Thursday, March 5, 2015

17. Tacoma Opera: HMS Pinafore

Seventeen down. Thirty eight to go.
I always seem to run into old friends and get pleasant surprises when I visit Tacoma, and this trip to see Tacoma Opera's H.M.S. Pinafore was no exception. This time I learned that several of my old friends are Tacoma Opera regulars, and I had the pleasant experience of discovering why: this is a fine company with lots to offer.

The large audience for H.M.S. Pinafore clearly enjoyed this show and, as one of my friends commented, the performers were having a lot of fun and - appropriate for Gilbert and Sullivan - the show didn't take itself too seriously. 

Founded in 1968 as the Tacoma Opera Society, Tacoma Opera turned professional in 1981 with help from Seattle Opera's director of community outreach Dr. Hans Wolf, who became the Opera's director. Tacoma Opera is proud of being accessible to audiences from every walk of life. In additional to lighter fare such as Gilbert and Sullivan, Tacoma Opera presents many traditional operas and has produced several premiers. Up next in April is French composer Charles Gounod's Romeo et Julliette.

The company also strives to develop young talent, casting professionals alongside emerging artists. This production of Pinafore, for example, featured local professional baritone Michael Drumheller (his first performance with Tacoma Opera). He lead the cast as a very funny Sir Joseph Porter, First Lord of the Admiralty. A singer with strong training and experience, Drumheller has performed with opera companies all across the country. Playing alongside Drumheller were a number of young performers like Jordan McClellan, who appeared as Cousin Hebe. A past member of Tacoma Opera's Young Artist Program, she is an emerging artist with a beautiful voice and very appealing stage presence who is slated to appear in several shows in the region this year.

A former colleague of mine, Kathy McAuley, chairs the Opera's board, and although she was off on a jaunt to South America she made sure I was welcomed at the Rialto Theater. The Rialto is a Beaux-Arts style vaudeville performance and movie house that opened in 1918. Restored in the 1990s, it is today lovingly cared for by the Broadway Center for the Performing Arts, which manages three theaters in Tacoma's theater district: the Pantages, the Rialto, and Theater in the Square. The Center itself receives ArtsFund support and will be featured in a future post.

I want to recommend seeing live music and theater in Tacoma. The shows are well worth a drive, there are a number of excellent restaurants close by, and parking is inexpensive and plentiful. Check out upcoming events at


  1. I saw Utah Phillips at the Rialto in '04 (I think). It is such a lovely theater in such a lovely city.

  2. Your challenge is 30% complete! GO SANDY!!

    I am convinced that I need to make it to Tacoma for some art experiences.