Virginia Opera’s ‘H.M.S. Pinafore’ docks at GMU this weekend

HMS Pinafore hero and heroine.
Soprano Shannon Jennings as Josephine and tenor Cullen Gandy as Ralph Rackstraw in Virginia Opera’s 2014 Production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s "HMS Pinafore" (Credit: Lucid Frame Productions).

FAIRFAX, Va., December 3, 2014 – The Virginia Opera —along with a very modern major-general—returns to George Mason University’s Center for the Arts this weekend for its final 2014 opera offering, Gilbert & Sullivan’s ever popular “H.M.S. Pinafore.” Light, lively, full of catchy tunes and antic rhymes, “Pinafore” is just the kind of light and lively comic confection to get audiences in a holiday mood.

As an extra-added holiday bonus, those attending either one of Virginia Opera’s two performances here will be treated to an interesting, in-house exhibition of art and artifacts entitled “Pinafore Craze in America, 1878-1879.”

“Pinafore” is all teddibly British music and humor, poking fun at the Royal Navy, the British government, and above all, the nonsense of class structure when it comes to romance. In this case, the Captain of our ship has firm plans to marry his daughter off to the First Lord of the Admiralty, guaranteeing, presumably, smooth sailing for his own naval career. But his daughter has other wedding plans, with a common sailor, of course, and the usual comic complications ensue.

You can also bet that at least a few G&S political snipes will be updated to current times, a tradition that keeps these operas fresh and funny for generation after generation of theater and opera patrons.

Performances of the “Pinafore” will take place on stage at the Center for the Arts on Friday evening, December 5 and Saturday afternoon, December 6.

Returning from his appearance as the evil Judge Turpin in the company’s production of “Sweeney Todd” earlier this season, Jake Gardner stars as Sir Joseph Porter. Joining him are Christopher Burchett as Captain Corcoran and area favorite Margaret Gawrysiak as Little Buttercup.

Shannon Jennings and Cullen Gandy also star as Josephine and Ralph Rackstraw.

As always, before each performance, popular opera guru Glenn Winters will offer a pre-concert musical lecture on the Grand Tier III level of the Center for the Arts 45 minutes prior to curtain for each performance.

The Pirates of Penzance Galop features Richard Temple as the original Pirate King. (Photo provided via GMU News)
The Pirates of Penzance Galop features Richard Temple as the original Pirate King. (Photo provided via GMU News)

According to GMU, the special exhibition being held in conjunction with these performances “includes original photographs, programs, librettos, sheet music, playbills, souvenirs, advertising ephemera and other artifacts from the media blitz phenomenon that surrounded the earliest productions of ‘H.M.S. Pinafore.’”

The exhibition is part of a recently announced gift of authentic G&S memorabilia to the Mason Libraries’ Special Collections division by GMU benefactors David and Annabelle Stone.

“’To approximate the impact of Gilbert and Sullivan today you would have to combine the artistic forces of Broadway, Saturday Night Live, the Metropolitan Opera, and maybe, on the merchandizing front, Disney,’ said Rick Davis, executive director of the Hylton Performing Arts Center and a professor of theater in the College of Visual and Performing Arts to GMU News in October. ‘These materials offer unparalleled access to the creative process, the relationships, the business decisions and the influence of Gilbert and Sullivan on their time and beyond,’” he added.

The G&S exhibition will remain on display in the Center for the Arts concert hall lobby area from December 5 through December 7, 2014.

For more about the Gilbert and Sullivan collection coming to George Mason University:

Tickets and Information:

Performance dates and times: Friday, December 5 at 8 p.m., and Saturday at 2 p.m. (matinee), both at GMU’s Center for the Arts in Fairfax City, Virginia.

Ticket prices for “H.M.S. Pinafore” range from $44-98 depending on the performance. Half-price youth discounts are available for young people through grade 12. For tickets and/or additional information, visit the GMU box office at the Center for the Arts today through Saturday from 10 a.m. through 6 p.m., or charge your tickets by phone by calling 888-945-2468. Or visit GMU’s online box office via

Getting there:

The Center for the Arts complex is located on George Mason University’s Fairfax City Virginia Campus at the intersection of Braddock Road and Route 123. Paid parking is located in the Mason Pond Parking Deck adjacent the Concert Hall and FREE parking is located in university Lot K. For more information, please visit


The Pirates of Penzance Galop features Richard Temple as the original Pirate King. Photo provided via GMU News.

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