Preview: H.M.S. Pinafore

Nov. 3-5, 10-12, 8 p.m., Nov. 5, 6, 12, 13, 2 p.m.

Agassiz Theatre

Directed by Ashley N. Kaupert ‘12

Music Directed by Lucien D. Werner ‘13

Produced by Ryan M. Rossner ‘13, Abigail A. Schachter ‘12, and Matthew G. Warner ‘13

William S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan’s spirited 1878 comic opera “H.M.S. Pinafore; or, the Lass That Loved a Sailor” is a much-loved staple of musical theatre. Starting November 3, the Harvard-Radcliffe Gilbert & Sullivan Players (HRG&SP) will be staging the piece for the first time since its 50th anniversary production in 2006. “H.M.S. Pinafore” follows the romantic misadventures of a captain’s daughter, Josephine (Allison A. Ray ’14), who is supposed to marry the proud Sir Joseph Porter (Christian N. Fohrby ’14) despite her hidden love for a lowly sailor.

Filled with energetic music and dancing set aboard a ship at sea, the opera’s status as Gilbert and Sullivan’s first major international success and one of their most enduring creations is understandable. Yet the HRG&SP intend to put a new twist on this well-known tale. Director Ashley N. Kaupert ’12 has transplanted the action from a royal navy ship to a swanky 1930s cruise liner, complete with period costumes and shuffleboard. “We changed [the setting] because [this play] is one of the big three shows [written by Gilbert and Sullivan] and we wanted to do something that would get the audience’s attention,” she says.

Kaupert adds that updating the production has been a challenge. “It’s so much easier to just do a period piece,” she says, “because there’s less likelihood you’ll get it wrong.” She says the inspiration for the “crazy slapdash” vibe of her interpretation came in part from the Marx brothers’ movies. “It’s not your grandmother’s ‘Pinafore,’” she says. Kaupert’s infectious enthusiasm is reflected in the attitudes of her cast and crew. “With a show like this, people are doing it because they love it—it’s a lot more theatrical than a lot of shows,” says chorus member Aaron S. Graham-Horowitz ’15.

Ray applauds the musical for being “classical but not intensely overwrought,” characteristics that the HRG&SP will try to retain in their re-interpretation. But the bottom line, says producer Abigail A. Schachter ’12, is that “H.M.S. Pinafore” is “a boatload of fun.”