Gilbert and Sullivan’s PIRATES OF PENZANCE was first performed in New York City in 1879. Since then, this comic opera has become an audience favorite. It’s not hard to see why in the King of Prussia Players’ production directed by Dr. Lawrence A. Anderson.
The synopsis is very simple. Frederic (Kurt Anderson) is a young indentured servant living on a pirate ship, led by the Pirate King (Eric Richards). Strangely, we find a middle-aged woman, Ruth (Suzanne Howarth), also living on the ship who explains how Frederic came to be on it. Frederic is giddy that his servitude is almost over so that he can get on with his happiness. He does just that when he spots the daughters of the Major General (Tom Blair). He falls in love with Mabel (Robin Richardson) specifically, but things go awry when the pirates come back because of a little “glitch” with Frederic’s age. But don’t worry, because the police are on their way, led by the Sergeant (Kai Kasiguran)!
Anderson and Richardson have beautiful voices, and use them extremely well in difficult songs. This is especially true when Mabel “shows off” her vocal range in “Poor wand’ring one”. They both are really mesmerizing to hear when they sing together in the middle of Act Two. As the songs move the story along in an opera, it’s important that all the words be very clear. While this was true for the main characters, I had trouble understanding the daughters when they were singing together. I caught a few words of “Climbing over rocky mountain” here and there, but that’s all.
Richards, Howarth, Blair, and Kasiguran all seem to be having the time of their lives. Richards wisely, whether intentionally or not, models his character after Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow. His swagger and timing add a lot to the role. Howarth gives Ruth an hilarious dry sense of humor. Kasiguran’s facial expressions and dance moves enrich his Sergeant, especially in “When the foeman bares his steel”. His hat kept falling off last night, and he just sang and danced right through it. The show must go on. Blair literally had me shaking my head with my mouth agape in “I am the very model of a modern Major General”. I had a hard enough time just typing that title. He is simply astounding as he sings this tongue twister of a song, singing it like it’s absolutely nothing. In contrast to other songs in this production, you can hear every word clear as day.
Community theater is performed by people who love it and want to be there. It takes months and countless hours to put on a show of this caliber. I couldn’t help thinking to myself during the production that acting in a show like this is the ultimate “play time” for adults. While it takes an immense amount of work, how many people can say they were a pirate last night when someone asks how they spent their evening? You can be a teacher, a doctor, a banker, or manager by day, and a Pirate King or Major General by night. Pretty darn cool.
PIRATES OF PENZANCE
Libretto by W.S. Gilbert
Music by Arthur Sullivan
Directed by Dr. Lawrence A. Anderson
March 2-10, 2012
King of Prussia Players
Shannondell Performing Arts Center