The Concord Journal
'Players' perform H.M.S. Pinafore
H.M.S. Pinafore; by W. S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan Directed and Choreographed by Jim Quinn; Music Director Art Finstein; Presented by the Concord Players at 51 Walden St.; Nov 23,224,30 and Dec. 1

Ted Workman, as Ralph Rackstraw, has the finest male voice of the show. His vocal range brings subtle emotion to his role as the lowly lover. Sullivan, the composer, was aiming for operatic effects; Workman delivers them. Walter Howe as Dick Deadeye, the villain, lurches about the deck like a deformed Richard III, but reduced to cardboard thickness. Such effects are not always easy. Jack Sweet as Bill Bobstay, the Boatswain's Mate, captures the high-minded seriousness in pursuit of the ludicrous which lies at the heart of the Gilbert and Sullivan tradition.

Ginny Briggs as Josephine, the lovely captain's daughter, has the best voice in the show. When she sings, one gradually ceases to listen to the lyrics and starts to listen to her voice. Her singing makes the transition from comic to operatic most often. Kate Borger also gives the show vocal depth and dimension in her all-too-brief moments in the limelight as Sir Joseph's first cousin. Susan Ballard injects her character Little Buttercup with the winsome enthusiasm necessary for this pivotal role.

The women's chorus out-sings the men's. This combined with the visual allure of the women's costumes adds to the excitement of their performances. At times the disparity between the two is intrusive. Most of the time, however, their voices blend well.

Art Finstein directs an able orchestra with enthusiasm for the music and tact for the action.

What the show lacks, however, is stiff upper lip. The stage direction by director Jim Quinn is not crisp. On a confined stage with rigging overhead and hooped skirts under foot, this is critical. Actors chross awkwardly to opposite sides of the stage; group scenes in tight quarters become unmanageable. The choreography, also by Quinn, lacks the precision marching of naval discipline. Discernible hand and facial gestures disappear in generalized hardiness. The genuine enthusiasm of the Concord cast needs the spit and polish of military-dress brass buttons.

It is fitting that Gilbert and Sullivan end this play, and others in their repertoire, with a deus-ex-machina revelation. Only a god could save such silliness. Indeed, Queen Victoria took umbrage at Gilbert's portrayal of the First Lord of the Admiralty, and refused to knight Gilbert. He received that honor in 1907, only after her death. "We are not amused," she riposted. It was a royal majority of one.

By Parkman Howe

Special to the Journal

Even at this advanced stage in a permissive society the average British male finds the sight of his red-blooded countryman adorned in effeminate dress screamingly funny. British comedians have used this visual gag so often that it has become a stock figure. I don't know why a man in woman's dress is necessarily side-splitting, but I suspect all this got started with the Gilbert and Sullivan operettas of the late 19th Century.

The idea of sailors of the then world's premier naval power wearing straw boaters, skipping aobut the deck of a ship named for a smock worn by little girls (pinafore,) singing songs about the foibles of their indulgent captain - all this touched the British funny bone a hundred years ago. They - and we - have been touched ever since.

There may be something to it, in fact, as the Concord Players have shown in their opening to the 1990-1991 season at 51 Walden St., H.M.S. Pinafore, Tony Siracusa has designed a splendid quarter deck for the production, replete with the obligatory scroll work and taffrails. Susan Tucker's lighting design paints vivid seascapes in the air above the ship's deck. Carolyn Schenker's costumes, especially the lady's dresses, are sumptuous and animating. The complete effect is a kind of art deco ice cream sundae for the eye.

There is something inherenly clever about getting otherwise responsible citizens to gambol about the stage, sing mock-heroic lyrics, and pine for love parted fore'er. Chris Davies, originally a British subject, comes by his arched eyebrow and snear of cold command honestly. His Sir Joseph Porter, First Lord of the Admiralty, has both the proper slap and dash. Peter Davis as Captain Corcoran gives a fine performance: light but not too filling, as we might say today.