I had the pleasure of interviewing Wally Benbenek about The Gilbert and Sullivan Very Light Opera Company (GSVLOC) for RedCurrent and he convinced me to give opera a chance. So I headed to the Howard Conn Fine Arts Center, located in the Plymouth Congregational Church at Franklin and Nicollet in Uptown (yay parking lot!) and settled in for a matinee of H.M.S. Pinafore.
The male half of the cast kicks things off with a song about turning off cell phones which is perfect. I didn’t even realize at first that that’s what they were singing about since they were in costume already. To me, it set a fun tone for the show since it gave everyone a chuckle.
The long musical intro was a nice chance to appreciate the orchestra, conducted by Randal A. Buikema, and when the cast finally took to the stage for “We sail the ocean blue,” before I knew it, the sweet lady next to me was bopping her head and singing along. I wanted to “shush” her but I couldn’t bring myself to do it; she was obviously a huge fan of the show.
We quickly learn that Ralph (pronounced “Rafe”) Rackstraw (Kai Brewster) pines for his captain’s daughter, Josephine (Victoria Valencour) but because of their differences in class, they cannot be together. Also, Captain Corcoran (Wally Benbenek) has promised Josephine to Sir Joseph Porter (Tom Berg). Utter silliness ensues from there and much of the story is portrayed quite tongue in cheek. Brewster, Valencour, Benbenek and Berg perfectly lead this enormous ensemble with beautiful voices and spot on comedic timing.
One especially fun element of the show is Sir Joseph’s sassy entourage of sisters, cousins and aunts, led by Amanda Weis as Cousin Hebe and of whom I’m a big fan. When they make their entrance, they quickly take over the ship and an entertaining dance number gives them a chance to show off their personalities. Costume designer Barb Portinga doesn’t miss a detail on their wardrobe down to the last individual, fabulous accessory. The theme is the 1940s and quite reminiscent of what I saw in Lyric Arts’ Blithe Spirit.
When it comes down to it, you’ll love all the characters and the fun storyline. Ryan Johnson as Dick Deadeye is one ugly son-of-a-gun and tries to be the voice of reason, a difficult task when no one likes or respects you. But don’t get me wrong, Ryan is hilarious and fantastic and you won’t believe this is his first professional theater experience. Caitlin Wilkey as Little Buttercup is so sweet and endearing and she has such a lovely voice. Really, everyone in the cast sounds wonderful, both during solos and as a chorus. I think if you love musical theater, Gilbert and Sullivan is something you can get behind.
Tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for children. The show runs through Mar. 29 but very few tickets remain.
Give them a “like” on Facebook so you won’t miss their next shows. They’ll perform at the Lake Harriet Bandshell this summer, and you can see them perform Trial by Jury at the 2015 Minnesota Fringe Festival.
And if you’re a Star Trek fan? You’ll love seeing this scene performed on stage!