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Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: ‘Pinafore’ full of Gilbert and Sullivan riches

A New York company did the comic opera up right at the Weidner Center.

PHOTO: Louis Dall’Ava, as Dick Deadeye, left, performs a comic scene with dutiful Sailors in the New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players production of “H.M.S. Pinafore.” Company photo

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – To know Gilbert and Sullivan shows is to love them, at least as done by the New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players, prime perpetrators of the particularly pithy pair’s works in America today. The faithful company came to the Weidner Center for the Performing Arts Friday night to unleash “H.M.S. Pinafore” on a suspecting audience (knowing Gilbert and Sullivan and reading that the performance would be by pros, the audience suspected the performance would be more than good, which it was – 4½ stars out of 5).

Now, Gilbert and Sullivan shows are largely passé for the mass of the populace, but I’m of the ilk of what care I? The comic operas are so rich with musical color and clever satire and just plain fun, they are a joy. To see, in Green Bay, a full-fledged production by an Equity company was a rare, rare treat.

The production that played at the Weidner Center included a bonus character. Company artistic director, general manager, conductor and ENTHUSIAST Albert Bergeret was part of the action from the pit and in his general aura as the ENTHUSIAST.

A leading player, Stephen Quint (who played the puffed-up Sir Joseph Porter), captured the spirit of the operation in his program bio. He grew up in Maine and today “lives in Brooklyn Heights, where they shoot Law & Order, in which Steve has never and will never appear. Educated as a French horn player, Steve was quickly promoted by the astute Albert Bergeret from the NYGASP pit orchestra to the stage in 1987… over a thousand performances… Still plays the horn like a hero and still loves G&S (platonically).”

In “H.M.S. Pinafore,” Quint’s character-actor skills gush all over the role of the fool who has risen to the rank of a supreme leader on the basis of bureaucratic buffoonery. In a scene with a celebratory toast that gets out of hand, Quint/Sir Roger and the Captain (David Auxier) had tipsy fun teasing all manner of English tomfoolery of the past and, bringing things to the present, the invitation of the pope to Green Bay. Other you-had-to-be-there kind of update jokes were slipped into the show to go along with the playfulness that’s been in the show since day one.

New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players features abundant good singing that’s juiced up with movement and dancing. This production was more than hearing the lovers Ralph Rackstraw (Daniel Greenwood) and Josephine (Kate Bass) let rip big notes expressing their LOVE. The choreography added to the songs, such as the catchy tune “I’m Called Buttercup,” sung by Angela Christine Smith as Buttercup, that drifts into the story at various spots and still is tip toeing around in my head today.

Sometimes notes were sung – rather than notes AND understandable words – but the overall experience was enjoyable. The performance earned a standing ovation.

***

Creative: Director and conductor – Albert Bergeret, choreography – Bill Fabris, scenic design – Albére, costume design – Gail Wofford

Cast: The Rt. Hon. Sir Joseph Porter, K.C.B. (First Lord of the Admiralty) – Stephen Quint; Captain Corcoran (Commanding H.M.S. Pinafore) – David Auxier; Ralph Rackstraw (Able Seaman) – Daniel Greenwood; Dick Deadeye (Able Seaman) – Louis Dall’Ava; Bill Bobstay (Boatswain’s Mate) – David Wannen; Bob Becket (Carpenter’s Mate) – Matthew Wages; Josephine (The Captain’s Daughter) – Kate Bass; Cousion Hebe – Victoria Devany; Little Buttercup (Mrs. Cripps, a Portsmouth Bumboat Woman) – Angela Christine Smith; Sergeant of Marines – James Mills; Ensemble of Sailors, First Lord’s Sisters, Cousins and Aunts – Elisabeth Cernadas, Michael Galante, Amy Maude Helfer, Alan Hill, Sarah Hutchison, David Macaluso, Lance Olds, Rebecca O’Sullivan, Monique Pelletier, Chris-Ian Sanchez, Sarah Caldwell Smith, Cameron Smith, Seph Stanek, Laura Sudduth

Musical numbers

Overture

Act I

“We sail the ocean blue,” Sailors

“Hail! men-o’-war’s men”... “I’m called Little Buttercup.” Buttercup

“But tell me who’s the youth,” Buttercup and Boatswain

“The nightingale,” Ralph and Chorus of Sailors

“A maiden fair to see,” Ralph and Chorus of Sailors

“My gallant crew, good morning,” Captain and Chorus of Sailors

“Sir, you are sad,” Buttercup and Captain

“Sorry her lot who loves too well,” Josephine

“Over the bright blue sea,” Chorus of Female Relatives

“Sir Joseph’s barge is seen,” Chorus of Sailors and Female Relatives

“Now give three cheers,” Captain, Sir Joseph, Cousin Hebe and Chorus

“When I was a lad,” Sir Joseph and Chorus

“For I hold that on the sea,” Sir Joseph, Cousin Hebe and Chorus

“A British tar,” Ralph, Boatswain, Carpenter’s Mate and Chorus of Sailors

“Refrain, audacious tar,” Josephine and Ralph

“Can I survive this overbearing?” Ensemble

Act II

Entr’acte

“Fair moon, to thee I sing,” Captain

“Things are seldom what they seem,” Buttercup and Captain

“The hours creep on apace,” Josephine

“Never mind the why and wherefore,” Josephine, Captain and Sir Joseph

“Kind Captain, I’ve important information,” Captain and Dick Deadeye

“Carefully on tiptoe stealing,” Soli and Chorus

“He is an Englishman,” Boatswain and Ensemble

“Farewell, my own,” Ralph, Josephine, Sir Joseph, Buttercup and Chorus

“A many years ago,” Buttercup and Chorus

“Oh joy, oh rapture unforeseen,” Ensemble

***

 

THE VENUE: Cofrin Family Hall is one of three performance spaces within the Edward W. Weidner Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. At its maximum capacity setup, the hall seats 2,021 over its three levels of maple-and-burgundy seats. For “H.M.S. Pinafore,” the hall was adapted to open an orchestra pit at stage front. Albert Bergeret did his thing from there. Opened Jan. 15, 1993, the hall was built to adapt to the needs of orchestra concerts, operas, musicals, plays and organ, band and choral concerts. For acoustical properties, wood is emphasized on the seats, mezzanine and balcony surfaces and walls near the stage. Many surfaces are curved to help shape the sound. Wood is featured for an aesthetic reason, too – a “from here” aura of woodsy Northeastern Wisconsin.

THE PEOPLE: The name Cofrin relates in great degree to A.E. Cofrin, founder of Fort Howard Paper Co., and his son, Dr. David A. Cofrin, who was instrumental in building the Weidner Center through multi-million-dollar donations. A friendship developed between David A. Cofrin (1921-2009) and Edward W. Weidner (1921-2007), the beloved founding chancellor of UWGB. Weidner arrived when there were no buildings on the present-day campus on rolling hills near the shore of Green Bay. His interests ranged from academia to birding to sports. He loved building projects. It was in his blood. He guided the building of the Weidner Center, so named from early on in construction. Weidner admitted his eyes welled once when driving to a performance and seeing a green sign along the highway: WEIDNER CENTER.

You may email me at warren.gerds@wearegreenbay.com. Watch for my on-air features on WFRV between 6 and 8 a.m. Sundays.

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