Review by Nathan Top of “HMS Pinafore”: NKU theatre
A jovial sitcom of an operetta from 1878, Gilbert and Sullivan’s “HMS Pinafore” tells the story of two romantic couples aboard the titular ship. While clearly attracted to one another, pride and rank prevents the twosomes from confessing their feelings for one another, much less to the rest of the ship’s residents. The show is filled with subtle dry comedy and plenty of double entendres to chuckle through.
While the show’s material is “gay and frivolous,” the production quality is no joke. Co-directed by Kimberly Lazzeri and Nicole Perrone, this college production feels professional on every account, flying by seamlessly from beat to beat in this mad-dash comedy. Choreographer Jay Goodlett has called upon his inner John Cleese to create some appropriately goofy dance numbers, adding to the gleeful tone of the show. Costume Designer Ronnie Chamberlain has built some beautiful pieces of period attire for the cast with allow them to not only look appropriate but dance as well. Lighting designer Jeremiah Kearns and scenic designer Anna C. Catton built a fresh, open-air world that feels large yet intimate. However, one of the unsung heroes of the show is sound designer Zachary Collins. The lightning-fast dialogue and even snappier lyrics could have gotten totally lost if the micing hadn’t been as excellent as it was, allowing the 1800s Gilmore Girls-esque dialogue to clip on by and tickle the audience’s funny bone. Damon Stevens, musical director for cast and pit, has assembled and highlighted the abilities of all his musicians. The pit is clear but not overbearing and the vocal numbers are radiant from beginning to end.
The leading hero and heroine of the story, Ralph Rackstraw (Jackson Hurt) and Josephine (Adria Whitfill) drive the narrative with charming chemistry and naivete. Each has a moving ballad as well as an endearing duet between the two concluding the first act. The aspiring Captain Corcoran (Jacob Threadgill), proves to have humorous and formidable opposition to the match. This is intensified by Joshua Van Nort’s regal performance as the pompous yet romantic Sir Joseph Porter and Joel Morgan Parece’s classic trope of a bitter, unattractive, semi-undermotivated villain, Dick Deadeye. The real break-out of the show is the electric Ally Davis as Little Buttercup, the amusing port-vendor and love interest of Captain Corcoran. Davis’s performance is magnetic throughout the show, especially during her duet with Threadgill on “Things Are Seldom What They Seem.”
NKU’s outstanding cast and crew proves that a well-done show, however dated, can ultimately be timeless. Be sure to grab your tickets here. “HMS Pinafore” runs now through March 1st.