The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, October 21, 2005


Savoyard Light Opera Company presents Gilbert & Sullivan's H.M.S. Pinafore
Last year at this time, the Savoyard Light Opera Company had no idea where its home would be for the 2005 season. Its members knew just one thing: that the next production would be Gilbert & Sullivan's popular opera, H.M.S. Pinafore. Although space constraints and other concerns at the school made the group's future here look bleak, a number of compromises between school officials and SLOC in the past year have brought the opera company back to Carlisle for its fall show. Or more accurately, they never left. H.M.S. Pinafore will be the group's 17th production on the stage of Corey auditorium at the Carlisle School.

SLOC is back in town

The group is relieved to have its fall schedule of rehearsals back on track at the First Religious Society, and is looking forward to putting the sets in at Corey auditorium at the end of the month, so they can begin rehearsing on the stage in preparation for the performances between November 11 and 20.

A recent visit to a SLOC rehearsal revealed that the show is progressing nicely, already showing the professionalism audiences have come to expect from the group.

"This is a really good group of people and things are coming along well," says Donna DeWitt of Chelmsford, the show's director. Audiences may remember Dewitt most recently as Kate in 2001's production of Kiss Me, Kate, or in numerous past SLOC productions, including Pirates of Penzance (Mabel), Little Mary Sunshine (Mary), and My Fair Lady (Eliza Doolittle).

A most popular Gilbert & Sullivan

DeWitt points out that H.M.S Pinafore, a.k.a. "The Lass Who Loved a Sailor," is one of the earliest and most popular of Gilbert & Sullivan's light operas. "It has a lot of catchy music, and it's not a long show, maybe just an hour and forty-five minutes, so the pace is not slow. That's part of the reason people like it," she says.

The story of H.M.S. Pinafore goes something like this: On board the H.M.S. Pinafore, Captain Corcoran's (Christopher Porth) daughter, Josephine (Lauren Sprague), has fallen in love with a common sailor, Ralph Rackstraw (Michael Quezzaire-Belle). The Captain is dead set against fraternization between different social classes, so he has arranged instead for her to marry the First Lord of the Admiralty, Sir Joseph Porter (Ben Cole). Things get shaken up in typical Gilbert & Sullivan fashion when it is revealed that Captain Corcoran himself fancies a common bumboat woman named Buttercup (Laura Schall Gouillart), and that she once served as a nursemaid for both the captain and Ralph Rackstraw at the same time. A villain, Dick Deadeye (Stephen Spaulding), stirs things up further, true identities are revealed and ultimately, love conquers all. Naturally, there is a fine chorus of swarthy sailors and dancing sisters and cousins throughout, and well-known tunes such as "I'm Called Little Buttercup," and "I am the Monarch of the Sea."

"This show points out the funny theme of the day, which is trying to keep the classes separate. It never works," says Christopher Porth of Acton, who plays the captain of the H.M.S. Pinafore in his sixth show with SLOC. "I enjoy having a comic role. This has been a nice change, a great opportunity for silliness," he adds, in contrast to the gloomy role of Archibald Crane he played in last year's SLOC production of The Secret Garden.

His daughter Josephine is played by Lauren Sprague of Lowell. This is her first performance with SLOC and her first time in Pinafore, although she has performed the role of Mabel in Pirates of Penzance in New Hampshire. "I've heard about this company, that they do terrific productions, so I thought I'd audition. There were so many talented girls who turned out, I never thought I'd get the part," she says. "The people are terrific. It's a very talented, very professional group."

Michael Quezzaire-Belle of Medford, who plays her love interest, Ralph (pronounced "Rafe") Rackstraw, is also in his first SLOC production. His former voice teacher, Stephanie Mann, played Iolanthe in the 2003 production of Iolanthe here. "I'd heard a lot of good things about the group, and she told me I had to audition," he said. "I'm absolutely loving it."

Audiences may remember Ben Cole of Needham, who plays the role of Sir Joseph Porter. His last SLOC role was as Pish Tush in The Mikado in 2002. He is pleased to come back to play a character he describes as "British aristocracy, with rules and manners and a belief that the classes cannot mix," enjoying the group as well as his role. "There are full sets and a full orchestra, which is unusual for a lot of groups unless they're much bigger, with lots of money."

In addition to enjoying their participation in H.M.S. Pinafore, the two Carlisle residents in the cast, both portraying sailors, are especially grateful to have the group's future in Carlisle secured.

"It's so wonderful to be able to still offer the community and our audience members this high-quality music so conveniently," says Larry Milner. "The new superintendent has had a very open view of what's good for the community."

One of the compromises agreed upon between SLOC and the school is that the front two rows of seats (which must be removed to accommodate the full orchestra and which created a fire hazard in the hallways at the school) will be stored offsite, at the SLOC storage facility, says Phil Drew, SLOC member, long-time Carlislean, and another cast member of H.M.S. Pinafore. "We're delighted that we didn't have to move. [The group] has grown fond of Carlisle, and we think Carlisle has grown fond of us," he says. "I hope this is an association that will last for many years."

Gilbert & Sullivan's H.M.S. Pinafore will be performed November 11, 12, 18 and 19 at 7:30 p.m. and November 13 and 20 at 2 p.m. For ticket information, call 1-978-371-SLOC, or visit

2005 The Carlisle Mosquito