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Prairie Fire Theatre's 'HMS Pinafore' Dives Into Political, Social Satire

Gilbert and Sullivan's satirical opera, HMS Pinafore, will be performed by Prairie Fire Theater Company.

Set sail this Thursday, Aug. 1, as Prairie Fire Theatre opens Gilbert and Sullivan’s “HMS Pinafore” at Community Players Theatre.

This comic opera parodies British class and etiquette of the 1870s, following a young sailor who falls in love with a woman above his social class. 

“As the show parodies, it shows you for what it is and also how ridiculous it is. And yet, it's still going on at the same time. So now you have both things going on simultaneously,” said cast member Bob Mangialardi on WGLT’s Sound Ideas. Gilbert and Sullivan operas are known for not only their musical scores, but for also portraying political and social satire. 

The main antagonist of the show, Sir Joseph Porter, is the First Lord of the Admiralty and has a musical number detailing his adventure of attaining the position. The audience learns how underqualified he is for the position, but the characters respect and trust him solely because of his social rank.

Mangialardi said he believes this point still holds relevance today, especially in regards to President Trump.

“I'm sure we can all think of somebody in our lives that started off as nothing, and then they became at the top of the heap. So there's a lot in there that I think is timeless and classic and never really goes away,” said Mangialardi. He compared Gilbert and Sullivan to Shakespeare.

“Even as we’ve gotten into the rehearsal process, you really have to take some time to number one, kind of translate what they're saying, and then just the way it has to be articulated, and it kind of falls off the tongue. It's not quite as dense as Shakespeare, but it has a certain kind of complexity and rhythm,” said Mangialardi. 

Bloomington-Normal has myriad theaters, but Mangialardi said there is a lack of theaters capable of performing opera. He emphasized the importance of a pit orchestra in opera, but most Bloomington-Normal theaters do not have areas designated for pit orchestras. But he said he hopes Bloomington-Normal will establish a space designed for musical theater in the future. 

Tickets for the show are now available. The show runs Thursday, Aug. 1, through Sunday, Aug. 4.

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WGLT Senior Reporter Charlie Schlenker has spent more than three award-winning decades in radio. He lives in Normal with his family.
Katie Seelinger is an intern in the GLT newsroom.