Wilton’s Music Hall – until 9 April 2021
Reviewed by Claire Roderick
It’s not just the nice girls who love a sailor, everybody who has the chance to see this show will fall in love with the ridiculously talented crew of HMS Pinafore. Sasha Regan’s All-Male productions of Gilbert and Sullivan classics have the perfect home in Wilton’s, with the sublime voices and piano accompaniment washing over the audience without need for microphones.
The silly plot involves sailor Ralph Rackstraw (Danny Becker) who loves Josephine (Sam Kipling), his captain’s daughter. Josephine also loves Ralph, but her father (Juan Jackson) has set his mind to her marrying the first lord of the admiralty, Sir Joseph Porter (David McKechnie). Sir Joseph shares his strong views about equality until he finds out about Josephine and the lowly sailor. Being Gilbert and Sullivan, of course there is a hidden truth that is revealed at the last minute to ensure a happy ending in this bonkers comedy about class.
Using just two bunkbeds, metal lockboxes and rope, the cast transform themselves from a WW2 era crew lolling around below deck into the camp and silly Victorian characters on board HMS Pinafore. Lizzie Gee’s delightful choreography gives the jolly tars a chance to show off their physical prowess with joyous glee, and Juan Jackson’s first entrance as Captain Corcoran is hilarious as he competes with his crew to prove his machismo. Jackson and Scott Armstrong as a very Scottish Little Buttercup have brilliant comedic chemistry and light up the stage. The romance between Ralph and Josephine is sweet and Sam Kipling is hilarious as Josephine tries to resist her true feelings. Danny Becker is strong in the hero role, and Sam Kipling’s phenomenal soprano vocals are a wonder to behold. David McKechnie is king of the patter songs, and there’s more than a touch of Leonard Rossiter in his very funny portrayal of the pompous character. Richard Russell Edwards steals the show as Cousin Hebe, with every expression and move cleverly calculated to draw howls of laughter, even when he is just sitting in the background. The clever use of minimal props and Lizzie Gee’s inspired choreography bring the crazy world to life with fantastic physical comedy and director Sasha Regan allowing the tender moments to settle without losing impetus.
The show wouldn’t work without a cast with gorgeous voices, and musical director Ashley Jacobs’ arrangements are pristine. The production will put a smile on your face within minutes, and that smile won’t disappear for a long while after the show. The playful creativity of this production and the talent on stage ensure an evening of escapism, wonder and joy.