Gilbert and Sullivan Archive


The Characters

5.1 Captain Corcoran

Jeff De Marco wrote: You know that Corcoran's daughter CAN'T marry SJP - otherwise it would be Joseph and Josephine, and that would be too cutsey for words. I agree that SJP is clueless about most things, and thus his attempted snub of Capt. Corcoran (who, BTW, seems to be a wonderful commanding officer) by putting him in the LOWER middle class, is just an attempt at self-agggrandisement. To which Gene Leonardi replied: Jeff DeMarco compliments Captain Corcoran as an aside in his Joseph/Josephine post and says that the Capn "seems to be a wonderful commanding officer." Of course, (don't ya know) this is a very special day aboard the Pinafore (important guests and all that) and everyone is on their best behavior. Along the lines of "reality breaking in" to Pinafore don't forget that the Capn, in his duet with Dick Deadeye. is very ready to resort to the "cat-'o-nine-tails" in his desire to avenge himself upon Ralph's presumption. Mayhap life upon the "ocean blue" is not always so upbeat. To which Jeff DeMarco replied: Well, he has been pushed pretty far at this point. Worse than the cat, he resorts to swearing! Remember, this has been a very difficult day for him. I find CC one of the more sympathetic characters in the canon. He has a significant number ups and downs in the course of one day. I get the impression he is competent in his command, appropriate to his crew and devoted to his daughter. The crew seems very happy with him as well until Sir Joseph starts stirring the pot with his "If you please" nonsense.

5.2 Gay Sir Joseph

Fraser Charlton wrote: The issue of Sir Joseph's sexuality has been on my mind lately, as I'm performing him in a couple of weeks. A lot of his lines about 'remarkably fine fellows' and offer to teach a 'splendid seaman' a 'hornpipe' 'this evening, after dinner' can easily be (mis)interpreted as camp. And can certainly get a laugh, as has occurred in several productions that I've seen (including the last DCOC). However, it really doesn't fit with the rest of his character, makes some of his other dialogue non-sensical and destroys the whole impetus of the story with his pursuit of Josephine (yes, I know that this could all be a cover and his relatives are all fag-hags rather than pursuing him, but really...). Consequently, I feel that a camp Sir J would give you lots of 'pork pie' laughs, but would act to the detriment of the overall feel and consistency of the show - as well as, of course, hardly being what Gilbert intended. I must confess to one interpolation, however. Following the report by someone on SavoyNet after seeing it done elsewhere, after Sir J has re-buffed Hebe at the end she takes off her glasses, releases her long blond hair from its bun and flutters her eyelashes - thus giving Sir J rather more reason to get married than mere resignation! My spontaneous reaction to the transformation the first time we rehearsed it was to let out a very Leslie Philips/Listerine Dragon 'He-llo.....!'. The result? Collapse of stout party and permanent incorporation of the ejaculation...

Aaron Hunt replied: Speaking as an actor, and honestly trying to strip myself of any sort of party affiliation for this moment for this particular discussion, the more choices that I can play at once, the more rounded my characterization, and the more true-to-life the character. It is not my personal belief that the highest percentage of us folk are totally "straight" or totally "gay", people are simple not that black and white. I'm not trying to say that there are not preferences, certainly, but we're all walking around with some gray in the little gray cells. Why, then shouldn't my Sir Joseph be attracted to the sailors and to Josephine? Or even Hebe, for that matter? Let us consider that all sex is not about attraction. Some sex is most certainly about power. Some sex is about anger or revenge. Bless your heart, it all depends. I enjoy the benefit of the "camp", as it was called, although I do not consider Sir Joseph's penchant for men "camp", and his attraction to Josephine. I have SO much more to play if Sir Joseph really is a passionate person, who is SEXUAL in that interesting, dare I say it, Victorian way, where all things are possible behind closed doors. Why shouldn't Sir Joseph like an occasional, or even MORE than occasional dalliance with one of "his" sailors, who possibly doesn't dare to refuse him, and still wish to make a successful marriage with the, perhaps, virginal Josephine? He certainly wouldn't have been the only "sailor" to do so.

So, the more to play, the better for me, the better for the comedy, and the better for the other players. I believe that my Sir Joseph does the Ralph a great favor by "cruising" him, because then the tenor can play hapless or clueless or vaguely excited or SOMETHING other than STANDING IN LINE which is interesting for NO ONE. And, I put it to you, so to speak, why would Sir Joseph teach Corcoran to dance a hornpipe, and have him do this on the "cabin table"? The obvious seems to me to be to have a better "view", if you'll excuse my indelicacy. And Josephine has so much more to play in her musing over this event if the set-up before hand allows her a moment of levity before the sad and beautiful Ballad. I do not believe that Victorian men had such a hang-up over admiring male beauty, much as women have no trouble admiring feminine beauty even in the sordid midwest of the United States. I also do not believe that these men were so sure that an "interesting" afternoon with another 'fella made them gay. It didn't and it doesn't.

5.3 The Carpenter

Bill Schneider wrote: The Carpenter has no speaking lines; did he have lines at one point, only to have them cut for the same reason that Hebe has only one line? Or was he to be a chorus part from the beginning ?To which Marc Shepherd replied: There is no surviving draft of the opera that has any lines for the carpenter. As Gilbert's earliest sketches do not survive, it is of course possible that he did at one point, but I would tend to doubt it. As I recall, there is evidence that the Carpenter's line in "A British tar" was intended to be sung by Deadeye at one point, though I forget the particulars. This would suggest that the Carpenter was a relatively late addition, for musical reasons only. And David Duffey observed: The "traditional business" is that during the first verse, Ralph and Boatswain look askance at the Carpenter as he seems to sing out of time with them. During the first chorus Ralph looks at the Carpenter's music, and gently turns it the correct way up. The Carpenter sings verse 2 with puzzled expression up to "domineering frown", then with a sly glance at Ralph, who is not looking, he turns it upside down again and sings away happily.

Bill Schneider again: Could it possibly be that the Carpenter's line in "British Tar" was too low for the original Dick Deadeye? That may have been reason to give the line to someone else. Also, from a plot standpoint, it wouldn't make much sense now for Dick Deadeye to be singing in the trio, because it seems (from the present dialogue, at least) that the other sailors are singing Sir Joseph's song in order to impart to Dick the idea that a British sailor is any man's equal (except SJP's, of course.) However, it is always possible that the dialogue was changed to reflect the musical change. And David Duffey observed: Interesting that British Tars were able to sing the song at sight.

5.4 Thumbnail sketches

Ian Hollamby wrote: While considering a forthcoming Pinafore which I have been invited to produce/direct, (There's no accounting for taste!) and given that I like to give auditionees some idea of the way I see the various principal roles, I jotted down the following "pen pictures", deliberately (for SavoyNet) restricting myself to six words in each case. I would welcome alternatives/disagreements/other operas etc. The following are my own, and probably somewhat idiosyncratic:-

Judith Weis asked: Why do you call Josephine "vacuously fickle?" She remains true to Ralph - she is not like Rose Maybud at all. Her concerns about living a life of poverty are heartfelt and sincere, but she sticks with him anyway. She's clever and can manipulate the situation - in "ring the merry bells." So, I don't think she's vacuous or fickle! Morgan O'Day asked: Josephine, fickle? Your name wouldn't be Alexis Poindextre, would it? What does that make Rose Maybud and Lady Jane's 11th-hour conversion to Dunstablism? And RALPH: Strapping but dim. (or - A tenor!) I remember a production of Pinafore in which Ralph strode the stage with toilet paper stuck to his heel, which Josephine retrieved and held daintily in her hand as if it were a lock of his hair, this while singing "Sorry her lot" ...

Page created 24 October 1997