderfully bumbling First Lord of the Admiralty, who never expected to be a sea-going man — he attained his rank, after all, by polishing door “handles so carefullee” — has suddenly decided, at his rather advanced age, to take a wife. The problem is, Josephine, the young woman he’s selected, has a different suitor in mind, a rather ordinary if able seaman. Her father, himself the Naval Captain Corcoran, is aghast at her choice. He wishes her future to be secure, after all, and he fears for society’s condemnation if she marries beneath herself.

Ralph Rackstraw, a handsome young sailor who would rather be a poet than a sailor, is the apple of Josephine’s eye, but he too realizes the foolishness of his quest. The Captain wouldn’t mind being married again either, but there is no suitable woman on the horizon. Little Buttercup, the bumboat woman, although in love with the Captain, realizes she is hardly eligible, except that she has a secret!

That is basically the plot, but of course, there are numerous embellishments: Little Buttercup who was once a “baby farmer” suddenly admits to having switched two infants long ago, and the sometimes crippled Dick Deadeye, who really doesn’t seem to fill any particular need other than comic relief.

Then again, G & S never really need much in the way of a plot, which would probably only get in the way of the scintillating lyrics of Gilbert and wonderfully brisk tunes of Sullivan.

The version currently on stage at Ohio Light Opera is bright and colorful, especially when the young ladies are present, wafting their pastel parasols overhead, and the usual naval blue otherwise. H.M.S. Pinafore, the ship on which all the action takes place, is a wonderful setting by Daniel Hobbs, and the orchestra was ably helmed by J. Lynn Thompson. Lighting by Brittany Shemuga and sound by Samantha Palumbo were everything one could wish for. As usual, the choreography by Spencer Reese was entirely suitable and costumes by Charlene Gross (assisted by Jennifer Ammons) were dashing or raggedy as required by the characters or their actions.

It was a treat to see Boyd Mackus onstage again as the rather buffoonish Sir Joseph. He hasn’t lost a step during his absence, well able to keep up with the singing, dancing and comic bits, especially hoisting the huge bell over one shoulder in the rollicking trio with his proposed bride and her father, “Never Mind the Why and Wherefore.” Daniel Neer was the perfectly capable Captain, and his daughter Josephine (Hilary Koolhoven in the production I saw) was charming and bright. Her suitor Ralph was Benjamin Krumreig, a native of Lakewood and graduate of Baldwin Wallace in Berea. Nathan Brian was the scary Dick Deadeye, while the steadfast Bill Bobstay was Ted Christopher

H.M.S. Pinafore runs in repertory through Sat 8/12. For ticket information, visit ohiolightopera.org or call 330.263.2345.

[Written by Kelly Ferjutz]

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