HMS PINAFORE SAILS THE MOUNTAIN GREEN
Generally, aprés ski activities include downing mugs of one’s favorite brew at a bar, eating and clubbing, seeing second rate movies, or nursing one’s abused musculature in spas, hot tubs, saunas, etc. Who would have expected to discover an opportunity to view a performance of a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta in a beautifully restored Victorian playhouse dating back to 1913 in Rutland, Vermont, 20 minutes from Killington Mountain? Such was the case at the majestic Paramount Theatre, a two-story auditorium that once boasted vaudeville acts and silent movies and could seat 1000 people. Palace Professional Productions, a New Hampshire-based company, presented a live performance of HMS PINAFORE on March 5, fully staged with orchestra, authentic costuming, and a full scale set worthy of D’Oyly Carte. [Note from tsw: this was the last performance of a mini-tour that began at The Palace Theatre in Manchester, NH, and also visited Lebanon, NH and Barre, VT.]
The orchestra had nine musicians, some of whom played several instruments, and surprisingly there was only one violin, a bass fiddle, a piano, four woodwinds, two horns, and no drums, but the ensemble played well together and filled the theater with music. In fact, partly because there was no orchestra pit, people sitting in the first few rows had a difficult time hearing the lyrics of some of the solos. That problem was solved by moving back a few more rows. The Overture was performed exceedingly well and received deserved applause. Missing was the traditional “God Save the Queen” to start the performance.
When the huge red curtains were raised, the audience was treated to a full stage mockup of the aft section of a British Man o’ War with upper level quarter-deck, railings, mast, lanterns, and stairs leading to a lower main deck, cabin door, and focs’l hatches. The Tars, "sober men and true," were naturally hard at work swabbing the deck as they opened with "We sail the ocean blue..." The performance of the male chorus was satisfactory but at times lacked energy. The same could be said as well for the female chorus of cousins and aunts, but perhaps it was due to the choreography, which was somewhat lackluster and disappointing. The costuming was traditional for both the Sailors and the Cousins/Aunts whose parasols helped to enhance the choreography a little.
The entrance of Little Buttercup, wonderfully played by a voluptuous Jennifer Harrison, immediately raised the level of performance and she was a show stealer. Wally Calderon’s Dick Deadeye was a humorous mixture of Quasimodo and Marty Feldman’s Igor sans hump. Fortunately his eye patch always stayed on the same eye. He cavorted grotesquely around the stage and for the most part overcame the crew’s somewhat stilted reactions to his antics. It became a little tiresome, however, seeing him repeatedly forced to exit into one of two hatches on the deck. Captain Corcoran was well presented by Daniel Kamalic, whose voice was excellent, projected well, and who arguably was the best actor in the company. A right good captain he. Liane Grasso, as Josephine, had a beautifully pure soprano voice that carried well in the large auditorium and she complemented her singing with good acting. (New information: Lianne was called out of town due to a personal emergency - so the beautiful soprano voice and fine acting actually belonged to Kim Bolling, who stepped in at the last minute, with no time for a program correction.) Somewhat disappointing was Constantine Germanacos as Ralph. He possessed an adequate tenor voice but he had difficulty staying in synch with the orchestra when singing solo. His acting seemed a bit stilted and stiff. Sir Joseph Porter, K.C.B., played by Mark Schwartzberg, maintained as haughty and affected a persona as one would expect commensurate to his lofty rank, and he maintained his heavy patrician accent well. At times he was difficult to hear.
Despite the few negatives mixed with the accolades listed above this production of HMS PINAFORE was thoroughly enjoyable and worth the ticket price. It was especially pleasant to discover a professional level performance of G&S in the heart of ski country.
-- PETER SILVERSTEIN AND ERIC KORN
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