Gilbert and Sullivan Archive



9.1. Short attention span plot

Mike Storie wrote: Just like every navy musical you've ever seen, we have the happy-go-lucky crew of a battleship just arrived in port looking for a good time. They've got their pay and a three-day pass as soon as the navy top brass finish inspecting their ship. They've already gotten a taste of shore leave from a "woman of some experience" who rows around selling stuff to ship's crews. She's pretty well known around the waterfront for her pretty polonies and succulent chops. But, as you will discover, she is also suffering from some deep-seated guilt complex of unknown origin.

At this point we learn more than we ever really wanted to know about a couple of the sailors on the ship. The first is a charming fellow named Dick. His main problem is that his face does not conform to the prevalent norms of masculine attractiveness. In a word, he's ugly. In two words, he's b - t t ugly. Not only that but he has this really disgusting habit of always telling things the way they are! Small wonder he can't get a date!

This other guy, Ralph (his buddies call him "Rafe" -- at least he has buddies), isn't much better off. He has faltering feet that with difficulty bear him on his course. (This is not considered a desirable trait in a guy who works at the top of the mast on a sailing ship.) Not only that, but (owing also, I assume, to the afore-mentioned faltering feet), he can't dance a hornpipe and, worse yet, he's a tenor who can only 'um a bit. (How this guy got the lead part in a song and dance show is beyond me!) He, too, has had trouble getting a date, mostly because he is stuck on the Captain's daughter and of course her father never lets her to go out with sailors. Well . . . hardly ever.

In addition to being a strict father, the Captain suffers from the loneliness of command. (Big surprise -- he and an apprentice midshipman are the only officers on the whole battle ship!) You will, no doubt, be pleased to learn that this Captain hardly ever throws up and seldom swears, but he does seem to harbor a secret soft spot for the above-mentioned lady with the pretty polonies.

Now the Captain's daughter has enough problems with her love life to fill an entire "Dear Abby" column. She has rather grown accustomed to living a life of comparative luxury on her father's salary (and he's never home!), and while she kind of likes old Ralph, she is deeply concerned that on his take-home, they would end up eating dinner out of a pudding basin.

Another complication is that her well-meaning father is trying to marry her off to the First Lord of the Admiralty in order to secure his own retirement plans. This First Lord is a real piece of work unto himself. An accomplished apple polisher (actually he's into door knobs), he has naturally risen rapidly through the British bureaucracy to the point where he is the chief muckety-muck in charge of the Queen's Navee. (I don't know why they talk that way.) As such he is the self-same top brass who is coming on board to inspect the ship (not to mention the Captain's daughter), and for the occasion he has chosen to wear a uniform that he obviously rented from a local comic opera company.

Another fascinating thing about His Lordship is that he always travels with a gaggle of female groupies which he naively brings aboard the ship. Of course the Captain orders extra grog served as part of the celebration, and the sailors soon become soaring souls, as free as mountain birds.

Ralph finally screws up enough courage to propose to Josephine but she mumbles something about his suit needing pressing and goes, "in your dreams fella." Poor Ralph gathers his buddies together (who, by this time, have somehow become very well acquainted with the female groupies) and tells them about his wrinkled suit being spurned. Dick, of course, simply goes, "Neener, neener, I told you so!"

Ralph decides to end it all -- Josephine freaks -- decides she loves him -- they plan an elaborate elopement -- while the sailors stamp their feet and twirl their hair, and develop customary attitudes.

The Captain finally begins to suspect things are not going according to plan. The rowboat lady tells him that things are seldom what they seem, the First Lord tells him that his daughter simply won't do, and Dick finally tells him he's pretty simple as Captains go. The First Lord takes a final stab at the Captain's daughter by ringing a bunch of merry bells and telling her that she can marry anyone of any rank -- so naturally, she chooses Ralph. (Bad call on the part of His Lordship.)

About this time the crew come tiptoeing in for the big elopement scene. The Captain catches them in the act and says, "Oh Fudge!" This outburst stuns His Lordship who didn't think sailors ever talked like that, so he sends the Captain and Ralph off to change their clothes. The poloney lady steps up at this juncture and casually mentions that Ralph and the Captain were switched at birth (Oh, right!) and it's about time to switch them back. Every one thinks this is a cool idea, so we now have Captain Ralph to put up with, and a seaman-recruit who used to be the Captain.

Suddenly the sky is all ablaze and in dreamy roundelay everyone comes to the conclusion that he is an Englishman!

9.2. Web Sites

Steve Sullivan wrote: The Web Sites that I know of for HMS Pinafore are:

Page created 25 October 1997