(L to R): Paul Sigrist (Boatswain), David Macaluso (Sir Joseph Porter), Billy Ernst (Deadeye), Sarah Hartley (The Girl), Max Miller (Ralph Rackstraw), and Jendi Tarde (Josephine) Nich Kauffman (Captain Corcoran).
Photo by: Jim Baldassare
Legendary operetta H.M.S. Pinafore is repackaged and scaled down in cast size and grandeur at the Sanford Meisner Theater. Fortunately, the talent of the ensemble and the quality of the production are exceptional in a theatrical experience that takes wonderful risks with familiar material, but entertains, thrills, and rubs warmly on the funny bone.
Reviewed by Cindy Pierre
Artistic Director Joshua Randall and Director Dave Dalton have plowed through the conventional telling of Gilbert and Sullivan's legendary American musical H.M.S. Pinafore, and have emerged victorious. Based on Gilbert's own digression of the classic, The Pinafore Picture Book: The Story of H.M.S. Pinafore, you have never seen this naval love story quite like this. First produced in London in 1878, this highly imaginative version takes liberties with the original context and content, but manages to stay loyal to the motif “love levels all ranks.”
A satire about love that defies social classes, this production employs a cast of seven where it habitually employs 18-20. The end result is a tighter piece that exploits the versatility and skill of a strong cast. They are not afraid to make fun of themselves, and appear to be getting a kick out of doing so. Led by chameleon David Macaluso (channeling John Ritter in posture and facial expression) in the meatiest roles of Sir Joseph and Buttercup, these players perform like seasoned thespians, and under the direction of choreographer Carrie Cimma, are adept at utilizing every inch of the stage to engage and stimulate the audience. Macaluso and Nich Kauffman (Captain Corcoran with a sprinkling of Billy Crystal) have great comedic timing, and the amusement that is derived from their tomfoolery is only matched by the excitement of the singing. Singers Macaluso and Jendi Tarde (Josephine) tantalize us with their vocals,and I am certain that their ranges are capable of enveloping a more spacious theatre. The only disappointment in the acting is the choices made by Billy Ernst as Deadeye. Unfortunate in looks and odious in behavior, this surly character is stifled by Ernst's stale choices.
With inspired costumes, puppetry and a colorful set, H.M.S. Pinafore is a delicious treat, and I couldn't help but feel a sense of child-like indulgence while experiencing it. The only thing that casts a shadow in this show's brightness is the integration of The Girl (a manic Sarah Hartley). Through little fault of this animated actress, her interjections are distracting from the narrative and too invasive. I question the need for her role at all, particularly in this more intimate, reduced version of the tale. I also think the ending, which is as profound as this operetta will allow, is rushed and Buttercup's contributions to the plot are glossed over as a result. Otherwise, with romance and fun musical numbers, this H.M.S. Pinafore is an accessible light opera that's not to be missed.
Through March 31st. Sanford Meisner Theater: 164 11th Avenue,
New York, NY 10011 Tickets: 212-352-3101, 866-811-4111 $18