Oh! Summer Stage Theater to stage ‘HMS Pinafore’

Opera theater

A group of young adult actors venture beyond the horizon in the Midland Summer Stage Theater production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “HMS Pinafore”. The comic opera welcomes audiences aboard a Royal Navy ship for a tale of love, mixed identities and satire in the late 19e social decorum of the century.

“HMS Pinafore” is scheduled to perform at the Grace A. Dow Memorial Library Auditorium, 1710 W. St. Andrews Road in Midland. Sessions are at 7 p.m. on Tuesday July 26 and at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Wednesday July 27.

Tickets will be available at the door. Admission is $4 for adults, $3 for children and $12 for the whole family. To learn more, visit www.facebook.com/MidlandSummerStageTheatre.

For director Bill Heeschen, “HMS Pinafore” is the “ultimate Gilbert and Sullivan show”. The comic opera tells how an admiral in the Royal Navy wants to marry the captain’s daughter, but she is in love with one of the captain’s ship’s sailors. Meanwhile, a peddler named Buttercup, who has her own secret that affects all characters, is in love with the captain.

“One of those confusing points is this idea that the admiral makes it clear that by being a member of the navy you increase your rank in society,” Heeschen said. “Josephine (the captain’s daughter) turns the idea on him and says she can marry the sailor.”

Caden Cummings of Midland portrays the Admiral, Sir Joseph. Cummings explained that Sir Joseph considers everyone equal except him. Cummings, who has seen “HMS Pinafore” and parts of other Gilbert and Sullivan shows, appreciates how bizarre the musical is. He learned not to take the character of Sir Joseph too seriously.

“In a way, the subject seems to have to be serious, but it’s just a goofy show,” Cummings said.

Fellow Midlander Owen DeLong plays Josephine’s love interest, sailor Ralph Rackstraw.

“She’s kind of a diva,” DeLong said with a laugh.

DeLong likes how the musical is fictional but has a historical background.

“It’s cool because you get to look into a very different world than the one we live in,” DeLong said. “It’s kind of funny how people thought about how society was back then. You can see the similarities and the differences.

Student director Gretchen Shope of Midland has performed on stage in the past. She is now in charge of the musical direction of “HMS Pinafore”. She appreciates the silliness of the show and the confidence of its characters. She explained that while young adults don’t get many opportunities to sing opera, she appreciates how the cast of Midland Summer Stage Theater rose to the challenge.

“I really appreciate the actors because they take direction so well,” Shope said. “And they’re super talented.”

The other actors are Mia Chappelle, Kelly Derusha, Carter Gilstad, Helen Haight, Charlotte Jones, Daniel Lowe, Margaret Lowe, Maisy Matthews, Quinn Matthews, Kiera McKimmy, Liam McKimmy and Sam Rosin.

Heeschen explained that children not only had to learn about certain aspects of social decorum and marriage expectations in the 1800s, but also learn how to put on a show that was heavily based on song. The upside is that the songs are catchy and fun to sing along to.

“The split was either you did an opera or you did a play,” Heeschen said. “When Gilbert and Sullivan came in, they started to mix the two together. They did it in this lighthearted way.

This show is the 10e Midland Summer Stage Theater production. It’s also the first show since 2021 and the first in-person show the band has played since 2019.

“The best part is being able to actually interact with the kids,” Heeschen said. “It’s also great to see the community support coming back for live performances.”