Prepare your sea legs and get ready to sail the ocean blue, the “H.M.S. Pinafore” is docking in the Anacostia River at the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop.
Peter DiMuro directs this sprightly and joyful rendition of the Gilbert and Sullivan classic with a few modern twists. Despite a prologue reference to John Edwards and a modernized parody of Madame Buttercup (entitled Madame Budget Cut) that bridges the first and second acts, the comic opera remains largely unchanged.
The story concerns the H.M.S. Pinafore, a British ship headed by Captain Corcoran and a smattering of young sailors. One of these sailors, Ralph Rackstraw, is in love with the captain’s daughter, Josephine. But Josephine’s hand in marriage has been promised to Sir Joseph Porter, “a ruler in the Queen’s Navy.” Comic liveliness and jaunty sea-tunes ensue.
The show is one of Gilbert and Sullivan’s best, and with its themes of political nepotism and incompetence, it is all too appropriate for a War on Terror-era revival. There is a distinct sense of infectious joyfulness, and it’s that sense of fun that propels the production.
The actors embrace this playfulness, playing into the shows more farcical aspects. Tom Michalisko plays a delightfully dopey Ralph Rackstraw. His goofy take on the character creates a hilarious contrast when the character is given cumbersomely eloquent lines in an attempt to woo Josephine.
Jennifer Weingartner as Josephine stands out from the cast with her beautifully operatic voice. While her role does not allow for the looseness that pervades the rest of the show, it is clear that she is having fun in the role.
The rest of the cast is equally as entertaining. Rick Mauery takes a few unique choices as Sir Joseph Porter. He plays the role in a particularly doddering and unassuming manner, and these mannerisms blend into his songs to comic effect.
Kerry Jones as Captain Corcoran is given his moment to shine with the song, “Fair moon, to thee I sing,” while Jon Bohman manages to elicit laughs with nearly every one of his lines as Dick Deadeye.
Special note must be made of Lisa Cobham as Buttercup. Like the rest of the cast, her role calls for an over-the-top performance, but she presents it with such genuine intensity that she completely sells the humor without irony. With striking eyes and a beautiful singing voice, she captures the stage every chance she gets.
The walls of the stage are covered with chalk drawings of a large tidal wave that extends into the audience. The set consists of solely four pairs of Union Jack boxers and compliments the impressionistic and often oversized props that the characters use. These childlike props and sets create a sense of play throughout the production.
The music is provided by a small five-piece band set up at the back of the stage (with Kerry Jones pulling double duty as Captain Corcoran and as the show’s drummer). Despite the small size of the band, they project a large full sound. In song, the cast compliments the talented band well, with ensemble pieces like “Can I Survive This Overbearing” displaying the company’s talents.
Professional in its playfulness, the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop production of the “H.M.S. Pinafore” is a fun, rowdy, and rollicking good time for those who want a fresh take on a classic by two musical and comedic geniuses.
Tuesday, August 9, 2011