H.M.S. Pinafore | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Director choreographer Brian Macdonald's staging of Gilbert and Sullivan's H.M.S. Pinafore delights in, and reconciles, two sometimes opposing theatrical styles: the whimsicality of English operetta and the athleticism of American musical comedy. Forget the stodgy old stand-there-and-sing-prettily way of doing G&S; Macdonald's Canadian touring production of this 110-year-old masterpiece features a fast-moving chorus of jolly jack-tars who maintain a rich and able-bodied singing tone in Arthur Sullivan's frothy score while bounding about Susan Benson's semiabstract, picture-postcard set (inspired by the work of British cartoonist Rowland Emmett). As Josephine, the daughter of a ship's captain, who flouts class divisions by loving a lowly sailor, Broadway veteran Meg Bussert displays a beautiful soprano of feathery lightness supported by steely strength. As her vain and fatuous pursuer Sir Joseph Porter, British musical comedy star Ron Moody works the stage with music-hall broadness, toying shamelessly with the audience and dotting his lines with barbed modern references--digs at Margaret Thatcher, Gary Hart, and Jimmy Swaggart, even a cutting impression of Ronald Reagan--most of them in keeping with librettist W.S. Gilbert's original satire on the self-importance of the important. By preserving and enhancing the work's musical values, this show will amuse all but the most rigidly purist G&S followers; perhaps more important, it should help develop a new generation of fans by delighting children with its exhilarating physicality and brightly colored look. This H.M.S. Pinafore is a buoyant ship riding a bubbly sea. Tonight, 8 PM, Saturday, 2 and 8 PM, and Sunday, 3 PM, Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker. 346-0270 or 902-1500.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/David Cooper.

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