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HMS Pinafore

Arts Theatre, UNE - May/June 2009

Stage Direction by Mike Gibson
Musical Direction by Bruce Menzies
Produced by Margaret Kennedy
Choreography by Tracey James

Libretto by William S. Gilbert. Music by Sir Arthur Sullivan. 


Act I

The Pinafore is anchored in the harbour at Portsmouth. Its proud sailors are busy scrubbing the decks for the expected arrival of Sir Joseph Porter, K.C.B., Britain's First Lord of the Admiralty. "Little" Buttercup, a bumboat woman comes aboard to sell to the sailors her stock of "snuff and tobaccy" and other luxuries.

Accomplished sailor, Ralph Rackstraw, 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. He is troubled because although Josephine is sought in marriage by Sir Joseph, it seems that she has no enthusiasm for such a union - secretly, she is in love with Ralph. It also seems that Little Buttercup has a romantic interest in the Captain and more harbours a secret about Ralph!

Finally, Sir Joseph arrives attended by his many "sisters and his cousins and his aunts" among whom is his loyal but jealous cousin Hebe. He explains his manipulative rise to the top post in the Navy and encourages the Captain to observe the social niceties in dealing with his crew. Insisting that "a British sailor is any man's equal" excepting his, he presents the crew with a song that he himself has composed to encourage "independence of thought and action in the lower branches" of the Navy. Sir Joseph and the Captain retire below decks to discuss the proposed marriage.

Ralph finds Josephine alone on deck and declares his love for her and his willingness to try and it in with middle-class society. Haughtily, she rejects his proffered love, citing the disparity in their ranks. When Ralph threatens suicide, she relents and declares her love for him. With the crew and the sisters, cousins and aunts assisting, the lovers plot to elope that very night. Dick Deadeye warns the pair of the impropriety of their plan, but he is forced to retreat.

Act II

Captain Corcoran is alone on deck with his mandolin and sings to the moon of his troubles. Little 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 and "things are seldom what they seem".

Sir Joseph returns, complaining that Josephine does not favor his suit. The Captain comforts him by theorizing that she is dazzled by his lofty station and suggests that he plead his cause on the ground that "love levels all ranks". When Josephine hears this argument, she considers how eloquently Sir Joseph has stated the justification for her to marry Ralph!

Dick Deadeye finds the Captain alone and reveals the planned elopement. He and the Captain lie in wait for the crew. The Captain confronts the elopers and is so exasperated that he actually swears a foul other: "Dammit!" which is overhead by Sir Joseph Porter. Judging first and asking questions later, Sir Joseph orders the Captain to go to his cabin for this "ill-advised asperity". 

Upon inquiry, Sir Joseph finds out that Ralph and Josephine love one another and orders the "presumptuous" sailor to the brig. Affairs are interrupted by Little Buttercup, who discloses her long-concealed secret: As their foster mother, she had accidentally exchanged the Captain and Ralph while they were both babies. 

Sir Joseph immediately sends for Ralph (who is now Captain) and the Captain (who is now a humble seaman). Since it is "out of the question" for Sir Joseph to marry the daughter of a mere sailor, his Lordship nobly consents to the marriage of Ralph and Josephine. The former Captain is now free to marry Buttercup and Sir Joseph agrees to marry his cousin Hebe. All ends with "joy and rapture unforeseen" for 'he is an Englishman!" Hip, Hip, Horray!


Act I

'We sail the ocean blue'
'I'm called Little Buttercup'
'But tell me who's the youth'
'The nightingale'/'A maiden fair to see'
'My gallant crew'
'Sir, you are sad!'
'Sorry her lot'
'Over the bright blue sea'/'Sir Jospeh's barge is seen'
'Now give three cheers'
'When I was a lad' 
'For I hold that on the seas' 
'A British tar' 
'Refrain, audacious tar' 
'Can I survive this overbearing?'

Act II
"Fair moon, to thee I sing' 
'Things are seldom what they seem' 
'The hours creep on apace' 
'Never mind the why and wherefore' 
'Kind Captain, I've important information' 
'Carefully on tiptoe stealing' 
'Farewell, my own!' 
'A many years ago'
'Oh joy, oh rapture unforeseen!'


A few years ago the ADMS carried out a questionnaire with the audience of their then current production. In it, the Armidale theatre going public was asked what future productions they might wish to see the ADMS perform. Overwhelming, the response was "more Gilbert and Sullivan".

Why, one has to ask, is this nineteenth century art form still so popular today? The answer lies with the two men in question.

W.S. Gilbert was a literary giant whose witticisms flowed freely from his pen. Outwardly, he appeared the very model of conservative respectability; however, his merciless lampooning of the heartless constraints of Victorian laws and etiquette revealed he was, at heart, a genuine free spirit and true anarchist. How does one sell anarchy? It was herein that Gilbert's true genius lay, for he used the surreal to sugar-coat it, thereby allowing him to entertain the outrageous and create works which have continued to endear him to English speaking audiences worldwide.

Arthur Sullivan too was no slouch. His music enhanced Gilbert's words, bringing out their flavour and meaning, by interlacing and surrounding them with an unpredictable, melodic richness. Sullivan constantly worried that he frittered his life and talents away on the trivia that was the 'Savoy Operas' rather than writing 'proper' music. Time has shown how wrong he was.

Each of these men was an extremely skilled craftsman in his own right. They key to their success is that they knew how to write for each other - so much so that they were able to give each other that most elusive of gifts, theatrical immortality.

As with all shows, there have been many people responsible for the creation of this production. I thank you all. In particular I would like to thank Bruce Menzies and Robyn Bradley for their musical skills, Tracey James for her choreography, Heather Pavel for the refreshments, Colin Barry, Pat Bradley, Waine Grafton, Hanneke Raanhuis and Barbara Colledge for the visual impact and Margaret Kennedy for her outstanding organisation and patience as Producer.

HMS Pinafore was written in 1878 and became Gilbert and Sullivan's first big hit. It has been revived regularly ever since, making it arguable the most produced musical in the English language. We hope you enjoy our revival. Long may she sail.


Josephine: Kylie Constantine, Ralph Rackstraw : Phil Oxley, Buttercup: Tracey James, Captain Corcoran: Neil Horton, Sir Joseph, First Lord of the Admiralty: Stuart Pavel, Cousin Hebe: Ingrid Rothe, Dick Deadeye: Howard Randell, Boatswain: Mike Gibson, Tom Tucker: Richard Kiehne

Sisters, Cousins and Aunts: Ailie Foggett, Alicia Brodersen, Aline Christenson, Anne Cunningham, Anne Matley, Annie Abbott, Annikki Reader, Beryl Hamel, Carol Elder, Cathie Lamont, Constance Rolfe, Jeanette Berman, Jessica Scott, Laura Stodart, Lyndal Butler, Maree Puxty, Marg Kennedy, Peta Bale, Rachael Bale, Rhianna Berman-Prowse, Sam Galletly, Sharyn Holmes

British Tars: Alec Watt, Brad Scott, Bruce Southcott, David Patterson, Mark Arnold, Methuen Morgan, Paul McNeill, Ryan Jenkyn


Violin: Jodie Ostenfield, Cello: Angela Farrell, Bass: Arlene Fletcher, Flute: Gerard Larkins, Clarinet: Ben Sindel, Saxaphones: Jane Gowns, Horn: Alastaire Finco, Bassoon: Peter Maddox, Percussion: Daniel Bale, Piano: Robyn Bradley


Producer: Margaret Kennedy
Director: Mike Gibson
Assistant Director: Tracey James 
Director's Assistant: Barbara Colledge
Musical Director: Bruce Menzies
Repetiteurs: Robyn Bradley, Peter Maddox 
Stage Manager: Colin Barry
Properties: Barbara Colledge, Alan Wilkinson, Lynn McMahon, Methuen Freer-Morgan, Rachel Horton, Kate Ting
Stage Crew: Darren Hepper, Luke Pavel, Andrew McGrath
Set Design: Donna Wainohu, Fiona Xeros, Mike Gibson
Set Construction: Colin Barry, Pat Bradley, Neil Horton, Methuen Morgan, Alan Wilkinson, Jody Brash, Michael Gibson, Richard Kiehne, Bernie May, Bruce Southcott
Set Dressing: Waine Grafton, Sam Galletly
Publicity: Marney Tilley, Denis Wright
Graphics: Denis Wright
Programme: Denis Wright, Margaret Kennedy, Tracey James
Photography: Denis Wright, Alec Watt, Tracey James, Christian Pearson
Costumes: Hanneke Raanhuis, Margaret Sims, Aline Christenson, Donna Wainohu, Lyn Raanhuis-Winter
Sound: David Percival, Claire Horton, Luke Polson, Neil Horton
Lighting: Tim Clark, Diana Helmrich, Jen Mitchell, Mike Gibson
Make-up: Carol Elder, Mike Gibson, Aline Christenson, Helen Schwartz, Gwen Holley, Raya Wilson
Hair: Lindy Hardman, Deirdre Dalton
Front of House: Karyn Martin, Daphne McCurdy, John Hamel, Jean Freer, Robyn Slocombe, Garry Slocombe, Sally Prowse, Isabel Strutt, Mavis Townsend, Ben Jenkins, Cecile Michels-Thorn, Ben Thorn, Heloise Fortin, Michelle Hobbs, Jody Brash, Margaret Sims, Inge Southcott, Ania Glover, Bettina Reader, Christpher Burger-Scheidlin, John Lamont, Jim Harrop, Julie Collins, Waine Grafton, Lisa Quast, Marney Tilley, Peter Norton, Anne Keoghan, AHS students, TAFE TVET students
Ticketing: Margaret Kennedy
Catering: Heather Pavel, Luke Pavel
Treasurer: Michael Gibson 

Chris Ipkendaz & Ric Toshack of UNE, Armidale High School, The Showground Trust, Dymocks Bookshop, Darren Hepper and Hungry Jack's, Extreme Entertainment, Acacia Medical Supplies, John Hadfield Piano Tuning, Wayne Jenkyn, New England Hotel, Tyreplus Armidale, Image 2 Dye 4, Armidale Playhouse, Tabbycat Productions. 

HMS Pinafore graphic courtesy of Denis Wright

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