H.M.S. Pinafore

Music by Arthur Sullivan
Libretto by W.S. Gilbert
Performed in English with English subtitles
Premiered at Opera Comique in London on May 25, 1878
July 6, 7, 13 & 14 at 8:00pm

Act I – Noon on the Quarterdeck of “H.M.S. Pinafore,” off Portsmouth.

The Pinafore, the newest ship in Her Majesty’s Navy, is anchored in the harbor at Portsmouth. Its proud sailors are busy scrubbing the decks and readying a luncheon for the arrival of Sir Joseph Porter, K.C.B., Britain’s First Lord of the Admiralty. Buttercup, a bumboat woman, comes aboard to sell her stock of “snuff and tobaccy and excellent jacky” to the sailors. She harbours secrets and has a romantic interest in the Pinafore’s Captain.

A handsome and accomplished sailor, Ralph, tells his messmates that he is in love with the Captain’s daughter, Josephine. Dick Deadeye, the embodiment of the ugly truth, reminds the starry-eyed seaman that Captain’s daughters don’t marry foremast hands! The Captain arrives to inspect his crew.

Josephine is sought in marriage by the cabinet minister, Sir Joseph, but it seems that she has no enthusiasm for a union with that “cabinet minister” – secretly, she is in love with a lowly sailor, Ralph.

Finally, Sir Joseph arrives for the luncheon, attended by his many relations, including his loyal, but jealous, cousin Hebe. He explains how he rose to the top post in the Navy and declares that “a British sailor is any man’s equal.” He presents a song that he has composed to encourage “independence of thought and action in the lower branches” of the Navy. Sir Joseph and the Captain retire.

Ralph finds Josephine alone on deck and declares his love for her. She rejects his proffered love and cannot forget the disparity in their ranks. But, when Ralph threatens suicide, Josephine relents and declares her love for him. With the help of the crew and Sr. Joseph’s relations, the lovers plan to elope that very night. Dick Deadeye warns the pair of the impropriety of their plan, but he is forced to retreat.

~~ Intermission ~~

Act II – Night

Captain Corcoran, watching his sailors flirt with the young women, reflects on his current troubles, singing to the moon for consolation. Buttercup comes to him and reveals her affection. He tells her that because of his rank he can never be more to her than a friend, but she hints darkly that a change is in store for him.

Sir Joseph returns, complaining about Josephine’s inattention. The Captain guesses that Josephine is dazzled by his lofty station, and he suggests that he plead his cause on the ground that “love levels all ranks.” When Josephine hears this argument, she is over joyed – it might pave the way for her to marry Ralph!

After Dick Deadeye reveals the planned elopement, the Captain confronts the elopers and is so exasperated that he actually starts swearing. Unimpressed, Sir Joseph orders the Captain to retire to his cabin.

Sir Joseph learns of Ralph and Josephine’s affair and orders the “presumptuous” sailor to the brig. Buttercup finally discloses her long-concealed secret – as their foster mother, she had exchanged the Captain and Ralph while they were both babies. This revelation conveniently now levels the ranks of at least two of the couples, Josephine and Ralph and the Captain and Buttercup.

Again alone, Sir Joseph finally agrees to marry is longtime admirer, cousin Hebe, making it three loving pairs who on the same day will be united.

Adapted from Gilbert and Sullivan Archive

Production Staff

Conductor Scott Schoonover
Director Eric Gibson
Scenic Designer Kyra Bishop Sanford
Costume Designer Teresa Doggett
Lighting Designer Andy Vieluf
Supertitle Designer Philip Touchette
Technical Director Theatre Marine Productions
Stage Manager Cecilia de Ereausquin
Scenic Charge Artist Cameron Tesson
Assistant Stage Manager Kayla Bush
Assistant Stage Manager Miranda Fair

Orchestral rentals for H.M.S. Pinafore are underwritten by