|This video is one of the Opera World series of 12 Gilbert and Sullivan operettas produced for television in 1982. Aiming for a broad public, the series' producers assembled crossover casts of Savoyards, comedians, song-and-dance types, and Americans affecting British accents. The results are erratic, and H.M.S. Pinafore is as mixed as they come. Musically, it is of generally high quality (the opera singer Della Jones as Buttercup, for instance). It is full of energetic dance numbers, and there's a hefty dose of music-hall comedy. It just doesn't add up.
Peter Marshall, best known as the host of Hollywood Squares, turns out to be a credible singer and dancer. But his performance is bizarre. With his prancing movements and incessant grin, he's a Victorian cartoon that scarcely resembles the genial but upright Captain Corcoran. It's similar with the British TV comedian Frankie Howerd, who, in the role of Sir Joseph, plays himself. Expertly drawing on a large stock of mannerisms, he hoists his eyebrows, purses his lips, levitates his voice an octave in surprise. Howerd's speak-singing is more effective than you might think; he tramples on Gilbert's dialogue, however. Adlibbing many of his lines, he is sometimes visibly at a loss for what to say next.
The number of such wobbly moments suggests that the production was taped in a hurry. Things are further constrained by the shipboard set, which is too cramped for all those sailors, sisters, cousins, and aunts. During the dance segments, you can observe them bumping into the scenery and each other. --David Olivenbaum