Reviews

H.M.S. Pinafore *****

By: Paulanne Simmons

January 9, 2023: Tired of the busy, complicated life of the 21st century? Step into the colorful, Victorian world of Gilbert and Sullivan, where men are true, women are beautiful and virtuous, and love triumphs. This season The New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players are presenting one of G&S’s most beloved operas, H.M.S. Pinafore, and the production is pure delight.

Finale Act II.

By: Paulanne Simmons

January 9, 2023: Tired of the busy, complicated life of the 21st century? Step into the colorful, Victorian world of Gilbert and Sullivan, where men are true, women are beautiful and virtuous, and love triumphs. This season The New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players are presenting one of G&S’s most beloved operas, H.M.S. Pinafore, and the production is pure delight.

Albert Bergeret directs a cast that seems born to play Gilbert and Sullivan’s charming, flamboyant and sometimes ridiculous characters. Michelle Seipel is Josephine, the Pinafore Captain Corcoran’s winsome daughter, and Cameron Smith is the able seaman who has fallen in love with her. 

Cameron Smith and Michelle Seipe.

Despite their beautiful voices, their love is doomed because Captain Corcoran (David Auxier) has promised his daughter to Sir Joseph Porter, First Lord of the Admiralty (James Mills). However, Little Buttercup (Angela Christine Smith), a dockside vendor who sells trifles to the sailors, hints there are dark secrets that may mean “things are seldom what they seem.”

Mills has perfected the Admiral’s pompous foolishness, and his “When I Was a Lad” is the showstopper it should be. Auxier easily embodies English classism but is also a kindly father. Mills and Auxier’s scenes together are comic masterpieces.

Sailors and Sisters, Cousins and Aunts.

The ensemble, which always plays such an important role in Gilbert and Sullivan operas, creates standout characters among the sailors onboard the ship and the large entourage that surrounds the Admiral (his sisters and his cousins and his aunts). Their singing and dancing certainly make the Pinafore’s quarterdeck rock.

Although Bergeret occasionally lets current events peak into the show, with references to Covid testing and Kevin McCarthy’s difficulties in becoming speaker of the House, this production is true to the spirit and style of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Victorian stage. 

David Auxier, James Mills and Victoria Devany.

Gilbert and Sullivan were well aware of the flaws in a society that put class distinction over personal ability and connections over experience. They used melodrama and music to make their point. Although many of the details have changed, human nature has not. For those willing to step into the past, H.M.S. Pinafore provides a gloriously glimpse into the foibles of humanity.

H.M.S. Pinafore ran Dec. 30, 2022 through Jan. 8, 2023 at Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College, 68 Street between Park and Lexington avenues. Photo Credit: Danny Bristoll