"H.M.S. Pinafore:” An operetta of humor, romance and intensity

"H.M.S. Pinafore" is the first production of 2017 for UConn Opera. (Screenshot/UConn School of Fine Arts)

Audience members roared with laughter at the fourth-wall breaking, innuendo-laden and shenanigan filled operetta “H.M.S. Pinafore”, presented by the University of Connecticut Opera Theater at the Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts on Sunday evening.

“H.M.S. Pinafore”, a Gilbert and Sullivan production from the same partnership that produced “Pirates of Penzance”, follows the Captain Corcoran (bass-baritone, played by Anthony Leathem) and his daughter, Josephine (Sandra Marante, soprano) as the captain faces the conundrum of marrying Josephine off. Though the noble Sir Joseph Porter (Jon Dyson), the navally unqualified First Admiral, wishes to wed the girl, Josephine instead loves the humble sailor Ralph Rackstraw (Spencer Reese), though he is “below her station.”

Coupled with onboard shenanigans, a budding romance between the captain and the dockside vendor Little Buttercup (Judith Bowers, mezzo-soprano), humorous songs such as ‘I am the Captain of the Pinafore’ and the dastardly schemes of the crewman Dick Deadeye (Michael McAvoy) the performance comes together as a classic Gilbert and Sullivan piece, with snarkiness, memorable songs and tongue-in-cheek subversions of common nautical tropes.

“H.M.S. Pinafore” is the first production of 2017 for UConn Opera, which is a part of the Music Department. The cast has been rehearsing the operetta since last September, Jon Dyson, who played Sir Joseph Porter, said.

“This is my first show,” Dyson said. “It was amazing. I’ve had some of the best castmates.”

Dyson, a sixth semester music education major, said that he drew upon the styles of Johnny Depp and the movie “Hocus Pocus” to play the flamboyant admiral.

“[The part] was close to me,” Dyson said. “It was very easy for me to pull on all my experience [from] the past.”

Tyler Panek, a fourth semester music education major who sang the part of the Boatswain, said that the production was memorable to him because of the cast and crew.

“It was an incredible experience to work with such highly talented faculty and students,” he said. “[It’s] a very powerful bonding experience. It’s going to be sad now that it’s over.”

One of the main draws to the performance, audience members said, was the lighthearted and humorous tones in the story, which is very typical for Gilbert and Sullivan productions.

“It’s light and fun,” Sars Trenner, a 2016 alumna who graduated with a degree in voice performance, said. “The cast seems to be enjoying themselves.”

In addition, attendees said that the energy and emotion of the cast was demonstrated in their performances.

“They obviously put a lot of effort and practice into it,” sixth semester history and political science major Alexander Freedman, said. “They got the character dynamics really well.”


Marlese Lessing is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at marlese.lessing@uconn.edu. She tweets @marlese_lessing.