If bending to the traditional "regionalizing" of Gilbert and Sullivan's various works is cool, then director Howard Ruff and the Utah Lyric Opera Society's current rendition of HMS Pinafore is one of the hippest and coolest renditions to date.
This "Pinafore" features two talented casts, a great set, superb orchestration - and the obvious news that Her Majesty's fleet has drastically changed. In fact her ship could very well be docked at Utah Lake for all the local references.The first evidence of script tampering comes in the form of "dear little Buttercup," pronounced as the "the rosiest and roundest woman in Spanish Fork." But watch out, that's not all. Buttercup (Patricia Pellissie) tells the love of her life, Captain Corcoran (Lyle Mortimer), "confide in me, I'm a Relief Society President."
And that's just the beginning of a night full of fun and laughter with the show that is billed as, "the opera for people who think they hate opera." The most noted fare from the ship's galley is lime Jell-O, and there are also references to I-15 construction and a little something about being sent back to Washington and meeting a California girl named Lewinsky. Another thigh-slapper is the rendition of "Come Come Ye Saints" being sung by Dick Deadeye (Dee Harris), the ugliest varmint on the seven seas.
The cast members have their "acts" together, including clever choreography and voices that are strong and clear. Standout performances come from Diane Gardner who plays the Captain's forlorn daughter, Josephine. She's destined by social status to never be with her true love, Ralph (pronounced Rafe), one of her father's crewmen. Ralph (Jerome Peterson) also smitten, bemoans the fact he shall never have his lady love.
Perhaps the most delightful surprise of the night was Clay Elder's performance as Sir Joseph Porter, First Lord of the Admirality, and suitor to Josephine. Elder plays the role of Sir Joseph rather like Richard Chamberlain's "King Louis" in "The Scarlet Pimpernel." He has the powdery white wig, silky knickers, the ever-present beauty mark, the sappy expression and a skip is his walk that's to die for. Rumor has is that Elder just celebrated his 16th birthday. If this is truly the case, an extra bravo for a very adult performance. Sir, you stole the show.
As for the rest of the cast the support crew and their female counterparts combined for a harmonic chorus. I would be remiss if I didn't mention the "Mid-ship-mite" played by a very young Steven Mitton. He knew every word to the songs and picked up a few laughs of his own.
This production is not on a completely professional level, but it does take community theater up three or four notches. I would recommend this to those looking for a fun evening and particularly to those who may be curious about opera but never really wanted to sit through one (although, technically, this is an operetta). This is great for the family.
HMS Pinafore is double-cast. The cast reviewed performs Mondays and Fridays. Members of the alternate cast (Thursdays and Saturdays) include: Laura Lynn Lowe as Josephine, Robert Baker, Ralph; Christopher Harris, Sir Joseph); Neil Whitaker, Capt. Corcoran; Harris, Deadeye; and Linda Jacobs, Buttercup.