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From The Era, Sunday, December 26, 1880.


Our readers will remember the extraordinary effect produced last year by the performances of Messrs. Gilbert and Sullivan's comic opera H.M.S. Pinafore by a company composed entirely of children. In obedience to a general desire, the opera played by the same youthful artistes was revived again on Wednesday afternoon at the Opera Comique, and was received with the greatest enthusiasm. There can be but one opinion as to the marvellous talent displayed by these juvenile actors and actresses, who also sing as well as they act. As an entertainment for the holidays, we anticipate The Children's Pinafore will be largely patronised, because all the little folks will want to see how children sing and act; and, as papas and mammas will go to keep them company, the Opera Comique will inevitably be crowded, as indeed it ought be, when an entertainment so complete and perfect of its kind is placed before the public.

With regard to the opera itself, Mr. Gilbert's funny ideas, and Mr. Sullivan's tuneful music, have still power in themselves to attract, while it is amusing in the extreme to see with what gusto these clever little people enter upon their business. Bright, attractive new dresses add to the cheerfulness of the scene upon the stage, and so admirably have the children been trained that there is not the slightest appearance of restraint. We do not witness drilled dolls, but children who evidently comprehend the subject they are engaged upon, and so heartily do they follow out the intentions of author and composer that in some respects we found a greater pleasure in witnessing the Children's Pinafore than when the opera was represented by grown up performers.

It is almost marvellous to see how finished these youthful artistes have become with practice. There was not the slightest hitch, blunder, or mishap of any kind whatever. They all were perfect in the music and the text, and perfect also in the stage business, which was surprisingly good. In several instances the little people introduced some very comic effects, and some exceedingly droll by-play.

Master James E. Pickering was a splendid Sir Joseph Porter, K.C.B., and his song "I'm ruler of the Queen's Navee," was heartily encored. His humorous business was throughout admirable, and the grave expression of face kept was ludicrous in the extreme. Master Harry Grattan as Captain Corcoran was also very successful indeed, and looked the character completely. As Ralph Rackstraw, the seaman and lover of the Captain's daughter, there was a sentimental style in the acting of Master Harry Eversfield which agreed equally with the character, and his singing was sweet and sympathetic. Master Willie Phillips, the representative of Dick Deadeye, was greeted with shouts of laughter and applause. His make-up was as comic as possible, and he seemed to have remarkably funny and grotesque ideas. In the scene where Dick warns the Captain that his pretty daughter Josephine is about to elope the acting was full of humour, and in his singing Master Phillips was very successful, especially in the duet "The Maiden and the Tar," which was repeated, in a great measure through his drollery. It is hardly possible to imagine anything more whimsically comic than his Deadeye. Master Presano, besides acting uncommonly well as the Boatswain's Mate, was obliged to repeat his song "The Englishman," which he gave with extraordinary spirit, and with a volume of tone hardly expected from so youthful a vocalist. Master Rivers did well as the Carpenter's Mate; and the Midshipmite (Master Adolphus FitzClarence), about as tall as sixpennyworth of coppers, caused roars of laughter. He seemed to think himself the hero of the occasion, and one could hardly look at him without laughing.

Miss Emilie Grattan sang the music of Josephine with much taste and expression, and acted gracefully and sympathetically. Miss Fanny Carter was efficient as Hebe. As Little Buttercup, Miss Effie Mason was remarkable from the first, but we think we shall be justified in setting down her representation of this part as really the cleverest thing of the entire performance.

All the little men who appeared as sailors, marines, &c., and the charming little girls who represented the sisters and the cousins and the aunts were thoroughly up to their work, and the scene was most animated in consequence of their exertions. We may frankly say that "never – or hardly ever," have we met with anything so deserving of the patronage of holiday-makers as The Children's Pinafore.

After the opera, Mr. George Grossmith gave a new musical sketch called A Musical Nightmare, which proved to be one of his most amusing sketches. Mr. Grossmith begins by telling how, after a hearty supper, he had a strange dream. From the clock-case there appeared a grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous spectral personage, who invites him to an evening party, where some of the most eccentric people are amusing themselves. Mr. Grossmith's sketches of various personages one meets with in society greatly amused the audience, for, with a few graphic touches, a word or two, or a comic expression of face, we seem to see the originals as clearly as if they were photographed for us. This was the case in the scene of a couple of old fogies arguing about the merits of the Beaconsfield and the Gladstone Ministry, the one always at the top of his voice the other growling away an octave or two beneath, and occasionally running up and down the vocal scale, according to the subject they were discussing. Besides this, Mr. Grossmith gave a most laughable idea of a lady playing a very loud accompaniment to a song of which not one vocal note is heard. We have to glean the idea of the song entirely from the accompaniment.

Another great success was the new song of "I'm a Respectable Spectre." This is a very funny idea indeed. The spectre in question gets a grand reputation for ghostliness, until somebody turns up the gas at a spiritualistic séance. This, we fancy, will be one of Mr. Grossmith's most successful comic songs. The song recently published, "I'm an awful little Scamp," was also greatly applauded, and the performance of an overture upon the pianoforte was vociferously encored. In this overture the performer starts with a few notes of a familiar air, and soon blends polka, march, ballad, waltz, quadrille, national anthems, opera tunes, snatches of classical music, and other fragments, into one continuous strain. The effect was as amusing as it was novel and comic, and Mr. Grossmith may he congratulated upon the complete success of his new sketch.

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