The comedic style of the classic Victorian era theatrical collaborators Gilbert and Sullivan has regaled audiences for well over a century. Almost 135 years after the very first performance of Pirates of Penzance, the operetta has become most produced show of the popular duo. It may seem daunting to produce a show performed by so many before, but The Victorian Lyric Opera Company and Director Felicity Ann Brown triumph in this dazzling production.
The lights dim as we are treated with the captivating tones created by the orchestra. The orchestra is expertly led by Music Director Joseph Sorge. Throughout the production the orchestra delights our ears and even interacts with the players at times, making this already fun show even more enjoyable.
After the overture, the curtains opens, revealing the beautifully designed set by Master Carpenter Devin Work. The show opens on desolate part of the Cornwall Coast, with a carefully crafted pirate ship in the distance. Work successfully captures the essence of the era as does Costume Designer Denise Young. Young accurately styles our players in Victorian Garb, using the precise amount of color and contrast, without distracting from the performers. I especially liked the gowns of our wards, or girls ensemble, each member in a different color – yet they blended seamlessly.
The show opens with a charming rendition of “Pour, ‘O Pour the Pirate Sherry” featuring the lieutenant of the pirate gang, Samuel (Rick DuPuy). Here we meet the leader of the Pirates, the Pirate King (Jeffrey Gates). Gates has a bewitching baritone voice and he leads our band of swashbucklers with comedic skill in “Oh, Better Far to Live and Die” when he exclaims:
For I am a Pirate King!
And it is, it is a glorious thing
To be a Pirate King!
Here we also meet our hero, Frederic (Timothy Ziese). Ziese charms us from the start. We empathize with his plight when he must lose his new love, Mabel, played beautifully by soprano Courtney Kalbacker. The couple plays well off each other and they display much chemistry onstage, making them a believable and likeable pair. Kalbacker delivered a gorgeous rendition of “Poor Wandering One!” filled with glorious high notes, and their voices blended harmoniously in “All is Prepared” and “Stay, Frederic, Stay!”
That leads us to the scene stealer of the evening Major General Stanley, played endearingly by George Willis. Willis is a delight to see on stage, his performance is true to the traditional slap-stick style of Gilbert and Sullivan. His rendering of the much parodied “I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major General,” is sidesplitting!
Other notable performances include; Ruth (Wendy Stengel), Edith (Rachel Ackerman), Kate (Amanda Jones), Isabel (Stevie Miller), and Sargent of the Police (Tom Goode).
However, the gem of the evening is the ensemble; they had me from the first “Arrrgggh!” It was a pleasure to watch this group perform, from start to finish. My favorite musical numbers include; “How Beautifully the Blue Sky,” “When a Felon’s Not Engaged with His Employment,” and the show stopping “With Cat-Like Tread, Upon Our Pray We Steal.”
I encourage audiences of all ages to make the trip to Rockville for this fun evening of theater! This shipshape production of Victorian Lyric Opera Company’s Pirates of Penzance is not to be missed. Arrrgggh!
The Pirates of Penzance, plays through June 22, 2014 at the Victorian Lyric Opera Company performing at the F. Scott Fitzgerald Theatre at the Rockville Civic Center – 603 Edmonston Drive, in Rockville, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (240) 314-8690, or purchase them online.