Essgee's H.M.S. Pinafore
Essgee's H.M.S. Pinafore
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This nautical story of star-crossed lovers kicks off when the Captain of the Pinafore makes arrangements for his daughter to marry the Lord Admiral of the Navy. However, problems ensue when his daughter reveals she’s in love with a low-ranking seaman aboard her father’s ship. Ironically, the Captain finds himself in a similar position with a dockside vendor called Little Buttercup. The whole situation is turned on its head when Little Buttercup reveals a game-changing secret she has kept for decades. This fresh and funky adaptation of Gilbert & Sullivan’s operetta has taken Europe and Australia by storm— now for the first time ever it’s available for licensing in the United States!



The sailors on the H.M.S. Pinafore are scrubbing the decks and polishing the brass, preparing for the arrival of Sir Joseph Porter, the First Lord of the Admiralty (“We Sail The Ocean Blue”). Sir Joseph is coming today to ask for the Captain's daughter's hand in marriage. It is payday on the Pinafore, and Buttercup, a bumboat gypsy woman, arrives to sell her wares (“I'm Called Little Buttercup”). Buttercup alludes to a dark secret she is hiding. It appears that the entire crew owe money to Dick Deadeye. Dick is a fellow seaman, the ship's contraband supplier, money lender, and mischief maker (“Disagreeable Man”).

We next meet Ralph Rackstraw, pronounced "Raife." He loves the Captain's daughter Josephine, but knows that she is much above his station (“A Maiden Fair To See”). Dick Deadeye firmly believes in England's class system and he tells Ralph that his love for the high-born beauty is doomed, "a foremast hand don't marry no Captain's daughter."

Captain Corcoran appears on deck to inspect his crew (“My Gallant Crew”). The Captain confides in Buttercup that his daughter is showing little interest in the prospect of marriage to Sir Joseph Porter. Josephine appears and tells her father that she loves a humble sailor on board his own ship (“Sorry Her Lot”), but she promises the Captain that the sailor shall never know it.

The Captain prepares his welcome speech for Sir Joseph as the crew get ready for inspection (“Over the Bright Blue Sea/Sir Joseph's Barge Is Seen/Now Give Three Cheers”). Sir Joseph's entourage precedes him.

They are his sister, his cousin, and his aunt (“Gaily Tripping”). Sir Joseph comes on board and explains his remarkable rise in rank from office boy to First Lord ("When I Was A Lad"). Sir Joseph is impressed with Ralph and tells him that a British sailor is any man's equal. This idea prompts Ralph to plan to declare his love for Josephine, and all the crew approve, except for Dick Deadeye. The crew then sing the song that Sir Joseph has written to encourage independence of thought and action in the lower ranks (“A British Tar”).

Ralph confesses to Josephine that he loves her, but she keeps her promise to her father and haughtily rejects Ralph (“Refrain, Audacious Tar”). The crew tries to comfort Ralph, though Dick Deadeye rubs salt in the wound (“I Told You So”). Ralph is inconsolable and opts for suicide. (“Can I Survive This Overbearing”). Just in time, Josephine confesses her love for her able seaman. The couple decide to elope that night with the help of the ship's crew. Only Dick Deadeye opposes the couple's plans. All others hail the loving couple (“Let's Give Three Cheers For The Sailors Bride”).


It is the evening and Sir Joseph teaches the Captain to dance a hornpipe while Josephine is torn between her love for Ralph and her sense of duty to her father and her class (“The Hours Creep On A Pace”). The crew gamble their wages away in Dick Deadeye's illegal casino (“The Roulette Song”).

The Captain is at his wits' end with his crew acting strangely, and Sir Joseph feeling rejected by the Captain's unhappy daughter (“Fair Moon To Thee I Sing”). In the shadows, Little Buttercup reveals her tenderness for the Captain, but she too is trapped in the tyranny of class and cannot declare her true feelings. Buttercup warns the Captain not to take things at face value (“Things Are Seldom What They Seem”).

Ralph and Josephine face the fact that they either accept the world's sorrow and restrictions or they follow their hearts (“In Sailing O'er Life's Ocean Wide/The World Is But A Broken Toy”). Sir Joseph is ready to give up pursuing Josephine, but the Captain and Dick Deadeye convince him that she may feel intimidated by Sir Joseph's exalted position. If Sir Joseph would tell her of his belief that love levels all rank, she might have a change of mind ("Nothing Ventured Nothing Gained"). Sir Joseph agrees and approaches Josephine, relaying the idea that love levels all rank. This convinces Josephine to follow her heart and marry her true love, Ralph (“Never Mind The Why Or Wherefore”).

Dick Deadeye tells the Captain of Josephine and Ralph's plans (“Kind Captain, I've Important Information”). The furious Captain hides in order to catch the elopers (“Carefully On Tiptoe Stealing”). Captain Corcoran denounces his daughter and her fiancé, but they protest that according to Sir Joseph's philosophy, a British sailor is the equal of anyone in the world ("He Is An Englishman”).

Affronted by events, the Captain swears, only to be sent to his cabin by Sir Joseph. When Sir Joseph learns of Ralph's love for Josephine, he sends Ralph to the ship's prison. At this point, Little Buttercup reveals her terrible secret (“A Many Years Ago”). When she was a nurse, she carelessly mixed up two babies, one of low birth, the other a patrician. The two babies were Ralph and Captain Corcoran. As a result, Ralph is really the high-born Captain, and the Captain is none other than the common Ralph.

In light of these circumstances, Sir Joseph finds it impossible to marry the low-born Josephine, so he hands Josephine over to Ralph. That also means that the former high born Captain is a common sailor and able to wed Little Buttercup.

Sir Joseph laments that he will have to spend the rest of his days alone. But Dick assures Sir Joseph that what he needs is a Secretary of the Navy to look out for Sir Joseph and his sister, his cousin, and his aunt. Dick accepts the position immediately (“Oh Joy, Oh Rapture Unforeseen!").


Pinafore is a 24-carat triumph.

–The Australian


  1. We Sail the Ocean Blue
  2. I'm Called Little Buttercup
  3. A Disagreeable Man
  4. But Tell Me Who's the Youth
  5. A Maiden Fair to See
  6. My Gallant Crew
  7. Sorry Her Lot
  8. Over the Bright Blue Sea
  9. Sir Joseph's Barge is Seen
  10. Gaily Tripping
  11. When I Was a Lad
  12. For I Hold That on the Seas
  13. A British Tar
  14. Refrain Audacious Tar
  15. Can I Survive this Overbearing
  16. Finale of Act 1
  17. The Hours Creep on Apace
  18. Roulette Song
  19. Fair Moon, to Thee I Sing
  20. Things Are Seldom What They Seem
  21. In Sailing oÌer Life's Ocean -The World is But a Broken Toy
  22. Nothing Ventured Nothing Gained
  23. Never Mind the Why and Wherefore
  24. Kind Captain, I've Important Information
  25. Carefully On Tiptoe Stealing
  26. A Many Years Ago
  27. Oh Joy, Oh Rapture Unforeseen!
  28. Finale of Act 2, 1878
  29. Finale 1997


Dick Deadeye

Ralph Rackstraw

Sir Joseph Porter


Sir Joseph's Cousin, Sister & Aunt – The Fabulous Singlettes*


Captain Corcoran



Willaim Schwenck Gilbert: (18 November 1836 – 29 May 1911)

William Schwenck— a name he loathed— Gilbert was born to a family of comfortable means in a house a few hundred yards from the site of the Savoy Theatre which was later to become the centre of a cult whose merry devotees to this day describe themselves with pride as Savoyards. Aged two, he was kidnapped in Naples by brigands and ransomed for twenty-five pounds. This Gilbertian event he was to use years later in the plots of H.M.S. Pinafore and The Gondoliers. Frustrated and less than successful as a barrister, Gilbert invented a world of 'Topsyturvydom... where right is wrong and wrong is right, where white is black and black is white,' a world that first appeared in print as the whimsical and nonsensical poems that constituted Bab Ballads (1869) and from 1871 onwards as the evergreen Savoy operas, starting with Thespis and finishing with The Grand Duke in 1896.

An established comic playwright who reveled in artificial plots and good, clean, Victorian fun, Gilbert was an important figure in the history of the English stage because he was the first director ('stage manager' in late nineteenth-century parlance) to put his stamp on texts and productions. He insisted on the importance of rehearsals for the whole company and supervised in detail every aspect of design, costume, choreography, and lighting. With composer Arthur Sullivan, and the brilliant entrepreneur Richard D'Oyly Carte— the Cameron Macintosh of his day— Gilbert became part of England's most important operetta triumvirate, was recognised as being the foremost librettist of his century, and is acknowledged as such by his pupils and successors Lorenz Hart, Alan Jay Lerner, and Stephen Sondheim. WSG was also a quarrelsome and dictatorial tyrant who never for a moment doubted his own genius and who, as he grew older, took to suing those who crossed him.

He was knighted in May 1907 and lived in comfortable retirement in his Harrow mansion, Grim's Dyke. He was drowned in his private lake while trying to assist a young lady in difficulty. His commemorative plaque on London's Embankment carries the aptly epigrammatic epitaph, 'His foe was folly, and his weapon, wit.'

Arthur Seymour Sullivan: (13 May 1842 – 22 November 1900)

Born in Lambeth, the son of an orchestra musician, Sullivan taught himself piano at five and composed his first anthem, "By the Waters of Babylon," aged eight. At twelve, he published his first sacred song, O Israel. He studied at the Royal Academy of Music and later in Leipzig, where he met Liszt, Schumann, and Greig. The darling of London musical society, Sullivan was feted by the famous soprano Jenny Lind, taken to Paris by Charles Dickens, and pressed (in vain) by Lewis Carroll to set Alice In Wonderland to music. His parlour ballads, sacred songs ("Onward Christian Soldiers" and "The Lost Chord" being his most famous), oratorios,and overtures made him a household name in England and a favourite of Queen Victoria. He was knighted in 1883 at the age of 41. This newfound honour was not without its problems. The Musical Review spoke for the world of serious music when it observed that 'something Mr Arthur Sullivan may have done, Sir Arthur ought not to do.' Not surprisingly, he increasingly came to regard his light music collaboration with Gilbert as a frivolous diversion from his more noble vocation as a serious composer. His one opera, Ivanhoe, though now forgotten, holds the record for the longest single run (155 performances) of any opera in England.

Unlike the militarily disciplined Gilbert, Sullivan was more 'artistic' in temperament, preferring the world of supper parties, royal shoulder-rubbing, and European gallivanting and gambling, not least in Monte Carlo. Plagued by ill health, he constantly worked against the clock to complete songs for rehearsals. Indeed, often as opening night approached, he was so late— and sick— that he would send only outlines for overtures, leaving them to be constructed by his musical director, Francois Cellier. The completed score of The Pirates of Penzance did not appear until four days before opening night, and when he approached the podium to conduct, he recorded that he took up the baton 'more dead than alive.'

He is buried in the crypt of St Paul's Cathedral, London. His plaque in Savoy Gardens, London bears the inscription suggested by Gilbert, from The Yeomen of the Guard:

Is life a boon?

If so it must befall

That Death whene'er he call

Must call too soon! 

Simon Gallaher/Essgee Entertainment created an exciting new version of the classic The Pirates of Penzance in 1994, which became an immediate runaway hit throughout Australia and New Zealand. ABC-TV broadcast the production nationally at the conclusion of the Australian tour, and the video quickly attained Triple Platinum sales as the highest-selling live musical theatre video of all time. Essgee followed up their massive hit with The Mikado in 1995, followed shortly thereafter by H.M.S. Pinafore, the final in the Essgee Musical Trilogy. Essgee now licenses productions of their Gilbert & Sullivan trilogy of shows to companies and theatre societies across the world. Through special arrangements with David Spicer Productions in Australia, Steele Spring Stage Rights is proud to represent the Essgee Musical Trilogy in the U.S. and Canada.

Essgee’s H.M.S. Pinafore, Gilbert and Sullivan for the 21st Century, presented by arrangement with Steele Spring Stage Rights, on behalf of David Spicer Productions, representing Simon Gallaher and Essgee Entertainment.

Performance Royalties are based on theater particulars. Please fill out an application for a personalized quote. 

Billing responsibilities, pertinent copyright information, and playwrights' biographies are available in the show rider that comes with your license agreement. To download the show rider for Essgee’s H.M.S. Pinafore, click here.

Materials: Your materials will be sent to you two months prior to your opening date and will include everything necessary for your production. They can be ordered in Printed or Digital format. Printed Materials are provided on unbound three-hole punched loose-leaf paper while Digital Materials are provided via email as downloadable PDF files for you to print in-house. All materials are yours to keep! No deposits, no returns.
The Authorized Materials/Rehearsal Package for Essgee’s H.M.S. Pinafore includes:

  • Production Scripts
  • Piano/Vocal Scores
  • Chorus Scores
  • Piano
  • Keyboard 2
  • Keyboard 3
  • Electric Bass
  • Percussion 1
  • Percussion 2
Official Logo Pack Now Included! To help you promote your show, Stage Rights now includes a logo pack with your license. The logo pack includes high resolution versions (both color and black and white) of our show logo. The logo is the portion of the artwork with the title of the show. The surrounding artwork is also available for an additional fee.
Optional Materials: 
  • Stage Manager’s Script – Printed on standard 8.5” x 11” 3-hole-punched paper, with the same page numbers and text as the Production Scripts, but with more space on the page for notes and cues.