Star Trek + Gilbert & Sullivan

Went yesterday to see the Stanford Savoyards' ST:TNG-themed production of H.M.S. Pinafore. They wore Star Trek costumes, and mapped the Pinafore characters to Trek ones: Captain Corcoran/Picard, Ralph/Riker, Josephine/Deanna Troi, Dick Deadeye/Worf, Little Buttercup/Lwaxana Troi, and Sir Joseph/Admiral Kirk, who was accompanied by a bevy of his lovers. (When they were introduced, the pause before the phrase “sisters and his cousins and his aunts” hinted that it was intended euphemistically.) A chorus member was La Forge, and Boatswain Bill Bobstay was Data.

If you want to see it, there are two performances left, next weekend: Friday, February 1, at 8 p.m., and Saturday, February 2, at 1:30 p.m., both (of course) at Dinkelspiel Auditorium on the Stanford campus.

If you want to see it without any preconceptions, then skip the rest of this entry. No plot spoilers here, but I'll talk about some of the specific jokes and some of the thematic stuff.

It was an overall fun and enjoyable production of Pinafore, and the Star Trek stuff largely enhanced rather than detracted from it. Some specific Trek stuff I liked:

  • The program booklet is entertaining. This is one of the few times I've read all the way through the cast bios for a show; most of the bios included cute Star Trek jokes.
  • The set, reproducing the Enterprise bridge, is excellent.
  • Especially the sliding doors, despite the lack of whooshing sounds.
  • The way they handle the beginning of the overture is delightful.
  • Tribbles!
  • Two women dancing with each other, thereby providing more queer content than the entire run of the TV series.
  • Mostly good substitutions of lyrics—I was worried that they would overdo it, but I think they did just enough to be funny and not so much as to be annoying.
  • The character makeup and costuming. It was immediately obvious who each of them corresponded to; I especially liked the little boy in an instantly recognizable Wesley Crusher costume.
  • The repeated gag where someone who doesn't know what they're doing plays with a navigation console and the stage lighting goes wonky.
  • The lyrics-projection system worked very well—like supertitles, but projected on a blank wall next to the stage. (The projection system isn't Trek-specific, but they did some especially fun Trek-specific stuff with it.)
  • Fun Kobayashi Maru joke in the projected captions at one point.

Some things I liked less:

  • The class stuff gets muddled. Pinafore is almost entirely focused on British class differences; it's essential to the plot that Ralph is a common seaman, that Captain Corcoran (as a naval officer) is middle class, and that Sir Joseph is a member of the nobility, and that each class looks down on the ones below it. If Ralph is an officer (especially if he's the first officer), then all the stuff about Josephine (as the daughter of the Captain) being above Ralph's station loses its impact.
  • Similarly, imo Kirk doesn't correspond well to Sir Joseph. The whole point of Sir Joseph is that he's never done anything other than what he was told to do (“I never thought of thinking for myself at all”), and as a result, despite never having gone to sea, he's been put in charge of the Navy. That's kind of the opposite of Kirk. (And on a tiny side note, the running gag of attempting to say “if you please” in Kirk-like intonations fell flat for me.)
  • There were several places where entertaining sight gags brought big laughs that drowned out the songs. That wasn't so bad in some cases—I felt like someone must have said “whenever there's a dull song, throw in a sight gag”—but it bothered me sometimes, especially in “Never mind the why and wherefore,” which is my favorite song in the show. (Though Corcoran/Picard's gymnastics during the song were certainly impressive.)
  • As has usually been my experience with the Savoyards, many of the songs were semi-inaudible from halfway back in the house. I'm not clear on why they don't mic the actors, but it seems to me that there usually haven't been many Savoyards singers who can project enough to be consistently fully audible over the sound of the orchestra. The displayed lyrics helped a lot with that, but using mics would help a lot more.

Still, overall a fun show, and imaginative, and worth seeing.

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