Chicago Theatre Review
Bliss and Rapture on the Ocean Blue
HMS Pinafore – The Savoyaires
Ever wonder how a Gilbert & Sullivan operetta should look and sound? The Savoyaires have a textbook answer to that inquiry in their new, sumptuous presentation, now being performed in Evanston. Everything that audiences have come to expect from this musical comedy, that famously satirizes social rank and the formality of British manners, can be found in this very fine production. The show offers a full, accomplished orchestra, a large cast of talented actor/singers, a beautiful, well designed set and lovely period costumes. Everything is carefully directed and musically staged by guest director, Amy Uhl (fresh from her duties as Assistant Director of Broadway’s “Amazing Grace”). This witty, whimsical love story, set aboard one of Her Majesty’s finest warships, delights in poking fun at Britain’s rigid class system, as well as their blind devotion to patriotism and the inequities of rising to positions of authority.
When this wickedly humorous operetta first opened in 1878 at London’s Opera Comique it remained so popular that it ran for 571 performances. The show became an international sensation and it continues to be a staple among community and educational theatres, alike. It ranks among Gilbert & Sullivan’s top three operettas (along with “The Pirates of Penzance” and “The Mikado”) and is always a popular addition to any theatre’s season of musical offerings.
One of Chicago’s theatrical treasures, Kingsley Day, returns to the Savoyaires as Sir Joseph Porter. This talented comic actor mines every ounce of silliness from Gilbert’s libretto and lyrics, providing audiences with another delightfully lovable characterization. Indeed, Ms. Uhl has cleverly created a most hilariously memorable comic bit by having Sir Joseph constantly mispronounce the Pinafore captain’s name. Mr. Day alone is worth the price of admission, but there’s more to recommend this production.
Kevin R. Siembor returns to the Savoyaires stage to lend his beautiful tenor and comic timing to the role of Ralph Rackstraw. He’s matched by lovely, full-voiced Susan Nelson as his love interest, Josephine. Both talented singers have performed all over Chicago, and beyond, and effortlessly caress Sullivan’s soaring melodies and Gilbert’s sharp dialogue, much to the audience’s pleasure. Ms. Nelson sings with a mischievous twinkle in her eye that tells audiences that her Josephine is not about to be railroaded into an arranged marriage and she’s really just a young girl who’s up for some fun and romance in life.
Handsome Zachary Angus brings to the role of Captain Corcoran a degree from the prestigious College of the Performing Arts at Roosevelt University, as well as a wealth of experience and talent. His gleaming smile and strong baritone simply float across the footlights. Sahara Glasener-Boles makes a fetchingly funny, full-figured Little Buttercup. Lane Halverson, whose vocal prowess and comic timing are a plus, appropriately hams it up as the villainous Dick Deadeye. Savoyaires’ regulars David Banasiak and Noel Taylor greatly impress as boatswains Bob Becket and Bill Bobstay. The entire ensemble electrifies, including an enchanting Margaret Jarvis as Sir Joseph’s busybody Cousin Hebe, who is as captivating as she is amusing. The sheer power and vocal talent that washes over Musical Director Timothy Semanik’s impressive-sounding pit orchestra is unbelievable.
Oh, bliss, oh, rapture! This stunning production, bedazzled in Thomas Kieffer’s crisp, nautical uniforms and bustled, Victorian gowns, set against Jessica Howe’s beautifully designed warship, leaves the audience giddy with glee. Everything about this production is stellar. Audience will swoon with bliss and rapture as they happily “Sail the Ocean Blue” and gladly “Polish Up the Handle on the Big Front Door.”
Reviewed by Colin Douglas
Presented by October 9-18 by The Savoyaires at Chute Auditorium, 1400 Oakton Street, Evanston, IL.
Tickets are available by calling 847-563-0155 or by going to www.savoyaires.org/tickets.
Additional information about this and other area productions can be found by visiting www.theatreinchicago.com.