New England Gilbert & Sullivan Society's The Trumpet Bray

Vol. XXVI No. 4

MITG&S PLAYERS’ PINAFORE - MITG&SP’s performance venue is La Sala De Puerto Rico in MIT’s Student Center. A stage does not exist. There is no curtain. There is no backstage. There is no orchestra pit. Nonetheless, MIT almost always manages to put on a performance that pleases. This year’s opening night performance of PINAFORE was no exception. The show featured many names that are familiar to NEGASS, as well as several new G&Sers. For an opening night at MITG&SP, the audience was remarkably large. On the whole, the audience was amply rewarded for its boldness.

The audience’s first introduction to the evening’s show as the uncurtained set: A massive, ambitious two level affair. The lower level sported the carved and painted breeches of three massive cannon that faced upstage. Very visually effective. The upper level was Captain Corcoran’s quarters and the poop deck. Separating the two levels were two authentic (read treacherous or non-negotiable), six-foot ladders with almost 12-inch risers. These ladders rendered the wearing of full-length, authentic Victorian dresses an invitation to disaster, and out of the question. Even wearing mid-calf-length dresses, all of the ladies had to exhibit extreme caution in negotiating these ladders. Buttercup “took a header” down the last two steps during her entrance at the opening of Act II, but she instantly recovered her composure to deliver a superb Things are seldom what they seem. Even the staging of this duet with Captain Corcoran was clever. A large overhead lantern invariably responded (with magical coruscations) to her mystic powers, to the befuddlement and consternation of Captain Corcoran.

The orchestra, under the baton of Todd Neal, was skilled and well rehearsed. Instead of my noticing a few standout instrumentalists, this year the orchestra was uniformly fine. The Vocal Direction of Emina Torlak was excellent throughout. Diction, particularly of the Women’s Chorus and most of the leads, was always crisp and clear. The intonation, balance, and blending of the Women’s Chorus in such numbers as Sir Joseph’s barge is seen was exemplary.

The role of Josephine (Bridget Copley) requires an outstanding voice to sing well – and Bridget is certainly the voice for the task. I loved her performance as Patience at MIT; her Josephine was every bit as good, and undoubtedly even better. As befit the two roles, Bridget was as composed and noble in the role of Josephine, as she was naïve in the role of Patience.

Captain Corcoran (David Daly) was the second superb performer. His voice is both powerful and pleasing. His rendition of Fair moon, to thee I sing included the (alternate) written-but-rarely-sung high “A.” I had to check my score to confirm that Sullivan had, indeed, written both versions of the coda. David’s delivery of his dialog should be an inspiration to us all. For example, his grudging delivery through clenched teeth of “If you pleethze,” spoke volumes.

The award for “Most Improved” must surely go to Dave Euresti (Boatswain). His intonation has improved beyond imagination! A clever staging device during his solo opening For he is an Englishman was to pull a string of small flags of Russia, France, Turkey, and Prussia, (plus a separate flag of Italy), rather than the customary chorus-wide unfurling of Union Jacks.

The Carpenter’s Mate (Robert Morrison) displayed a resonating, accurate voice that shone in such numbers as A British tar and He is an Englishman.

The major disappointment to me was the conception of Sir Joseph Porter, especially in his interaction with Cousin Hebe. Although Josephine describes him as “dictatorial,” Sir Joseph, in fact, was played as a wimp, forever henpecked by Hebe. Hebe’s characterization, too, disappointed. Her relationship with Sir Joseph can best be described as reminiscent of Katisha’s relationship with the Mikado in MIKADO rather than more like, say, Lady Jane in PATIENCE.

The opening-night performance was not quite “ready for prime time.” The Women’s Chorus was attired in dresses with bustles, but these dresses did not yet have the requisite panniers. Thus, they looked – because indeed they were -- incomplete.

Also (I am told), a complete panel of light failed just before the show. Thus, the lighting in several scenes was – as one might expect – spotty. For example, there was no moon during Captain Corcoran’s Fair moon, to thee I sing. Kind captain, I’ve important information was sung in almost total darkness. Nonetheless, it is remarkable how little this major calamity actually interfered with one’s enjoyment of the show.

Of course, both of these problems have been solved for all subsequent performances. In summary, as in previous years, MITG&SP continues to provide the best value for the money in G&S entertainment in the Boston area.