‘H.M.S. Pinafore’ to dock at the Popejoy stage Feb. 5

James Mills as Sir Joseph Porter in ‘HMS Pinafore’ which makes a call at Popejoy Hall on Sunday 5th February. (Courtesy of William Reynolds)

James Mills grew up on the stages of Albuquerque theaters.

He is grateful for the founding that led him to be part of the New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players as their Associate Artistic Director.

On Sunday February 5th Mills returns to Popejoy Hall to perform with the company HMS Pinafore.

“It’s full circle for me,” says Mills. “It’s been 20 years since I performed my very first musical on Popejoy’s stage. It was ‘Bye Bye Birdie’. I was a little kid and didn’t know anything. I graduated from UNM and the Department of Theater and Dance got our start on Popejoy’s stage. It’s a special place for me.”

HMS Pinafore is set aboard the Royal Navy ship HMS Pinafore.

The captain’s daughter, Josephine, is in love with a lower-class seaman, Ralph Rackstraw, although her father intends her to marry Sir Joseph Porter, First Lord of the Admiralty.

She initially complies with her father’s wishes, but Sir Joseph’s advocacy for human equality emboldens Ralph and Josephine to overthrow the traditional social order.

They declare their love for each other and eventually plan to flee.

Mills says the Captain discovers this plan, but as in many Gilbert and Sullivan operas, a startling revelation changes things dramatically towards the end of the story.

Mills plays Sir Joseph Porter.

“Our presentations tend to lean towards the original side of the Gilbert and Sullivan plays,” he says. “We’re performing it as it’s written, with a contemporary flair. The issues are still relevant because human conditions are not changing.”

Mills describes his character as “delightfully contemptible”.

“He’s the kind of character you like to hate,” says Mills. “All the characters are so ridiculous you can’t help but love them. He’s not a villain, he’s a product of his class.”

James Mills

The 2023 edition of HMS Pinafore marks 10 years since Mills began portraying Sir Joseph Porter.

“It’s been 20 years since I saw the show for the first time,” he says. “The biggest challenge is to give the audience a new experience and not get stuck. After two years of not performing, I’m getting my body ready to perform again.”

Mill always welcomes any opportunity to return to Albuquerque. He says his trips home usually involve appearances with the company.

“My younger brother posted a picture of the UNM campus in front of Popejoy Hall,” he says. “In the photo I was at the window as part of the promotion for ‘HMS Pinafore’. Seeing that hit me like a ton of bricks. I’m proud of all the work I’ve put into my career. I can travel and perform anywhere.”

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