It’s “all aboard!” for a journey into a wacky world where the truly absurd is exalted to heavenly heights. The University of Southern Maine’s Opera Workshop and Chorale groups have embarked on a two-day voyage aboard Gilbert and Sullivan’s “H.M.S Pinafore.” And, it’s clear skies and smooth sailing for the talented “crew.”

Director Ellen Chickering and conductor Robert Russell chose wisely when selecting “H.M.S Pinafore” for the School of Music’s spring production. The lively performance beautifully showcases the students’ vocal and musical skills, all the while making opera easily accessible to the general pubic.

“H.M.S Pinafore” originally opened in 1878 at the Opera Comique and quickly became hugely popular for its witty social satire and infectious score. Gilbert and Sullivan combined tongue-in-cheek sensibility, a ridiculous plot, ludicrous lyrics and well-crafted vocal parts to create a libretto that’s both entertaining and a credit to its performers.

The School of Music opened its rendition Friday evening and will deliver a second performance today at 2 p.m. In total, the production features 20 operatic cast members, backed by 43 vocalists from the USM Chorale group and two pianists, Michal Harris and Angela Olszta, performing on grand pianos.

Earl Vogel of Portland takes on the leading role of Captain Corcoran, delivering a strong performance as captain of the H.M.S Pinafore. Shannon Connell of Haverhill, Mass., is the captain’s spirited daughter, Josephine. Her songbird-like, crystal clear soprano is captivating. Jesse Wakeman of Belfast complements Connell beautifully with a rich tenor vocal as Josephine’s forbidden love, seaman Ralph Rackstraw.

Joshua Miller of Southwest Harbor stars as Sir Joseph Porter, the First Lord of the Admiralty. His powerful bass vocals and crisp articulation nicely capture his character’s wonderfully preposterous pomposity. Sarah Flagg of Hampden is also a standout as Little Buttercup, a bumboat woman who the captain is secretly in love with.

Additional cast members include Kyle Skillin of Standish as the thoroughly entertaining Dick Deadeye, Christoper Climo of Fryeburg as boatswain’s mate Bill Bobstay, Joshua Wolfe of Saco as carpenter’s mate Bob Beckett and Molly Massa of Scarborough as Sir Joseph’s first cousin Hebe. A host of sailors, sisters, cousins and aunts round out the cast.

“H.M.S. Pinafore” is a fun production that’s satirically filled with love, longing and mistaken identity. The USM School of Music’s performers have a knack for playing up the silliness of the plot, with impish grins, eye-rolling characterizations and over-the-top emotion, all the while delivering stunning vocal performances. The production is a great opportunity to see and hear a large group of the school’s gifted students.

April Boyle is a freelance writer from Casco. She can be contacted at:

[email protected]


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