HMS Pinafore Sails into the Outer Banks

New York Theater Comes to the Outer Banks
Sir Joseph, in the Admiral's hat, and Cousin Bebe in the purple dress. A plot twist at the end brings Sir Joseph and Cousin Bebe together romantically.
Sir Joseph, in the Admiral’s hat, and Cousin Bebe in the purple dress. A plot twist at the end brings Sir Joseph and Cousin Bebe together romantically.

Two years ago the New York Gilbert and Sullivan Players (NYGSP) brought the Pirates of Penzance to the Outer Banks. On Sunday evening they were back at First Flight High School, but this time with HMS Pinafore.

One thing is for sure—two year has not diminished the skill or professionalism of the NYGSP. It was a wonderful evening of theater, on par with anything anywhere.

Like most Gilbert and Sullivan plays, the plot is a bit thin, the final twist that brings everything together absurd, but the reason these plays or operettas have survived for 140 years is because of the music and the lyrics.

Admittedly some of the lyrics are pretty thin, love ballads, but even when the lyrics don’t have the power of their political commentary, the music is exquisite.

But it is the political commentary in the lyrics that has made plays like HMS Pinafore timeless.

There is Sir Joseph Porter, First Lord of the Admiralty, who polished door knobs so well at his first job the “…now I am the ruler of the Queen’s Navee…” By his own admission, the only ship he has ever been in is a partnership.

The Love Story

As he explains to the captain of the Pinafore, in spite of his exalted status, the British sailor is the equal of any man—giving hope to Able Seaman Real Rackstraw, who is in love with the Josephine, the daughter of the the Pinafore’s captain.

She loves him, but he is beneath her station. They finally admit their love for one another, much to the chagrin of Sir Joseph Porter who had hoped to marry her.

The romantic twists and turns of the play are really just a vehicle for Gilbert and Sullivan to skewer 19th century society and politics. And what makes their plays so remarkable is how relevant the themes are to 21st century America.

The Songs

Beyond the political satire, HMS Pinafore may hold the record for the most well-known songs in one performance. The is the play that gave us When I Was a Lad, Sir Joseph’s song about polishing door knobs and becoming the ruler of the Queen’s Navy.

This is where Now Give Three Cheers—“Give three cheers and three cheers more for the Captain of the Pinafore…” first appeared. And I’m Called Little Buttercup. “They call me sweet Buttercup, Dear little Buttercup, Tho’ I could never tell why…”

Perhaps the best known of them all is He Is an English Man. Probably intended originally as a way to poke fun at spate of patriotic hymns and songs, the tune was quickly adapted as a point of pride by the British public.

The play was brought to the Outer Banks by the Don and Catharine Bryan Cultural Art Series. This was the last of their shows until the fall, but what a way to go out for the season.

Surf & Sounds-Better Than Advertised

Katie Hyun, Elizabeth Vonderheide, Jacob Fowler and Luke Fleming performing Debussy's String Quartet in G Minor at the Duck Amphitheater.
Katie Hyun, Elizabeth Vonderheide, Jacob Fowler and Luke Fleming performing Debussy’s String Quartet in G Minor at the Duck Amphitheater.

Better than advertised … that is the only way to describe the Surf and Sounds Chamber Music that the Don and Catharine Bryan Cultural Series brought to the Outer Banks this year.

Tuesday night’s performance at All Saints Episcopal Church in Southern Shores was absolutely amazing. And then the musicians equaled that with their outdoor presentation at the Duck Amphitheater last night.

Jacob Fowler—cello, Luke Fleming—viola, Elizabeth Vonderheide—violin and Katie Hyun—violin are musicians at the absolute top of their game. Tuesday night’s performance also included Amanda Halstead on piano, which allowed the performers to take on music with a little more orchestral sound.

The performance at the Duck Amphitheater was a traditional string quartet—and it may have been nice if the piano could have been there as well, but moving a concert grand to an outdoor stage doesn’t seem like a good plan.

Nonetheless, the music was sublime leading with a classic Haydn composition, his String Quartet in G Major. They came back with a Debussy piece, String Quartet in G Minor, that challenged the musicians and the audience.

The Tuesday night performance spanned the 400 years, from Mozart to Paul Schoenfield, modern American composer. His Cafe Music written in 1985 was a revelation and a delight to hear.

There are two more concerts scheduled: tonight (Thursday) at the Blue Point in Duck and Friday evening at the Dare County Arts Council Gallery in Manteo.


Chamber Music Comes to Outer Banks


Here’s just about a perfect way to end the summer on a high note—the Don and Catharine Bryan Cultural Series is bringing chamber music to four locations on the Outer Banks.

Looking at the professional experiences of the musicians, these are incredibly accomplished artists with very strong performance backgrounds. The concerts are free, and what is particularly nice about this series are how perfect the settings are for chamber music.

It will be interesting to see how the Blue Point sets up the restaurant to accommodate the musicians, but no matter what it will be great music with amazing food.

Although all of the venues should be excellent for chamber music—with the Blue Point caveat included—one evening in particular may really be worth considering. The Wednesday concert at the Town of Duck Amphitheater is an outdoor setting that is beautiful. Set in a slight bowl, the sound should be perfect and, although now weather forecast is faultless, right now conditions appear ideal for an outdoor concert.

Surf and Sounds Chamber Music Series-Venue Schedule

All Saints Episcopal Church, Southern Shores

Tues August 23, 7:00 p.m.

Town of Duck Amphitheater,  Duck

Wed. August 24, 7:00 p.m.

Blue Point, Duck

Thursday August 25 – 6:00 p.m.

Dare County Arts Council, Manteo

Friday August 26, 7:00 p.m.