The Celebration Theater Pinafore! (2002)
A Saucy, Sexy, Ship-Shape New Musical
Adapted and Directed by Mark Savage
First Produced in Los Angeles at the
As the cast list above suggests, this is no ordinary Pinafore. Everyone on this ship is male, except for "Bitter Butterball," and all of the men except for "Dick Dockstrap" (i.e., Ralph) are gay. Replacing Sir Joseph is the Secretary of the Navy in a hypothetical Al Gore administration, Senator Barney Crank.
Captain Corkinit has promised his son Joseph "in marriage" to Senator Barney. Quoting from the libretto: "And to please him, [Joseph] must dress in drag. But for some reason, he does not seem to tackle kindly to it." We needn't look far for the cause of Joseph's despondent mental state: he is in love with Dick Dockstrap, the ship's only heterosexual, who believes "Joseph" to be "Josephine," the captain's "daughter." To please Dick, who has no idea of his true sex, she contemplates a "ticklish operation." Yes, that operation. The climax (if I may so call it) occurs in Act II when the Captain blurts out that "faggots drive me mad." The opera ends as expected, with the revelation that the Captain and Dick were switched at birth, so the Captain is really heterosexual, and Dick is really gay.
It took me a while to warm up to this parody. In truth, the new lyrics are of a very uneven quality, with some of them really barely fitting the music, such as:
Hail, ye gay sailors—see what the peddler brings.
You've docked in Provincetown, Key West, and now…Palm Springs.
You've got your pay—spare what you can afford
To welcome Bitter Butterball on board.
I'm called Bitter Butterball,
Poor Bitter Butterball,
Though I could never tell why.
But it's better than fag-hag
Or Fat guy in Drag so it's
Poor Bitter Butterball, I!
But the versification improves:
I've beads or a yoyo, I'll sell you your photo,
I've glow sticks and toys for the clubs;
I've lube and I've condoms, but nobody wants 'em,
They get them all free at the tubs.
I've steroids to sell, and testosterone gel,
A tattoo or a Prince Albert ring;
And packed in my sack
I've got Crystal and crack,
Nipple clips, whips, a rack and a sling.
This unevenness of quality continues, but as I got into the "story" perhaps it bothered me less.
The brief excerpts offered above are probably enough to tell you that these rewritten lyrics pull no punches. The squeamish had best stay away. I had to marvel at the audacity of the "gay male tar," another lyric of mediocre quality from a purely technical point of view:
A gale male tar is a hunky stud,
And he's open to new ideas.
With his six-pack tight and trim
From his hours at the gym
There are none so hot as he is.
His thighs are thick, and his biceps buffed,
His butt is waxed and his basket stuffed,
His nose is fixed and his teeth are capped,
And any scary hairiness is laser zapped.
The singers are professionals, and they all animate their parts well. Perhaps the best is Joseph/Josephine (R. Christopher Stands), whose soprano is good enough to let us forget that it's a man singing.
The CD package includes the luxury of a full libretto — a rarity these days, but essential for an adaptation with entirely unfamiliar lyrics. If you're sufficiently open-minded, you should give this one a try. However, as of 2008 it no longer seems to be available to order.
CD Rear Cover
|March 5, 2002||Belva Records||CD||BVR002|