Review by Kevin Reynolds of “H.M.S. Pinafore”: NKU Theatre
The works of Gilbert & Sullivan are full of tuneful songs, quick wit, and some societal messages couched amongst the fun. The production of “H.M.S.Pinafore” by Northern Kentucky University’s School of the Arts captures all the best of this operetta with strong performances, an eye-catching set, and a perfect balance of whimsy and old-fashioned romance.
The plot is familiar for the 1800’s: a girl from the upper-class is betrothed to a man she’s not met, but first falls in love with a man from a lower-class. What makes it work are the songs and the occasional bit of silliness. All the action happens on the H.M.S. Pinafore, beautifully designed by Anna C. Cotton and her team. While I wonder if any ship in the English Navy was ever that clean, it shows the pride of the crew working under a captain they love.
It took two directors to make this magic happen: Kimberly Lazzeri handles the music, and Nicole Perrone the acting. They blend the two elements seamlessly and keep the action moving briskly. Damon Stevens and his eight piece orchestra provided the perfect accompaniment and Ronnie Chamberlain’s costumes were spot on, from the sailors to the head of the English Navy.
The cast was vocally strong, though not always in an operatic (or operetta-ic) way, which is fine for this production, more of a musical comedy than anything else. However, when Adria Whitfill begins singing, you can imagine how different this would be in the hands of an opera company. Her vocal skills were only matched by the personality she brought to the love-lorn Josephine. There were many other outstanding performances, but Joel Morgan Parece as the miserable Dick Deadeye and Ally Davis as Little Buttercup really shined in their character roles.
If you wonder whether an operetta is for you, know that none other than Monty Python”s Flying Circus was influenced by Gilbert & Sullivan and you truly get that sense throughout this wonderful production. “H.M.S. Pinafore” runs through March 1 at NKU’S Corbett Theatre. For tickets, visit NKU.edu/sota