HMS Pinafore @ Opera New Jersey
By Gilbert and Sullivan
Conducted by Mark Laycock, Set Design by Tim Saternow, Lighting Design by Ken Yunker, Costume Design by Gregg Barnes – coordinated by Howard Tsvi-Kaplan, Artistic Administrator – D.J. Haugen, General Director – Richard Russell
(Reviews Below Slideshow)
Opera NJ’s ‘Pinafore’ sails successfully
The audience arrived Sunday at the McCarter Theatre Center for H.M.S. Pinafore primed for immediate enjoyment, ready to giggle at the sprightly tunes — and with every reason to do so. Opera New Jersey’s second production of its summer season is an artistic success on every front, a hit that happily has four more performances.
The anatomy of this triumph, however, begins with director Michael Unger’s keen strategic awareness of what this operetta is and isn’t. Anything but realistic, Pinafore remains an articulate social critique, but one whose humor best arises from fully investigated characterizations, even if the plot’s personalities are paper-thin types. At McCarter, humor wasn’t cheap, and sight gags had genuine wit. The always-engaging Gilbert and Sullivan songs were more so here because they so clearly reflected the characters’ motivation.
NEWARK STAR LEDGER
Gilbert and Sullivan for skeptics
Even a Gilbert & Sullivan skeptic would have a difficult time finding fault with Opera New Jersey’s engaging, creative production.
…execution was excellent. The stage served as an animated playground for director Michael Unger and the cast, with masts that unfurled, ropes and ladders from which singers swung, and several doors and tiers for maximum visual impact.
Unger capitalized on all that was there and mined the show for humor until it seemed much more than what was in the score.
Opera New Jersey makes it easy to see why this Gilbert and Sullivan work endures
If you’re a Gilbert and Sullivan fan, or even if you’re only slightly acquainted with their work, this is a don’t-miss opportunity.
There are some humorous contemporary references slyly thrown into the lyrics, as well as some suggestive ones. Running gags involve handkerchiefs, the conductor’s baton, and Miss Buttercup’s assets, as well as a rope in the rigging on which characters swing into view. Props are malleable. One hilarious extended number is the trio of the Captain, Sir Joseph and Josephine in Act 2. Their dancing and their toasts are increasingly tipsy as drinks evolve from a spot of wine to things more intoxicating and finally more plebeian.
The orchestra is even brought into the action. And those who know Gilbert and Sullivan’s other work have a few surprises in store as well.
Under the direction of Michael Unger, this first-class production of H.M.S. Pinafore is thoroughly enjoyable both musically and theatrically. It has everything to satisfy the Gilbert and Sullivan purist while adding some unexpected delights.
‘H.M.S. Pinafore’ is a fun social critique
The current production by Opera New Jersey at Princeton’s McCarter Theatre shows just why it remains popular to this day—a clever mixture of fun and silliness, with a stirring underbelly of social commentary.
…a witty, sometimes close to irreverent directorial approach by Michael Unger, well-known to local audiences for his handling of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” for the past many years.
Director Unger even tosses “three little maids from school” and “the pirate king (entering swinging on a rope) into the mix and his use of the aisles (all three) keeps everyone alert. One of the finest Gilbert and Sullivan’s in many years.
OUT IN NEW JERSEY
Opera NJ has surmounted the challenges in HMS Pinafore
Opera New Jersey has brilliantly met and surmounted the challenges above noted… the show filled the stage at McCarter Theater and had the packed house wildly applauding and often rocking with laughter. Director Michael Unger made the material fresh with comic business and sight gags that worked perfectly with the spirit of the original creation. There is no doubt in my mind at all that Sir Arthur Sullivan and William S. Gilbert themselves would have laughed and applauded as enthusiastically as did today’s audience.
Altogether, this production is among the best – very possibly THE best version of Pinafore of all the ones I have yet seen, and trust me, that list is a long one.