Come and Sing … HMS Pinafore Salisbury Playhouse

2.labelleDon’t just see it – be it!  So read the G&S4U publicity for Saturday’s HMS Pinafore at Salisbury Playhouse.

Under the energetic direction of Ian McMillan, we, as members of the audience, were being invited to become a vast chorus of sailors, sisters, cousins and aunts and, clutching union jacks, to set sail on the Pinafore along with half a dozen principal singers from the D’Oyly Carte and other companies.
For several years the company have been presenting “come and sing” performances in theatres and festivals nationwide and director McMillan, with his infectious humour and steady stream of old jokes, often steeped in innuendo, established a sort of music-hall style that was to continue throughout.  He clearly knew how to give his audience a good time as, seated at the piano, he rattled through the music for the first half of the evening.  There was even an attempt to encourage a bit of harmony singing as we played musical chairs for a couple of minutes in order to group ourselves (albeit somewhat roughly) into sopranos, altos, tenors and basses.   Admittedly, purists might have wanted rather more in the way of rehearsal, some of the words in the patter songs were particularly hard, but for the majority, the focus was simply on having fun and we were more than content to swab the decks, polish up the handle of the big front door and to sing what we could.  Our programmes, of course, contained all the words and music we needed, to which some of us diligently added instructions to march, tiptoe, cheer and generally react appropriately.  Although it was clear we were all going to be kept on our toes, for some there was even more to do as the roles of Cousin Hebe and the Boatswain were allocated to two completely unsuspecting members of the audience – and what a fine performance they gave too!
After the interval, and following our spirited rendition of We Sail the Ocean Blue, Louise Crane, as a delightfully flirtatious Little Buttercup, accompanied by Graham Stone as a truly evil-looking Dick Deadeye made their way through the audience.  The show itself had begun and from the outset we knew we were in for some fine singing.  Crane’s Rich mezzo voice in I’m Called Little Buttercup which was followed immediately by Able Seaman Ralph Rackstraw’s The Nightingale Sighed for the Moon’s Bright Ray, sung beautifully by tenor Andrew Dickinson, set the standard for what was to follow.  Having just been offered a contract with Deutsche Oper Berlin, his is a name that I am sure we will be hearing more of.
As a refreshingly youthful captain of the Pinafore, baritone John Lofthouse immediately established a fine rapport with his crew (we, the audience of course) as did his daughter Josephine (Ellie Jane Moran) whose lovely performance of Sorry Her Lot Who Loves Too Well was filled with pathos, while her later duet with Ralph (Refrain, Audacious Tar) was one of the undoubted highlights of the evening.   The final member of the company was Simon Butteriss, (pictured) last seen at Salisbury in 1989 as Emcee in Cabaret.  He returned in the role of an extremely camp Sir Joseph Porter KCB who seemed every bit as interested in Ralph – a remarkably fine fellow – as he was in his intended bride Josephine.  Indeed, it seemed towards the finish that he was going to end up with the villainous Dick Deadeye, but tradition had its way and he was suitably paired off with Cousin Hebe.  His was a polished performance.
The production was very much in traditional D’Oyly Carte style with acting that was (one hopes) deliberately mannered and melodramatic and which made use of some simple but effective choreography – one thinks particularly of Never Mind the Why and Wherefore – the whole exuding a light hearted bonhomie which made it a real pleasure to be part of.

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