Gilbert and Sullivan’s beloved operetta embarks at the Yerba Buena Center For The Arts August 17th—19th

By Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Fine Arts Critic
Copyright © 2007 San Francisco Sentinel

It’s hilarity on the high seas as the Bay Area’s acclaimed Lamplighters Music Theatre opens its 55th season with Gilbert and Sullivan’s H.M.S. PINAFORE. Lamplighters Artistic Director Barbara Heroux directs this fully-staged production featuring a live orchestra and the phenomenal voices of the Lamplighters company, with guest conductor George Thomson at the baton. H.M.S. PINAFORE plays August 2-4 at the LESHER CENTER FOR THE ARTS in Walnut Creek; August 11-12 at the NAPA VALLEY OPERA HOUSE; and August 17-19 at the YERBA BUENA CENTER FOR THE ARTS in San Francisco.

H.M.S. PINAFORE – F. Lawrence Ewing (Sir Joseph Porter)

With folly and mirth to spare, Gilbert and Sullivan’s classic comic operetta H.M.S. PINAFORE is as timely as today’s headlines with its mockery of incompetence in high political places. This side-splitting send up of snobbery and social class sets sail with a lowly seaman in love with his Captain’s daughter, who in turn is pledged by her father to a higher-ranking officer. Mayhem prevails in this ship-shape satire chock full of Gilbert and Sullivan’s trademark twists and turns, as does true love.


H.M.S. PINAFORE was Gilbert and Sullivan’s fourth operatic collaboration, and became the duo’s first big hit, opening at the Opera Comique in London on May 25, 1878. Running for 571 performances, the second longest run of any musical theatre piece at the time, H.M.S. PINAFORE became a huge fad in England as well as America, and was copied illegally by dozens of performing companies. Drawing on several themes introduced in Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Sorcerer, specifically love between members of different social classes, H.M.S. PINAFORE pokes fun at the Royal Navy and, in themes to be repeated in the later operas, parliamentary politics and the rise of unqualified people to positions of authority.

KATY DANIEL (Little Buttercup) and JONATHAN SPENCER (Captain Corcoran)

Lamplighters Music Theatre has assembled a talented ensemble for H.M.S. PINAFORE including F. Lawrence Ewing as Sir Joseph Porter; Jonathan Smucker as Ralph Rackstraw; Jennifer Ashworth as Josephine Corcoran; Katy Daniel as Little Buttercup; and Jonathan Spencer as Captain Corcoran. Also featured are Behrend Eilers as Dick Deadeye; Cary Ann Rosko as Cousin Hebe; Chris Shuford as Bill Bobstay; and Ted von Pohle as Bob Becket.

Lamplighters Artistic Director/Producer Barbara Heroux helms H.M.S. PINAFORE. Introduced to Lamplighters as a young actress and singer 30 years ago, Heroux has appeared on stage in many leading roles with the company in productions including Die Fledermaus, Hello, Dolly!, The Yeomen of the Guard, Patience, H.M.S. PINAFORE, Ruddygore, Gondoliers, and many others. Under her direction, the Lamplighters production of Princess Ida traveled to the International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival in Buxton, England, where it captured awards for Best Production, Best Director, and Best Overseas Society. In addition to her work with Lamplighters, Heroux has directed and performed with many Bay Area companies, including Berkeley Opera, West Bay Opera, and Peninsula Civic Light Opera (now Broadway by the Bay), and is the recipient of four Bay Area Critics Circle Awards. She recently directed Madama Butterfly for the Livermore Valley Opera and The Most Happy Fella for Cinnabar Opera Theatre.

Jonathan Spencer, Jennifer Ashworth, and F. Lawrence Ewing

Conductor George Thomson lends his artistry to H.M.S. PINAFORE. Making his conducting debut at Berkeley Opera in 2004, Thomson has since conducted for the Berkeley Symphony, and has appeared as a guest conductor with the Marin Symphony, the San Francisco Conservatory of Music Orchestra, the Palo Alto Chamber Orchestra, and the New Century Chamber Orchestra. As an instrumentalist, he has enjoyed long associations with Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and the American Bach Soloists; from 1996 to 2005 he was Principal Violist of the Carmel Bach Festival. As an educator Thomson directs the award-winning Virtuoso Program at San Domenico School in San Anselmo, and was the Music Director of the Berkeley Symphony’s award-winning Music Education Program from 2001-07; he is currently the Music Director of the Marin Symphony Youth Orchestra.

LAMPLIGHTERS MUSIC THEATRE, recognized as one of the top Gilbert and Sullivan companies in the world, is one of the oldest continuously performing theatres in the Bay Area, and the only year-round musical theatre company in San Francisco. Since the company’s founding in 1952, Lamplighters Music Theatre has been dedicated to upholding the tradition of light opera and musical theatre, particularly through the production of the operettas of W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan. The company has produced the entire Gilbert and Sullivan canon as well as other light opera and musical theatre classics such as The Merry Widow, Die Fledermaus, Of Thee I Sing, My Fair Lady, Candide, and A Little Night Music.

To order tickets on-line: H.M.S. PINAFORE
On-line 2007/2008 Season Subscription Order Forms: LAMPLIGHTERS MUSIC THEATRE, 2007/08

Seán recommends these G&S sailings of HMS PINAFORE:
CD, H.M.S. PINAFORE – Isidore Godfrey conducts the D’Oyly Carte Chorus & Orchestra. Featuring Joyce Wright, Jean Hindmarsh, , Eric Wilson-Hyde, John Reed, George Cook, Thomas Round, Donald Adams, Jeffrey Skitch, and Gillian Knight.

DVD, H.M.S. PINAFORE and TRIAL BY JURY – Starring Anthony Warlow, David Hobson, Colette Mann, Tiffany Speight, John Bolton Wood, Richard Alexander; Opera Australia Melbourne Chorus, Orchestra Victoria.

For your dining pleasure, Seán recommends:
BUCA di BEPPO – 855 Howard Street (between 4th & 5th). Phone: 415-543-7673. Try the new Shrimp Fra Diavolo and “sail the ocean blue”! This spicy new dish hoists crispy shrimp and tender scallops tossed with peppers and spaghetti in a fiery red fra diavolo sauce.

COCO 500 – 500 Brannan Street (near 4th). Phone: 415-543-2222
“Little Buttercup” loves Loretta Keller’s new South of Market hotspot! And you will know why if you try the Heirloom Tomato Salad with feta cheese, marjoram, japanese mustard greens, and davero olive oil.

See Seán’s recent articles:
THE BIG VOICE: God or Merman?
HOTEL CASABLANCA – World Premiere in San Francisco
INSIGNIFICANT OTHERS – A Conversation with Composer Jay Kuo
SAMSON vs DELILAH at AT&T Park – Can Stadium Survive Biblical Shearing?
LA VIE EN ROSE (La Môme) – Biography of Edith Piaf – A Sensation at the 50th San Francisco International Film Festival
SPIDER-MAN 3, An All-American Cinematic Marvel

San Francisco Sentinel’s Fine Arts Critic Seán Martinfield is a native San Franciscan. He is a Theatre Arts Graduate from San Francisco State University, a professional singer, and well-known private vocal coach to Bay Area actors and singers of all ages and persuasions. His clients have appeared in Broadway National Tours including Wicked, Aïda, Miss Saigon, Rent, Bye Bye Birdie, in theatres and cabarets throughout the Bay Area, and are regularly featured in major City events including Diva Fest, Gay Pride, and Halloween In The Castro. As an Internet consultant in vocal development and audition preparation he has published thousands of responses to those seeking his advice concerning singing techniques, professional and academic auditions, and careers in the Performing Arts. Ask him a question on AllExperts.com . If you would like to build up your vocal performance chops and participate in the Bay Area’s rich theatrical scene, e-mail him at: seanmartinfield@att.net.

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