Watermill - Pinafore Swing
21st July to 11th September 2004.
From The Times.
From the Daily Telegraph.
G&S meet Glenn Miller
Kick FM's review.
This is another John Doyle special, attempting to recreate the success he
had with The Gondoliers at the Watermill in 2001. Hes taken the G&S
favourite HMS Pinafore and moved it onto a troop ship in the Second
World War, where the cast are a mixture of Brits and Yanks, a band of
musicians to entertain the troops.
From the Newbury Weekly News.
Pinafore set fair for another Watermill success
Pinafore Swing, at The Watermill, until September 11
You can maintain a prune face and carp at the changes to arguably the best-loved of Gilbert and Sullivan's works, or you can simply enjoy the latest in the series of actor/musician performances which have delighted Watermill audiences.
Pinafore Swing is not an updating of a classic; director John Doyle and musical director Sarah Travis have respectfully given the original their own special treatment and the differences - and similarities - are fascinating.
Bumboat woman Buttercup becomes Bee Bee Butterfly (Nina Lucking) who, with Hee Hee Butterfly (Kerry James) and Dee Dee Butterfly (Claire Storey) make up a wonderfully brash trio of saxophonists who "entertain the troops who sail the ocean blue" on the troopship P4 in 1944.
In contrast, oh-so-sweet Jenny Wren (Gemma Page) is the captain's daughter; pursued by a Noel Coward of a Joseph P. Porter (Kieran Buckeridge), but in love with a common sail.. .(sorry) an American sailor, Jack (Ben Tolley). John Doyle's clever lyrics of Joe's patter song could have come straight from that masterly weaver of words W. S. Gilbert.
Bee Bee, "a real pipperoo from Kalamazoo" has had a fling with "the big bandsman of the old P4" Captain (Stephen Watts) and just why is it so funny when she calls him Victor? We roared with laughter anyway.
Finally, there is Jim BytheWay (Steve Simmonds) a prosaic English tar fending off the advances of a wonderfully nasal Hee Hee.
Although it is wartime, the ship's company seem lost in their own dream world in the P4's striking Art Deco ballroom, but we learn eventually that Jim will be killed in action and like an ice cold drop of water running down the spine, reality returns.
This young, vibrant cast of actor/musicians bring a sparkling energy to Sarah Travis' score, lighting up such gems as the Lindy Hop and the Big Band sounds which alternate with the thread of the wistful original Sorry Her Lot winding through the performance. Sullivan may have been outraged, but he must have appreciated Sarah's musicianship.
The story is as slight as G&S always was, but this is an evening principally about music mixed with energy and fun - surely set fair for success.
From TheatreWorld Internet.
John Doyle and Sarah Travis have a history of successful collaboration at the Watermill: their adaptation Gondoliers won the 2001 TMA award for Best Musical (and a West End transfer) and their stunning production of Sweeney Todd has just transferred to Trafalgar Studios in London. But Pinafore Swing isn't in the same league.
It looks wonderful - a 30's confection of a ship's bandstand with ruched silk curtains, chrome and glass. The music isn't bad - some genuine Glen Miller swinging. But the adaptation and the conceit just don't hang together. Doyle and Travis have updated the G&S musical to a mid Atlantic troopship (I didn't think to wonder at the incongruity of a bandbox fresh set on a tired old troop ship until afterwards) where the Butterfly Sisters observe the triangle of love between American sailor, Jack, Wren, Jenny and aristocratic Commanding Officer, Joseph (whom for a moment appears not only to be able to swing but to swing both ways).
The Watermill audience adored the conflation of Gilbert and Sullivan and "their" music era - particularly the patter song constructed from Noel Coward titles. But until the arrival of something approaching a plot late in the final act the show rarely rose above a montage of period pastiche songs (good pastiche though) linked by some quick fire dialogue. Not Doyle and Travis at their best.
From The Sunday Times.