ONCE in a while in the theatre everything comes together in a way that the production team would pray for: the stage set, the lighting, the orchestra, the principals and the chorus.
It would seem that such a moment has arrived in Melrose Opera’s account of HMS Pinafore at the Corn Exchange.
All these elements conspired to make the show one of the best you could wish to see.
This story of love, at first precluded, but later overcoming the rigid Victorian class system, is a great anchor for the plot.
But, as Little Buttercup confides to a bemused Captain Corcoran, “Things are seldom what they seem!”
The cast, as a whole, play the conflicting emotions for all they are worth, and supported by first rate backing from the orchestra, give a performance that is fresh and lively.
The principals are experienced, well matched and confident – none more so than tenor Ralph Rackstraw (Philip Henderson) who takes his top notes with deceptive ease.
Similarly, Josephine (Anne MacFadyen) tackles her part with an assertive confidence that might have evaded her a few years ago.
As the condescending Sir Joseph Porter, Grant Lees is in his element, his sharp pointed delivery and easy singing style make this caricature of WH Smith (the first sea lord who “Never went to sea”) an absolute delight.
Sparring with Sir Joseph, Bruce Ogilvie gives a strong interpretation as Captain Corcoran, never being outshone.
As Dick Deadeye, the misshapen villian who is in fact the keeper of the crew’s collective conscience, Bob Smith shows that he has lost none of his stagecraft – a gem of a performance.
As cousin Hebe, Sir Joseph’s echo, Elizabeth Wilson excels, exuding false grandeur at every step (unless she is being “crushed”).
Little Buttercup is a part that suffers severely if badly played. Fiona McQueen demonstrates that it is in safe hands with a feisty, engaging rendering.
Barrie Cash gives substance and humour to the part of the Boatswain, and thanks to a more than passable bass voice, prevents the role from what it occasionally becomes, a cardboard cut-out.
The principals are completed by a pair that are real opposites.
I am sure that Bruce Hislop (Carpenter) won’t mind me describing him as a veteran – over the years he must have come to know every single inch of the Corn Exchange stage.
This shows in the way he never puts a foot wrong when singing or acting.
By way of contrast, Matthew Jamieson (Midshipmite) is a youngster, still at school. What a chance! To herd his elders round the stage like a sheepdog with a flock. Well done!
It would be invidious to single out any one individual for such a fine production, as this is a splendid team effort from all concerned.
The costumes are first rate, despite expense but that is now almost a given these days at Melrose.
But it includes those that seldom get credit – the back stage team who built such an inspiring set, the front-of-house team who make things run smoothly for the audience and above all those who tirelessly rehearse, week in week out, to achieve such excellent results.
Sir Joseph Porter Grant Lees
Hebe Elizabeth Wilson
Ralph Rackstraw Philip Henderson
Josephine Anne MacFadyen
Little Buttercup Fiona McQueen
Captain Corcoran Bruce Ogilvie
Dick Deadeye Bob Smith
Bill Bobstay (Boatswain) Barrie Cash
Bob Beckett (Carpenter) Bruce Hislop
Tom Tucker (Midshipmite) Matthew Jamieson.
Chorus of the Able Seamen
Paul Baxter, Richard Halpin, John Wilkinson, Robin Bell, Robin Sloan, John Wilson, Donald Gordon, Robert Turnbull.
Chorus of the sisters, cousins and aunts
Ros Anderson, Yvonne Eade, Christine Speirs, Penny Blackburn, Hilary Ford, Linda Stark, Carol Davidson, Mairad Panton, Lesley Trotter, Jean Denholm, Geraldine Rowley.
Rehearsal accompanist Alison Kaye
Producer Colin Smith
Musical director James Young.
Cath Cormie, Tony Kime, Dorothy Coe, Claire Taylor, Caroline Marshall, Barbara Greenhill, Sam Coe, Jenny Sharp, John Harris, Michael Sutcliffe, Paul Cormie, Sam Lord, Graham Fraser, Pippa Emerson, David Wilson, Colin Kemp, Richard Howden, Euan Fairbairn.