Most Common Sailors Don Clown Makeup
for Circus Production of H.M.S. Pinafore
By Robert W. McDowell
Triangle Theater Review
In keeping with the circus theme of the Durham Savoyards, Ltd.’s whimsical production of H.M.S. Pinafore, performed March 16-18 and 23-25 at The Carolina Theatre in Durham, NC, most of the common sailors in the cast donned greasepaint and red noses, so that they looked very much like world-famous sorrowful tramp-clown Emmett Kelly, with his trademark five-oclock shadow and smile turned upside-down. Innovative and resourceful director and choreographer Derrick Ivey turned this classic comic operetta into a three-ring circus of fun. Ivey’s fresh, new approach to H.M.S. Pinafore breathed new life into this familiar Gilbert and Sullivan piece.
Set and graphics designer Richard Dideriksen, technical director and set realizer Charles Guidry, and lighting designers Jennifer Becker and Chris Bernier created a brassy big-top ambience for the quarterdeck of the H.M.S. Pinafore; costume designer Hannah Andrews, costume realizer Diane Woodard, and makeup designer Pam Guidry-Vollers dressed the cast in a vivid eye-catching assemblage of 1890s military and civilian fashions topped, in many cases, by lurid yarn wigs that highlighted the hilarity in this rib-ticking rendition of H.M.S. Pinafore; and music director Alan Riley Jones and his orchestral cohorts provided frisky instrumental accompaniment that showcased the impressive vocal talents of the saucy Durham Savoyards cast.
Richard Dideriksen and Evelyn McCauley were delightful as the H.M.S. Pinafore’s irascible and frequently foul-mouthed commander Captain Corcoran and the sailors’ angel Little Buttercup, the Portsmouth harbor bumboat woman who has a troubling secret that will turn the tables on the proud captain. Ben Neufang cut a fine figure as lowly able seaman Ralph Rackstraw, who has fallen in love with Captain Corcorans beautiful daughter Josephine (the cute as a bug Thea Tullman); and Jim Burnette was hilarious as Rackstraw’s erstwhile rival, Josephine’s prissy, priggish aristocratic suitor The Rt. Hon. Sir Joseph Porter, KCB, who as the First Lord of the Admiralty is Captain Corcoran’s boss.
Tall, shaven-headed Daryn OShea was amusing as crusty able seaman Dick Deadeye, the plug-ugly villain of the show and Rackstraw’s sworn enemy, who tries to sabotage his fellow seamans romance with Josephine whenever possible; and Karen Gray was good as Sir Joseph Porter’s first cousin Hebe, who has a secret agenda that involves her powerful cousin.
From the Durham Savoyards’ preshow tradition of singing "God Save the Queen" to a Queen Victoria impersonator in the royal box, to the troupes trademark encore of "Hail Poetry" from Gilbert and Sullivans Pirates of Penzance, this crowd-pleasing performance of H.M.S. Pinafore was not only brilliantly reimagined but royally entertaining. Indeed, after last Sunday’s matinee performance, this jaunty presentation received a well-deserved standing ovation.