In the queen's navy

"H.M.S. Pinafore is a story to make a song and dance about.With a few twists of the plot and a case of mistaken identity, big-hearted characters like Sailor Ralph and Little Buttercup celebrate the triumph of love over money - a beguiling message from Gilbert and Sullivan.I love that this is such a campy show, says Davey Howard, who relishes the bad-guy role of Dick Deadeye in the Bainbridge High School production opening this weekend.Making final adjustments to his fetching little costume and wolfing his dinner in the wings, Howard seems as comfortable with dress rehearsal squalor as the next sailor. And what a hustle and bustle those sea-farers make - spilling abundantly from stage to auditorium, a mixed bunch of all-singing, all-dancing students look ready to break into song at the drop of a piano note.H.M.S. Pinafore is the latest - and emphatically not the last - in a long line of musicals directed by Bainbridge High School instructor Bob McAllister, who plans to continue theater work after his upcoming retirement.Fifty theatrical lights, a 40-person cast and a score that the musicians learned in two weeks are the trademarks of an ambitious production, which draws on his experience of such varied works as Fiddler on the Roof and Little Shop of Horrors. McAllister's present take on 19th century music theater - in this case, unrequited love amongst sailors and their maids in Victorian England - focuses on the warmth the characters feel for each other.The result is a show that gives as much as it takes. McAllister's professional approach yields valuable experience for those involved, while repaying anyone willing to laugh at the libretto's tortured rhyme. Student directors Abby Tinkers and Marli Riede are learning the tricks of the trade - they know McAllister's wily ways well enough to get him to take their suggestions on board. It' s all in the way you say it, of course, Tinkers says.Meanwhile, the technical crew have learned a lot about stage design, pulling together to make a magnificent ship of a set. Even choreographing the show has thrived on collaboration. Diane Frauenholz, who has worked with McAllister on his last 10 shows, explains that she has incorporated pupils' ideas from rehearsal into the dances.My favorite thing is when they're having fun, she says.Cast and teachers agree that what H.M.S. Pinafore lacks in emotional depth, it makes up for with energetic audacity. Sean Ellick, who plays Joseph Porter, praises the silliness of a piece that side-steps concerns with character and motivation.It'll keep you smiling for an entire evening, he says."

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