HMS Pinafore & Trial by Jury

Date 6th April 2022
Society Melbourne Operatic Society
Venue Duchess Theatre Long Eaton
Type of Production G&S
Director Gary Askem
Musical Director David Henshaw
Written By Joyce Scott deputising for Keith Scott-Savage

Report

Author: Joyce Handbury

The opening number sees the crew of HMS Pinafore ‘swabbing‘ the decks in anticipation of a visit from The Rt. Hon. Sir Joseph Porter KCB, first Lord of the Admiralty, together with his sisters, his cousins and Aunts. Captain Corcoran, Commander of the Pinafore, intends that his daughter, Josephine, will marry Sir Joseph but she is in love with Ralph Rackstraw, a lowly sailor, who also loves her. Their plans are all turned upside down when Mrs Cripps (Little Buttercup) reveals a secret that she has kept for years. 

Helen Walker excelled as Mrs Cripps in both singing and acting. Her facial expressions, her vivacity and her whole demeanour were just perfect for the role. Smartly attired Mike Tebbutt gave a dignified and commanding portrayal as Captain Corcoran whilst capturing the humour in the role, splendidly. What a superb performance was delivered by Joanne Robinson as Josephine. Her truly fabulous singing voice together with her delightful acting skills resulted in a top notch characterisation - superb. Mike McGhee was excellent as the Rt. Hon. Sir Joseph Porter.  He totally captured the comedic aspects of the character in his flamboyant outfit and ‘dodgy’ hat none more so than when he initially staggers on to the stage, complete with life-jacket! His singing and delivery of  ‘When I was a lad’ was splendid - a great performance. The part of Ralph Rackstraw was admirably (especially as it turned out) portrayed by Melvyn Edwards. His fine tenor voice was very much in evidence as was his natural stage presence. Paul Blackmore was excellent as the spiteful Dick Deadeye. His creepy physical mannerisms and acting skills were suitably appropriate for the role and he too, has a fine singing voice. Bill Bobstay, the Boatswain, was played by Emma Walker. At first it seemed incongruous to see a young female Boatswain amid the, what shall I say, other more mature crew members, but this could all be forgiven because her superb portrayal, both in singing and acting, far out weighed any of these aspects. Good support came from Vaughan Saxby as Bob Becket, and Jenny Smith as Hebe. The crew were all well turned out as were the Sisters, Cousins and Aunts. Their enthusiasm and sublime harmonious singing, in their many numbers, was wonderfully impressive.

Had I read the Chairman’s Message in the programme before the start of the production, I would have known that, after the interval, the second part of the evening would start with Trial by Jury on board ship, followed by the conclusion of HMS Pinafore. This would have saved me from my short burst of confusion at the opening of the second half!!      

Trail by Jury tales place in a courtroom, in this case on board HMS Pinafore. Angelina has been jilted by her dastardly fiancée Edwin and a breach of promise of marriage is being tried before a Judge and Jury - the crew of the Pinafore. At the start of the evening we were informed by Keith Reaveley that unfortunately James Davies wasn’t able to play the Judge and the role would be played by himself. He also said that he played the role some thirty seven years ago! Well if ever there was an understudy worthy of the role it certainly was Keith, he really did the part ‘justice’. Helen Batch was glamorously attired as Josephine and was delightfully flirty with members of the Jury and the Judge whilst beautifully singing and bemoaning the loss of her love. Melvyn Edwards was great as the defendant Edwin. He lounged about on a chair giving the impression of total boredom but livened up when singing, which was splendidly delivered. Paul Blackmore’s powerful singing voice definitely came to the fore as he tried to control proceedings as the Usher, Emma Walker sang beautifully and was ideally suited to the role of Counsel and able support came from Pete Bostock as Foreman of the Jury. The Jurymen and the resplendently dressed Bridesmaids added their marvellous singing prowess to the whole proceedings. After all the arguments the Judge resolves the case, by marrying the Plaintiff himself!

The simple set with appropriate props was enhanced by a back projection of an historic harbour being replaced by a starry one for the trial. The lighting and sound were just fine and the costumes were stunning. The singing, which throughout from the soloists to the larger ensemble numbers, was of a very high standard and what a treat and a joy it was to have a thirteen piece orchestra playing so magnificently under the direction of Conductor David Henshaw, also the Musical Director. Congratulations must go to everyone involved and especially to Gary Askam, Show Producer and Director, for this most entertaining production.