‘Pirates’ steals viewers hearts

Cast members acting as debutant daughters of the Major General Stanley are seen in a production of
Pirates of Penzance October 29, 2013. (Photo: Enoch Wu/Sentinel-Tribune)

What better time to stage "Pirates of Penzance" then at
Halloween?You’ve got pirates in costumes, frolicking on stage, just when you have a lot of pint-sized
pirates and other hooligans running the streets.And the Gilbert and Sullivan classic has about as much
nutritional value as the candy they’ll collect.Certainly it’s a rarity, an enduring confection."Pirates
of Penzance" is on stage in Kobacker Hall on campus Friday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. PHOTO BLOGThe cast was
in fine fettle during a dress rehearsal Tuesday night. Everyone seemed in high spirits as they did some
final tweaking.The musical is a familiar item, even for many of the young cast member, said director Jane
Schoonmaker Rodgers. They may know this show from film, and some have done other Gilbert and Sullivan
shows."Gilbert and Sullivan relates well to the modern comedy they see on TV and in movies, so it’s not
totally alien to them," she said in a interview. Still the production avoids any attempts to update the
setting, instead keeping it firmly grounded in the Victorian Era."It’s just entertaining," Rodgers
said. "The music is very catchy and compelling. It’s very tuneful… Nothing is very serious in this
show. It’s hard to be gloomy watching it."The cast makes the most playing these classic buffoons. True
to the topsy-turvy world of Gilbert and Sullivan everyone is a buffoon from the Pirate King (Will Baughman)
to the female romantic lead Mabel (Madeline).The plot moves with its own logic. Our hero Frederic (Patrick
Conklin) was mistakenly indentured to a pirate band by his nursemaid Ruth (Maegan Pollonais) who misheard
his father who actually wanted him to become a "pilot." It is amazing how much comedy the operetta
rings out of such simple jokes. One routine revolves around mistaking the word "orphan" for
"often."Pollonais sets up all the foolishness in her aria "When Frederic was a little
lad," with the crisp enunciation the comedy demands.Despite the circumstances of his joining the
pirates, Frederic remains loyal. He has a extreme sense of duty. He is "a slave to duty." So much
so that he announces, to the pirates, that once he is released on turning 21 from his contract with them he
will be duty bound to hunt them down and end their admittedly ineffectual rapaciousness.Despite his pleas
they’re not likely to go straight. Why would they – it’s far better to be a pirate "than play a
sanctimonious part" as The Pirate King (Will Baughman) sings.And so the plot unravels with a slap-stick
logic all its own.We meet the Major General (Joel Trisel), the "very model of a modern major
general" who knows a smattering about so many things, including a very little about matters. He can
even tell on sight the difference between a rifle and a javelin.Then there’s his bevy of daughters, of whom
Mabel, is one. They move about as one fluttering flock. And then there’s a crew of policemen who are ready,
or maybe not, to take on the prates.They sing about having "their hearts in their boots" while the
girls urge them on "to glory though ye die in combat gory."The police, led by Nicholas Gordon, are
not as enthusiastic as the girls about this fate.In the end, no one dies rather we presume they live happily
ever after.The leads shine, but what really carries the show is lively performance of the various choruses.
They move as a unit, yet each daughter, policeman and pirate, comes off as an individual.As an ensemble they
execute with great precision, the operetta’s inspired comic muddle.The cast revels in all this nonsense, and
that spirit is infectious.

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