“H.M.S. Pinafore” directors, cast, crew prepare for performance Feb. 22-23
Trinity CommunicationsFebruary 11, 2019
Captain Corcoran (BA ’19 Daniel Leffingwell) expresses some pride while singing to the moon, while also dealing with conflicting emotions about his daughter and her possible love.
From Feb. 22-23, students involved in this year’s Music Department production, Gilbert and Sullivan’s H.M.S. Pinafore, will sing and perform on the A.T.O. Chapel stage on a two-story ship.
With three performances over the course of the weekend, opening at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and again on Saturday at 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., much work has gone into the production from the cast as well as its team of directors, headed by Visiting Assistant Professor of Music Chuck King.
Rehearsals have been underway since the first day of classes this semester. The Music Department held auditions and callbacks last fall, the cast learning about the script during an initial read-through before finals.
Only nine of the cast members have roles named by the script. The remaining members, consisting of students currently involved in TIU’s concert choir, are sailors and family members on the vessel known as H.M.S. Pinafore. This performance stands in place of the choir’s spring tour this year.
This production is the first time that King has directed a choir that is simultaneously producing a musical. When the Music Department put on The Music Man two years ago, King was the music director while Kelsey Waybright (daughter-in-law of former President Greg Waybright) handled the blocking (what characters do on the stage and where and how they do it) and several behind-the-scenes elements.
For H.M.S. Pinafore, King’s role has shifted. Acting as the primary director, King works alongside assistant director Nicole Buschek, an English/Secondary Education major at Trinity College involved in the concert choir. He is also assisted by music department professor and orchestra director Eli Chen, the music director.
“Eli is a brilliant musician; what he brings musically and dramatically to the show is just outstanding,” King said.
King dedicates most of his time working with the named lead roles in stage rehearsals, and Chen comes to almost every choir rehearsal to help with teaching and practicing the many vocal numbers in the show. In addition, vocal coaches John Hacker and Malia Ropp work with the cast whenever the opportunity arises. Most recently, Ropp worked with specific students during a masterclass workshop last Friday, Feb. 15.
The cast practices Monday through Friday most weeks, and as the performance draws nearer, each one grows increasingly more important. Most of their time is spent on the music, but there is more to a musical than the songs sung.
One of the highlights of the show King expects some audience members will appreciate are the accents used by each cast member.
“In England, your accent betrays your class,” King said. “We can’t sing like an American choir. Everyone has been very good about capturing their accent and finding the humor in their roles.”
Since H.M.S. Pinafore is a romantic comedy of sorts, moving from “bafflement to comedy” as King put it, many of the show’s jokes feel similar to Shakespeare, where not every word will be understood by a contemporary audience but can still be delightful and funny.
“We don’t talk like Shakespeare, but when we’re in a good performance with the right pacing, we follow that, we get it,” King said. Because of this divide of time, the cast has had to spend time getting to the heart of their lines and songs, finding the wordplay and humor so they can present them in the most effective way.
Aside from the cast and directors, a number of students and faculty have been involved with the production, helping with costuming and set building. Professor of History Steve Fratt provided several of his uniforms to outfit the cast, and his wife Linda is sewing every sailor costume for the production.
The show runs for slightly over two hours, and flows without any blackouts within an act. While H.M.S. Pinafore won’t include dancing, King expects its music and surprise twists to keep the audience excited for more.
General admission for the show is $8, and student and senior tickets are $5 each.