Sasha Regan’s all-male franchise has already proven itself to be a success, with productions of The Mikado and The Pirates of Penzance having already had the all-male treatment. Even All-Male H.M.S. Pinafore has had previous outings, including its original run at the Union Theatre and a very successful tour. It now returns to London for a run at Wilton’s Music Hall, with Regan once again directing.
The all-male set up reflects those historical productions where all the parts were played by men, but is more reminiscent of boarding school or military productions where there’s simply no choice but to have a single sex cast. Just like those productions, Sasha Regan’s production plays it completely straight, there might be an odd nod to the campness of it all, but would it even be Gilbert and Sullivan without it?
In this H.M.S. Pinafore the action is relocated to a World War II ship, but aside from that Gilbert and Sullivan’s libretto and score is kept entirely intact. The frugal production keeps things simple, a couple of bunk beds, some rope and a lot of imagination is enough to create the world of Ralph, Josephine and Little Buttercup.
Lizzie Gee’s choreography succeeds in taking it a step further, the movement helping to create the sense of the sway of the ship, and sometimes even creating elements of the ship itself. It’s a wonderfully energetic production, ‘I am the Captain of the Pinafore’ sees Corcoran (Juan Jackson) whip the men into shape with skipping ropes and cartwheels.
Danny Becker has a wonderful charm as Ralph Rackstraw, with beautiful vocals to go with it. Sam Kipling’s crystal shattering Falsetto never fails to impress and gives Josephine some of the best moments of the night. Scott Armstrong gives a hilarious performance as Little Buttercup, though the comedy genius of Richard Russell Edwards, as Cousin Hebe, does not go unnoticed.
Despite playing it straight, just like the other all-male productions, H.M.S. Pinafore is incredibly funny, it’s quite impossible not to be amused by these strapping young men adorning hats and playing female characters. Accompanied only by Ashley Jacobs on the piano, Gilbert and Sullivan’s operetta sounds fresh and invigorated in the ancient auditorium of Wilton’s Music Hall.
Sasha Regan’s All-Male H.M.S. Pinafore is another jewel in the crown of this franchise, as demonstrated by the way the audience howled in delight as familiar numbers were given the all-male twist. It’s one of those rare productions that genuinely has something for everyone, including your sisters, cousins, and aunts.
All-Male H.M.S. Pinafore is at Wilton’s Music Hall until 9th April.