Pirates of Penzance delivers laughs and love
Schneebeck Concert Hall rang with laughter this weekend with the performance of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance. The School of Music-produced opera was a joyous romp with a band of very jovial pirates and lovely ladies.
Directed by Director of Vocal Studies Dr. Dawn Padula with music direction by staff accompanist Denes Van Parys, the double-cast opera was a hysterical hit playing to packed audiences throughout its four-night run.
Padula’s stage direction was subtle but extremely effective. From the nuanced pirate actions to the full-fledged chorus choreography, Padula captured the spirit of the band of zany pirates, giggling wards and hysterically cowardly policemen.
Pirates of Penzance tells the story of Frederic, played by juniors Brian Hoffmeister and Sam Faustine, who is an apprentice to a band of pirates, led by the Pirate King (senior Kyle Sleeper and junior Patrick Schneider).
Frederic ends up as a member of this “vile lot” due to a misfortunate mistake by his maid, the brassy Ruth, a role split by junior Shani Cohen and sophomore Jennifer Kullby.
When he reaches his 21st birthday, Frederic has fulfilled his duty to serve the pirates and sets out to find himself a wife, whom he eventually finds in the doe-eyed Mabel, played by senior Rhiannon Guevin and junior Elizabeth Kittel.
Once Frederic has left the pirates and finds himself in the company of Major-General Stanley, junior Brian Ernst, and his daughters, led by seniors Amy Polete and Katrina Deininger as Edith and junior Madison Genovese as Kate, a series of comical misadventures ensues.
Finally, true to comedic opera form, everybody lives happily ever after.
While the story is simple and in some respects inane, the added jokes and comedic talents of both casts made Pirates of Penzance an incredibly enjoyable experience.
Both Guevin and Kittel captured the necessary lightness and flexibility needed to make Mabel’s coluratura range seem effortless. Schneider’s rich baritone gave incredible depth to the Pirate King while Sleeper’s perfect comedic timing kept the audience in stitches. As the romantic lead, both Faustine and Hoffmeister captured the gallant flair of Frederic while showing off their beautiful tenor voices.
The supporting roles were equally as strong in both casts. Both Kullby and Cohen played Ruth with the biting air of a woman who was quite sassy in her day, and their powerful voices made them the center of attention, despite being surrounded by a gang of rowdy pirates.
As the Police Captain, sophomore Alex Adams and freshman John Lampus were uproariously funny, adding a bit more comedic relief to the already humorous second act.
In his Puget Sound acting debut, Lampus held his own, but Adams’ booming bass voice made the Police Captain stand out from the crowd of incredibly funny, though ill-equipped, policemen.
Deininger, Genovese and Polete as the lead daughters and senior Jeremy Wilson and sophomore Brian Stoops as Samuel were equally engaging, despite their shorter solo moments.
While all of the leads shined, it was Ernst who stole the show as the bewildered Major-General Stanley. With his tongue twister of a solo, Ernst brilliantly captured the bumbling nature of the Major-General.
The impressive chorus of pirates, ladies and policemen was fabulous and had immense talent. It is clear that Van Parys’s music direction helped solidify this strong group of voices.
The pit was led by Dr. Gerard Morris. Like the rest of the production, the orchestra was musically solid. Some of the funniest moments of the entire opera came from one-liners from those seated behind their music stands.
The few faults Pirates of Penzance had were mostly technical—acoustics making it such that lead voices were drowned out or subtitles which were ahead of the action and at times distracting.
Despite these few minimal errors, the performances of Pirates of Penzance were thoroughly delightful and a wonderful way to spend the weekend.