HMS Pinafore – Wilton Music Room
Screenwriter: WS Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan
Director: Sasha Regan
Truly, we’ve been too long without a tour of Sasha Regan’s vibrant production of HMS. Apron. Last seen in 2016, the show has been an audience favorite everywhere it has gone. This new iteration retains the charming elements that made it great, and if anything adds a touch more energy and playfulness to the performance.
Presented as a play within a play, the production sees the crew of a World War II warship put on an entertainment to stave off boredom below decks. The ransacking of closets provides makeshift costumes and roles are assigned to boys who will play the ladies. When they start, they move quickly and seamlessly from heady masculinity (all strings and muscles) to shrill femininity and tight dance routines. It retains a certain playful side. Just enough to remember they’re a fun-loving bunch of friends, but nowhere near enough to lift us out of the turbulent, rich history of gallant captain’s daughters, lowly tars, sea lords over-promoted and neglectful nannies.
It’s the most overtly focused G&S operetta on the Victorian class obsession, with some classic songs forming the focal peaks of the night. David McKechnie (a returning actor from previous tours) is a terrific Sir Joseph Porter KCB and his performance of When I Was A Lad is a fantastic take on the song. As Captain Corcoran, Juan Jackson stands out as the most dangerous among a cast full of triple threats. The comedic fun shines through in I Am The Captain Of The Pinafore and Never Mind The Why and Wherefore, and his beautiful baritone is on full display in the ballad Fair Moon, To Thee I Sing. His tenderness is matched only by the beautiful chemistry between Ralph Rackstraw and Josephine (Danny Becker and Sam Kipling) who eclipse everything else on stage during their duets. It’s all framed by a simple ensemble – naval berths, scraps of rags and other common room accessories assembled by designer Ryan Dawson Laight into a highly efficient and versatile platform for shipmate show.
With a vibrant and punchy first half that showcases Lizzi Gee’s choreography and inventiveness perfectly, it’s almost inevitable that she’ll lose energy at the start of the second act as thoughts focus more on love. and fate. Although romantic and well executed, there is a noticeable dive. That, too, by playing these characters with verve but without too much nuance, removes a lot of the dramatic peril that might keep us on our toes; Of course, Ralph and Josephine will end up together, the Sea Lord can never be considered credible interference for them.
What sets this apart from previous productions (as great as they are) is the chemistry and charisma this cast shares. It really does feel like they are bonded through service, a friendship forged in fire (and maybe more). This closeness radiates to the audience, elevating this story of a young girl who loved a sailor to a very enjoyable and engaging level.
Until April 9, 2022 then visits