Cast off on a voyage of laughter and music when the New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players dock the H.M.S. Pinafore at 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 3, at Yavapai College Performing Arts Center (YCPAC), 1100 E. Sheldon St., Prescott.

H.M.S. Pinafore, or The Lass That Loved a Sailor, is a story of secret love. The captain’s daughter, Josephine, is betrothed to the foppish Sir Joseph Porter, but secretly loves common sailor Ralph Rackstraw. The play premiered at London’s Opera Comique on May 25, 1878, and has remained a musical favorite on both sides of the Atlantic ever since.

James Mills, the actor playing Sir Joseph Porter, spoke with Across the Street ahead of the upcoming performance at YCPAC. Mills is also the associate artistic director for the New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players. The following interview was edited for length and clarity.

How did you get

involved with Gilbert and Sullivan?

I grew up in Albuquerque, and I did musical theater and plays and things as a kid. I discovered the show, H.M.S. Pinafore, when I was in high school. I auditioned for it and played a sailor in the chorus, and I just fell in love with it. I was in high school and I just loved the music so much. It’s so witty. Being a lover of British comedy and sketch shows like Monty Python, I immediately just fell for the satire and the British silliness that we still can relate to.

I graduated from UNM College of Fine Arts, Department of Theater and Dance here in Albuquerque and moved to New York. Pretty shortly after that, I discovered this company, the New York Gilbert and Sullivan Players, and now I’ve been playing with them on stage and around the world for 16 seasons.

What do you like

most about playing

this character?

I like to describe him as delightfully disdainful. He’s not a likable character. He’s rude. He’s pompous. He’s self-important. He’s condescending. But in all of that, you can’t help but fall in love with him because he’s just so ridiculous. It’s such a joy to play because, as I said, he’s really not a likable person, but he’s not a villain either. He’s just a piece of product of his world, of his class. And I get to have some great pratfalls and physical comedy at the expense of this character’s, I guess, at the expense of the character. You would never expect somebody who’s so important to be so ridiculous and that’s the Monty Python-esque quality.

What is it like coming back to this

performance again after all these years?

It was the first Gilbert and Sullivan Show I ever did, and I was just a sailor. Now I’m coming back to it as the character who takes the final bow, the lead comedian, and it is really cool. I used to stand on stage behind that character, behind that actor who made me laugh and took the final bow — and now it is me. That full circle moment is just a really great feeling of achievement.

Tickets for H.M.S. Pinafore start at $32, with $10 youth tickets available. The YCPAC Ticket Office is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays. For reservations or more information, call 928-776-2000 or visit www.ycpac.com.

Jesse Bertel is a reporter/videographer for the Prescott News Network. Follow him on Twitter @ JesseBertel, email him at jbertel@prescottaz.com, or call 928-445-3333, ext. 2043

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