8th August 2007
Today we did a walk up Shuttlingsloe via the steeper side ;-) It does not look very steep in the photos - but it is!
The overture went along at a good pace and the tabs opened to reveal a nice set depicting the deck of HMS Pinafore - to the left were the cabins and raised area - to the right were sails and to the rear were the sides of the ship and the sea in the distance. The sailors were all engaged in meaningful activities such as mopping and scrubbing the deck, making sails, cleaning and polishing the woodwork and Dick Deadeye was even doing some Scrimshaw work on a tusk. The opening chorus was well sung, with good movement around the stage. I did feel it was a little too slow but this was more than made up for with their enthusiasm. I was a little confused with their uniforms but later on at the entry of the girls it became clear that it had been set earlier than usual. The trousers were not the usual bell-bottoms which we are so used to seeing but they tended to go narrow at the ankle - also some had striped trousers. According to the programme the period was was set around the time of Nelson.
Buttercup was a good actress - she knew her part well and was full of confidence - her singing voice was true and well projected. She had good fun with the wares she was selling - especially trying to get Dick Deadeye to have some mints to hide his bad breath. Her opening song "I'm called little Buttercup" was well sung and the interaction with the sailors was excellent especially in the dialogue with Deadeye.
Ralph started his solos at the top level of the cabins to the left of the stage. Why directors insist on sending soloists up to such locations never ceases to amaze me - certainly it may look good to have them there but the directors want to try sitting in various parts of the theatre during rehearsals and see if they can hear the words as clearly as they want the audience to do so - I think not! The volume when singing from the top of the set was about half that of the same person in the centre of the stage - get them to the front where we can all enjoy their facial expressions and hear the words. Anyway off he went and after a few bars his voice gave way - however, credit to this actor, he carried on and regained control. This happened a couple of other times during the production.
The Captain came came on to the bridge and greeted his crew He had a great baritone voice - very mellow with good diction. He had an excellent uniform on and strode about the stage as if he really was in charge of this ship. The crew reacted well and they all moved about the stage with great skill.
Josephine entered - she had a gorgeous voice with superb diction - every word coming soaring over the orchestra pit as she sang "Sorry her lot..." Josephine and the Captain had good interaction as he tries to persuade her to be more pleasant to Sir Joseph - she explains, to his horror, that she is already in love with a common sailor. This led into the song "Reflect, My Child". This was a version which had been reconstructed by SavoyNetters Helga J. Perry and the late Bruce I Miller. I don't think this adds much to the production and was perhaps a wise move by Gilbert to omit it before the first performance.
The ladies chorus enter as Sir Joseph's sisters, cousins and aunts. A very lively group in lovely dresses. They moved about the stage with great conviction. The reaction of the sailors was crisp and well rehearsed. Good singing from all. Sir Joseph entered - he was very haughty and stood posing in a most sneering manner. He was wearing a superb costume and a large hat - both of which fitted him well. (Some discussion took place during the interval as to what uniform he was wearing and also as to why a political appointment should be wearing a uniform?) He sang an excellent rendition of his opening song "I am the monarch of the sea" and also "When I was a lad". Good interaction between Sir Joseph, the Captain and Deadeye as Sir Joseph examines the crew. How Sir Joseph loved putting down the Captain, to show his superiority.
Ralph decided that he will ask Josephine to be his wife. Deadeye responds with a warning that it will be a mistake - they are so fed up with Deadeye that they try to cure his state of mind by singing him the Glee "A British Tar". This was the low point of the operetta - they kept going off key when unaccompanied and as a result, when the orchestra rejoined them there was a problem.
Good interaction between Josephine and Ralph as he professes his love for her. She rejects him and Ralph calls on the crew and Sir Joseph's relatives to tell them what has happened and how he is to end it all by killing himself. Josephine rushes on to stop him - telling him that she loves him. How the cast celebrate as the act closes.
Act two starts with the Captain up on the poop-deck where he sings a good rendition of "Fair moon to thee..." Again the acoustics were not good up there - even for a strong voice like this. Buttercup has been sitting on the deck listening intently to this song. As he comes down to the deck he spots her and then they have good fun with the duet "Things are seldom as they seem".
Buttercup leaves, the Captain telling us how he fancies her. Sir Joseph enters and the Captain requests that he tell Josephine that it it OK for her to marry Sir Joseph even though he is in a much higher social position than her. They withdraw and Josephine comes on and sings a lovely solo "The hours creep on apace" She does this very well with superb facial expressions as she compares what her life would be with the wealthy Sir Joseph or the lowly sailor. When Sir Joseph enters with the Captain he tries to explain that love levels all ranks but in doing so he convinces Josephine that she is right to marry Ralph...... They have good fun with the really well done trio "Never mind the why and wherefore" Lots of action from Sir Joseph.
Deadeye warns the Captain of the plan to elope and then when the crew come on the Captain cracks the cat-of-ninetails and Deadeye explains it was just the cat. Some lovely singing and excellent movement in this section as Ralph explains that he and Josephine are in love. Sir Joseph hears the Captain use the "D" word and is shocked - he comes down and remonstrates with him - The Captain, despite his protestations, is sent off to his cabin.
Sir Joseph's reactions are super as he realises that Ralph loves Josephine - so he too has to go off in chains. Buttercup saves the day by admitting that she mixed the two up when she was looking after them as babies. Ralph returns dress as the Captain whilst the captain is demoted to a common sailor. Hebe eventually persuades Sir Joseph to marry her so all ends happily.
A very good production - there were one or two parts where the tempo was a little slow but on the whole it went at a reasonable pace. All the principals were good with no weak parts. Ralph overcame his early voice problems. Josephine was excellent in all respects with a lovely clear voice. Sir Joseph kept up his haughty character all the way through. He was a little quiet at times but his diction was good enough to carry the words over despite the lower volume. The Boatswain was superb in all respects. Hebe had a excellent voice and was full of fun. Deadeye was great - he had such a delightful clear deep voice and was an excellent actor.