The D'Oyly Carte Opera Company began its third week at the Shubert last night, offering that well-tested favorite of high schools, little theaters, and community singing groups--"H.M.S. Pinafore." Like the two previous Gilbert and Sullivan works that we have had the unusual pleasure of seeing, "Pinafore" displayed the competence and professional quality that comes only with long, long experience. The production, though it may have stopped short of absolute perfection here and there, certainly should have been enough to satisfy all but the most picayune faultfinder.
"Pinafore" may not be the most artistically successful of the great team's achievements, but it has lyrics that remain a pleasure to hear, even if for the hundredth time; it has very pointed gibes at the British Navy and British class structure that are still packed with wit and meaning. The plot may not amount to very much--but who cares, anyway!
Martyn Green, as always, was the idol of the galleries, who furiously recalled him for five (5) encores at one point in the proceedings. As the Rt. Hon. Sir Joseph Porter (K.C.B.), Green seemed to strike sort of a midway position between his clowning and mugging and magnificently individual stage business of "The Mikado" and the austere simplicity of "Pirates." Part of the time he was the scene-stealing comic; part of the time he was the ramrod-stiff First Lord of the Admiralty.
Darrell Fancourt was a properly grotesque, and villainous Dick Deadeye, but that was to be expected. Most surprising was the performance of Thomas Round as Ralph Rackstraw. In less able hands, this role can become just another callow juvenile, latched onto the plot to take care of the male side of the love interest, and for little other purpose. But Round didn't devote himself to a simple display of his fine voice--he added a mature and well-constructed characterization that made his part more than just that of First Tenor.
On the other hand, Charles Dorning, the quondam Captain of the Pinafore, let many an opportunity of building the Captain into a sympathetic and believable character slip by, although his singing, too, was superb. The one more unfortunate bit of casting was that of Helen Roberts as Josephine, daughter to the Captain, beloved of Ralph Rackstraw, but promised to Sir Joseph Porter. Miss Roberts possesses a fine set of high notes, but she all to frequently let her coloratura get away from her and succeeded in casting her words into some oblivion above the proscenium.
The chorus, the orchestra, and the settings all were magnificent as they always seem to be.
"Cox and Box," the traditional curtain-raiser began the evening's activities. It is really just a short sketch expanded into a half-hour with music, a kind of parody of coincidence-filled drama, and a wonderful curtain line. Sir Arthur Sullivan was the composer, but the libretto was written by two gentlemen named Morton and Burnand. A few years later Sullivan entered into a much more successful partnership.