REVIEW by Graham Chalmers: The Gilbert & Sulivan Opera Company, HMS Pinafore,
Royal Hall, Harrogate.
Built just three years after the death of one half of the brilliant theatrical partnership of Gilbert and Sullivan, it’s a pleasure to see a nearly-capacity Royal Hall being utilised for the sort of show architect Frank Matcham must have had in mind when Samson Fox originally came up with the finances for this magnificent building at the start of the 20th century.
It’s the first time the organisers of the International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival have tried CLASSICfest in Harrogate and what a start they have made.
They’ve not only brought the crowds, scores of whom have come up from London on a chartered train, but also the high standards which have enabled them to forge a worldwide reputation from their Buxton base.
Conducted by Timothy Henty, the National Festival Orchestra make being good seem easy, always a tell-tale sign of class.
There’s not a false note to the music or the characterization in this sprightly version of G&S’s nautical tale of the clash between class and romance on board one of her majesty’s finest ships.
Particularly memorable are Ian Besley as the well-intentioned Captain Corcoran, who is determined not to permit his daughter Josephine to marry an apparently lowly sailor, and Simon Butteriss as The Rt Hon Sir Joseph Porter, the blunderingly jovial First Lord of the Admirality who is determined to marry her instead.
Despite all the jolly, thigh-slapping jack tarring and oop pah oomp pahs, it’s possible to detect the roots of today’s Broadway musicals in this hugely enjoyable G&S production.
Drawing on several of his earlier “Bab Ballad” poems, Gilbert imbued this plot with mirth and silliness.
Its gentle satire on the uneasy nature of British social relations and ensemble cast of human peculiarities also brings to mind nothing so much as classic modern sitcoms such as Blackadder or Dad’s Army.
People in the audience who know better than me say this is as fine a version of HMS Pinafore as you could hope to see anywhere.
In his opening remarks, artistic director Ian G Smith had said earlier that it had taken the Gilbert & Sullivan Opera Company 19 years to bring CLASSICfest to Harrogate.
I thought it was well worth the wait.
But what did you think? Did you see any of the shows? Let us know and we will print your views here - and in print in the Harrogate Advertiser Series.