Savannah’s only church to bring Broadway into the sanctuary continued the tradition in 2016 with a rousing take on Gilbert and Sullivan’s 1878 comic opera H.M.S. Pinafore. Rev. Billy Hester, a successful actor and singer who performed in The Pirates of Penzance, Pippin, and other productions during his time as lead tenor in the Light Opera of Manhattan, once starred in a production of Pinafore, making him the perfect director for Asbury’s rendition.
A seven-piece orchestra of oboe, cello, bass, piano, flute, percussion and violin provided the musical accompaniment to Asbury’s production. A chorus, featuring Rhonda Bruckman, Wendy Mason, Mickey Dodge, Pat Prokop, Sharon Page, Brittany Shirley, Gary Shelby, Kristin Pair, Don Cohen, James Hamrick, Kim Patrick-Limehouse, Steve Reed, Andy Wallington and Shane Conner added to the joyful spirit.
In its heyday, H.M.S. Pinafore was an international sensation. The fourth operatic production of Gilbert and Sullivan, it’s a love story set on the high (and turbulent) seas. Problems arise when Captain Corcoran’s daughter, Josephine (played by Ashley Roper), falls in love with Ralph Rackstraw, a sailor (Joseph Lee). She’s set to marry Sir Joseph Porter (Les Taylor), the First Lord of Admiralty in the Royal Navy who stands heads above Rackstraw in class. However, Sir Joseph is an advocate of the equality of humankind, and surprisingly encourages lovebirds Josephine and Ralph to go for it and buck the social system in the process. Papa Captain Corcoran (Jonathan Rabb) gets word of the plan, but a surprise disclosure wraps things up neatly at the end of the tale.
Pinafore was the third Gilbert and Sullivan show that Asbury has produced (Pirates of Penzance and The Mikado were past favorites) and a landmark one: with perhaps their largest cast ever, members of the community and congregation had their shot to get onstage and give theatre a chance.
With incredible music and an engaging, entertaining cast, Pinafore is a first-time win for Asbury Memorial Theatre. We look forward to seeing what they get into next.
Runner-up: Death of a Salesman by Collective Face Theatre Ensemble