REVIEW: H.M.S. Pinafore

It’s fall again, and along with the cider donuts and jack o’lanterns, that means it’s time for another trip to the Howard Conn theater to see what the Gilbert and Sullivan Very Light Opera Company has in store.  This time, it’s that “infernal nonsense Pinafore!,” H.M.S. Pinafore: or The Lass that Loved a Sailor, to be exact.  Settling into the cozy theater with other operetta lovers feels like pulling out your favorite wool sweater from storage: familiar and comforting.  That’s the appeal of watching a show that has brought joy to generations of theatergoers, and Pinafore is one of the best.  Like many Gilbert & Sullivan operas, the silly plot serves as a vehicle for pointed satire and class subversion.  Here, a lowly sailor falls in love with the captain’s daughter, who is likewise in love with him, but for his poor station.  Such is the absurdity of military rank in the Queen’s navy that a position like captain is based on heredity and class, rather than skill or ability.  The same goes for the Lord of the Admiralty, who got his position by being a man who rode his lack of skill, ambition, or opinions all the way to the top!  As with previous performances, the lively cast fills the stage and sings for the rafters.  There are many bright talents in this group; I was particularly drawn to the expressive antics of Mary Kettlewell as Cousin Hebe.  She and her foil, Sir Joseph (played by the scenery chewing Scott Benson) are clearly enjoying their parts.  It’s hard not to have a good time, especially as the action picks up in the second act. While my daughter loved last spring’s The Sorcerer and I will always have a special place in my heart for The Pirates of Penzance, you can hardly go wrong with this year’s rendition of H.M.S. Pinafore!

H.M.S. Pinafore plays through November 19, 2023.