H.M.S. Pinafore
Cox and Box

presented by the Savoy Society of McGill University

Way back in 1999 while in my final year at McGill, I had the opportunity to take part in a great production of the well-known Gilbert and Sullivan operetta H.M.S. Pinafore. Though the Savoy Society which put on the production is a totally student-run and student-led group, we were able to put quite a lot of time, money, and effort into it, thus ending up with a very high quality show. We even had a one-act opening piece called Cox and Box.

As a sailor in the chorus of Pinafore, I got to spend quite a good deal of time on stage singing and dancing (a first for me!) since we had some big, really fun choreography throughout. It took quite a while to get everything together, but all the hard work paid off because the twelve performances between March 4 and 20 went incredibly well and we received a large number of complements and good reviews.

I've included below both an overview of the story of the show as written by Gilbert and Sullivan as well as a list of the songs sung throughout it. There is also a link to some pictures of our production! (Excuse the quality of the photos---I had to retouch them a good bit since they didn't really turn out.)

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  • The story of the show
    • Some time before Act I opens, Ralph has fallen in love with Josephine, the daughter his commanding officer, Captain Corcoran. Likewise, Little Buttercup, a buxom peddler-woman, has fallen in love with the Captain himself. Class pride, however, stands in the way of the natural inclinations of both the Corcorans to reciprocate Ralph’s and Buttercup’s affections. The Captain has, in fact, been arranging a marriage between his daughter and Sir Joseph Porter, First Lord of the Admiralty, who is of the social class above even the Corcorans.

      When Act I opens the sailors are merrily preparing the ship for Sir Joseph’s inspection. The generally happy atmosphere on deck is marred only by Little Buttercup’s hints of a dark secret she is hiding, by the misanthropic grumbling of Dick Deadeye, and by the love-lorn plaints of Ralph and Josephine. Sir Joseph appears, attended by a train of ladies (is relatives, who always follow him wherever he does). He explains how he became Lord of the Admiralty and examines the crew, patronizingly encouraging them to feel that they are everyone’s equal, except his. Like the Captain, he is very punctilious, demanding polite diction among the sailors at all times.

      Josephine finds him insufferable; and, when Ralph again pleads his suit and finally threatens suicide, she agrees to elope. The act ends with the general rejoicing of the sailors at Ralph’s success; only Dick Deadeye croaks his warning that their hopes will be frustrated.

      Act II opens with he Captain in despair at the demoralization of his crew and the coldness of his daughter towards Sir Joseph. Little Buttercup tries to comfort him, and prophesies a change in store. But Sir Joseph soon appears and tells the Captains that Josephine has throughout discourages him in hi suit’ he wishes to call the match off. The Captain suggests that perhaps his daughter feels herself inferior in social rank to Sir Joseph, and urges him to assure her that inequality of social rank should not be considered a barrier to marriage. This sir Joseph does, not realizing that his words are as applicable to Josephine in relations to Ralph as they are to himself in relation to Josephine. He thinks that she accepts him, whereas actually she is reaffirming her acceptance of Ralph; and they all join in a happy song.

      Meanwhile Dick Deadeye has made his way to the Captain, and informs him of the planned elopement of his daughter with Ralph. The Captain thereupon intercepts the elopers; and, when he learns that Josephine was actually running away to marry Ralph, he is so incensed that he cries,"Damme!" Unfortunately, Sir Joseph and his relatives hear him and are horrified at his swearing; Sir Joseph sends him to his cabin in disgrace. But when Sir Joseph also learns from Ralph that Josephine was eloping, he angrily orders Ralph put in irons.

      Little Buttercup now comes out with her secret, which solves the whole difficulty; she confesses that many years ago she had charge of nursing and bringing up Ralph and the Captain when they were babies. Inadvertently, she got them mixed up; so the one who now was Ralph really should be the Captain, and the one now the Captain should be Ralph. This error is immediately rectified. The sudden reversal in the social status of Ralph and the Corcorans removes Sir Joseph as a suitor for Josephine’s hand and permits her to marry Ralph, and her father to marry Buttercup. Sir Joseph resigns himself to marrying his cousin, Hebe.

  • The songs
    • Dramatis Personae

      The Rt. Hon. Sir Joseph Porter, K.C.B. - First Lord of the Admiralty
      Captain Corcoran - Commander of the HMS Pinafore
      Ralph Rackstraw - Able seaman
      Dick Deadeye - Able seaman
      Bill Bobstay - Boatswain's Mate
      Bob Becket - Carpenter's Mate
      Josephine - The Captain's Daughter
      Cousin Hebe- Sir Joseph's First Cousin
      Little Buttercup - A Portsmouth Bumboat Woman


      Musical Numbers


      Act I
      "We Sail the Ocean Blue" - Sailors
      "I'm Called Little Buttercup" - Buttercup
      "But Tell Me Who's the Youth" - Buttercup and Boatswain
      "The Nightingale" - Ralph and Chorus of Sailors
      "A Maiden Fair to See" - Ralph and Chorus of Sailors
      "My Gallant Crew" - Captain Corcoran and Chorus of Sailors
      "Sir, You are Sad" - Buttercup and Captain Corcoran
      "Sorry Her Lot" - Josephine
      "Over the Bright Blue Sea" - Sir Joseph's Female Relatives (off-stage)
      "Sir Joseph's Barge is Seen" - Chorus of Sailors and Sir Joesph's Female Relatives
      "Now Give Three Cheers" - Captain Corcoran, Sir Joseph, Cousin Hebe, and Chorus
      "When I was a Lad" - Sir Joseph and Chorus
      "For I Hold that on the Seas" - Sir Joseph, Cousin Hebe, Female Relatives, and Sailors
      "A British Tar" - Ralph, Boatswain, Carpenter's Mate, and Chorus of Sailors
      "Refrain, Audacious Tar" - Josephine and Ralph
      "Can I Survive this Overbearing?" - Ralph, Josephine, Chorus, Dick Deadeye, Boatswain, Hebe


      ACT II
      "Fair Moon, to thee I sing" - Captain Corcoran
      "Things are Seldom What They Seem" - Buttercup and Captain
      "The Hours Creep on Apace" - Josephine
      "Never Mind the Why and Wherefore" - Josephine, Captain, and Sir Joseph
      "Kind Captain, I've Important Information" - Dick Deadeye and Captain
      "Carefully on Tiptoe Stealing" - All
      "Farewell, My Own!" - All
      "A Many Years Ago" - Buttercup and Chorus
      "Oh Joy, Oh Rapture Unforeseen" - All