The fourth collaboration between Gilbert & Sullivan was their first major success: H.M.S. Pinafore; or, The Lass That Loved a Sailor. It opened on May 25, 1878 at the Opera Comique where it ran for 571 performances. Touring companies spread its popularity throughout Britain and in America numerous companies “pirated” the work by staging productions without the consent of the authors and without paying them any royalties. Gilbert, Sullivan and Carte tried to beat the pirates by mounting their own production in New York. Today, Pinafore remains one of the most popular Gilbert and Sullivan operas.
Drawing on several of his earlier “Bab Ballads”, Gilbert imbued H.M.S. Pinafore with mirth and silliness to spare. He pokes fun at the notion that the First Lord of the Admiralty should be a purely political appointment whose holder need never have been to sea. Sir Joseph Porter has arisen from humble beginnings to that high office by political acumen and not only insists that all orders should be qualified by the phrase “If you please” but writes songs to promote “independence of thought and action in the lower branches of the service”. We meet the snobbish Captain, who never swears a “big, big D” (Well, hardly ever!) and who is horrified to find his daughter is in love with a “common” sailor on board his own ship whilst himself nurturing a fondness for a poor bumboat woman. How will it be possible for his daughter to be united with the man she loves without marrying beneath her station? Fear not: it all works out in the end. Hip, hip, hoorah! (G&S Archive)
H.M.S. Pinafore; or, The Lass That Loved a Sailor is a comic opera in two acts, with music by Arthur Sullivan and a libretto by W. S. Gilbert. It opened at the Opera Comique in London, on 25 May 1878 and ran for 571 performances, which was the second-longest run of any musical theatre piece up to that time. H.M.S. Pinafore was Gilbert and Sullivan’s fourth operatic collaboration and their first international sensation.
The story takes place aboard the Royal Navy ship HMS Pinafore. The captain’s daughter, Josephine, is in love with a lower-class sailor, Ralph Rackstraw, although her father intends her to marry Sir Joseph Porter, the First Lord of the Admiralty. She abides by her father’s wishes at first, but Sir Joseph’s advocacy of the equality of humankind encourages Ralph and Josephine to overturn conventional social order. They declare their love for each other and eventually plan to elope. The Captain discovers this plan, but, as in many of the Gilbert and Sullivan operas, a surprise disclosure changes things dramatically near the end of the story.
Drawing on several of his earlier “Bab Ballad” poems, Gilbert imbued this plot with mirth and silliness. The opera’s humour focuses on love between members of different social classes and lampoons the British class system in general. Pinafore also pokes good-natured fun at patriotism, party politics, the Royal Navy, and the rise of unqualified people to positions of authority. The title of the piece comically applies the name of a garment for girls and women, a pinafore, to the fearsome symbol of a warship.
Pinafore‘s extraordinary popularity in Britain, America and elsewhere was followed by the similar success of a series of Gilbert and Sullivan works, including The Pirates of Penzance and The Mikado. Their works, later known as the Savoy operas, dominated the musical stage on both sides of the Atlantic for more than a decade and continue to be performed today. The structure and style of these operas, particularly Pinafore, were much copied and contributed significantly to the development of modern musical theatre. (Wikipedia)
- The Rt. Hon. Sir Joseph Porter, K.C.B. (First Lord of the Admiralty) – Laurence Cox
- Captain Corcoran (Commanding H.M.S. Pinafore) – Tom Harper
- Ralph Rackstraw (Able Seaman) – Rawdon Taylor
- Dick Deadeye (Able Seaman) – David Ridley
- Bill Bobstay (Boatswain’s Mate) – Casey Lebold
- Bob Becket (Carpenter’s Mate) – Allen Denison
- Josephine (The Captain’s Daughter) – Lindsey Lefler
- Hebe (Sir Joseph’s First Cousin) – Shelle Riehl
- Little Buttercup (A Portsmouth Bumboat Woman) – Beatriz Abella
First Lord’s Sisters, his Cousins, his Aunts
- Director – Laurence Cox
- Music Director – Reece Sauve
- Producer – Sara Quinn Rivara
- House Manager – Janelle Reinhardt
- Stage Manager – Jason Muehe
- Lighting Manager – Christie Muehe
- Lighting Setup – Amanda Healy
- Costumes – Lucy Tait, Phyllis Fort, Lindsey Lefler, Jordyn Pounders, Sandra King
- Set – Laurence Cox, Allen Dennison, Tom Harper, Lindsey Lefler, Ethan McCrann, Jerry Woodbury
- Program – Sheryl Wood
- Posters and Logo – Laurence Cox Alice B. Woodward