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Gilbert and Sullivan's 1878 comic opera, H.M.S. Pinafore, has proved itself as a sturdy vessel of utter silliness -- seasick sailors and mismatched lovers on board, of course -- even as it steams forward into 2019 and beyond.

The opening night of Praeclara's Pinafore at west Little Rock's Wildwood Park found an energetic company putting a bright, delightful and generally faithful spin on a show that tests of the comic skills of troupe of singers. Directed and conducted by Bevan Keating, this production -- powered by a small but lively orchestra -- was light and fast on its feet.

There's no denying that Gilbert and Sullivan's distinctly British work of the Victorian era will sound dated to modern ears, but it doesn't much matter when this much earnest fun is in the offing. It's hard to think of an opera production that emphasizes physical comedy as this one does (the very beginning of the show has a terrific bit of comic business). Bruce Rentz's open set offers an eye-catching backdrop for Moriah Patterson's fetching choreography.

The story of Pinafore features Josephine (Elizabeth Riddick), daughter of Capt. Corcoran (Luke Angelo), being pledged to marry the fop Sir Joseph Porter (Matthew Tatus) instead of the low seaman Ralph Rackstraw (Jordan Ladyman). Throw into this mix the villain Dick Deadeye (Bill Downs) and Little Buttercup (Kelley Ponder), the boat vendor with a big secret, and you have the froth that is Pinafore.

Riddick is a vocal standout with her "Sorry her lot" number being a powerhouse. Riddick also demonstrates genuine acting ability. Angelo's solo to open the second act was noteworthy. Downs' Deadeye is so outrageous looking with wild hair and an eye patch that you can't take your eyes off him (his vocals do, unfortunately, become garbled from time to time). Melissa Thoma has a smaller part of Cousin Hebe, but her actions and expressions are so precise and memorable. Be sure to watch her all the way to the end.

On opening night, right before the bow, there was a prop that didn't want to cooperate. The performers on stage didn't panic or try to cover and soon fixed what wasn't working to the delight of the audience. It was that kind of night for this Pinafore.

Metro on 04/13/2019

Print Headline: Praeclara sails ahead with H.M.S. Pinafore

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