May 4, 2017… HMS Pinafore, Gilbert and Sullivan’s delightful operetta, sails into the Avon Theatre today with its first preview.
Director Lezlie Wade takes us back 100 years to a manor house turned naval convalescent hospital where the staff join their patients in presenting HMS Pinafore as part of a New Year’s Eve celebration, as Britain moves into what will be the final year of World War I. Filled with glorious music and witty dialogue, and anchored by a sweet love story, the musical is pure escapist pleasure.
“Gilbert knew what he was doing when he wrote these comic operas: there are so many levels of enjoyment,” says Ms Wade, who has worked on a number of Stratford projects, including as assistant director of Jesus Christ Superstar. “If you’re an opera lover, there’s the music and beautiful vocal arrangements. If you like wit and satire, there is plenty of that to be had. If you like slapstick comedy, romance and happy endings, you won’t be disappointed.”
“HMS Pinafore offers a lighthearted spin on our season’s theme of Identity,” says Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino. “It is, of course, a charming romantic comedy set to some of the most enjoyable music ever written for the stage, but it too has something to say about the disparity between the social roles imposed on us and who we really are inside. The lovers in the story face each other across a class divide, but come to realize that their core selves are more than the external identities constructed by their circumstances. This is one reason why musical comedies raise our spirits so well: they suggest we can become so much more than we are, or think we are. All you need is love.”
The sensational cast features Jennifer Rider-Shaw as Josephine and Mark Uhre as her beloved Ralph Rackstraw, with Lisa Horner as Little Buttercup, Laurie Murdoch as Sir Joseph Porter and Steve Ross as Captain Corcoran.
The brilliant score, including “We Sail the Ocean Blue,” “I’m Called Little Buttercup” and “Never Mind the Why and Wherefore,” is brought to life by a live 17-piece orchestra, led by Music Director Franklin Brasz.
The creative team also includes Choreographer Kerry Gage, Set Designer Douglas Paraschuk, Costume Designer Patrick Clark, Lighting Designer Wendy Greenwood, Projection Designer Nick Bottomley, Sound Designer Peter McBoyle and Fight Director John Stead.
HMS Pinafore officially opens on Wednesday, May 31, and runs until Saturday, October 21.
Book and lyrics are by W.S. Gilbert, with music by Arthur Sullivan.
This production is jointly dedicated to the memories of sound engineer William Gosling and former company member Richard McMillan.
Production support is generously provided by Nona Macdonald Heaslip.
Support for the 2017 season of the Avon Theatre is generously provided by the Birmingham family.
HMS Pinafore Forum highlights
The Forum is a series of events, such as exclusive showcases, guest speakers, special meals, music and family fun, that offer theatregoers a unique opportunity to delve deeper into the ideas and issues raised by the 2017 playbill. Themes related to HMS Pinafore will be explored through several Forum events, including:
Wednesday, July 5
For this discussion on the use of satire as social commentary in the works of Gilbert and Sullivan, Lezlie Wade, director of HMS Pinafore, is joined by Annette av Paul, wife of the late Brian Macdonald, the director of the Festival’s famous productions of Gilbert and Sullivan in the 1980s, and comedian Gavin Crawford, host of CBC Radio’s Because News.
Wednesday, July 26
Company member Sara Farb and Stratford native Britta Johnson present their original musical He Is Coming and discuss the current burgeoning of musical theatre creation with director Robert McQueen and Mitchell Marcus, Artistic Director of the Musical Stage Company.