Pirates of Penzance and Hamlet take the stage
By CASEY DEY
Tacoma’s theater district lit up the weekend of Oct. 25-27 with new renditions of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance and William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Both were a spectacular reminder of why theater continues to dazzle audiences today.
From its inception in 1879, Gilbert and Sullivan’s comedy operetta Pirates of Penzance has left audiences with happy ears and smiling hearts.
Tacoma Opera’s rendition on Oct. 25 and 27 was no exception.
Frederic is a young man mistakenly apprenticed to a band of pirates until his twenty-first birthday. Upon release of his apprenticeship, he falls in love with Mabel, the beautiful daughter of a major general.
Unfortunately, Frederic learns that his birthday lies on Feb. 29 in leap year, so he has technically only had five birthdays and must continue to serve the pirates for another sixty years.
Beautiful voices and hilarious actors accompanied the swordfights, marriages, lies, love, mischief and “cat-like reflexes.”
The production was stellar, filled with local performers both veteran and new to the operatic stage. The audience was also diverse, filled with young, old, those seeing the performance for the fifth or even tenth time and those seeing opera for the first time.
This was the opening production of the 2013/14 season for Tacoma Opera.
It starred Eric Neuville as Frederic, Director of Vocal Studies at Puget Sound Dawn Padula as Ruth, Ryan Bede as the Pirate King, Megan Chenovick as Mabel, Barry Johnson as Major General Stanley, Deac Guidi as the Sergeant, Brandon Higa as Samuel, Katie Malik and Puget Sound grad Audra de Laveaga Deslisle as Edith and Isabel, and Nancy Blaisdell, performing her final show after 20 years with the company, as Queen Victoria.
The same weekend, Tacoma was treated to some Shakespeare as well.
Considered one of Shakespeare’s greatest plays, Hamlet has endured through the generations as one of the greatest tragedies of all time.
Hamlet appeared in Tacoma on tour through The Acting Company Oct. 25-27, and was directed by award-winning director Ian Belknap in its Shakespearean entirety.
Hamlet is a prince of Denmark, whose father was recently murdered by his uncle and whose mother then married his uncle soon after. The ghost of his father bids Hamlet to seek revenge, but the process leaves the poor prince mad until the completion of the task leaves many dead in its wake.
Hamlet starred John Skelley in the title role, Angela Janas as Ophelia, Ernest Bentley as Horatio, Andy Nogasky as Polonius, Patrick Lane as Claudius, Jacqueline Correa as Gertrude, Robert David Grant as Laertes and the Ghost, Grant Fletcher Prewitt as Rosencrantz/Marcellus/Gravedigger, Ian Gould as Guildenstern/Bernardo/Gravedigger, Joshua Johnston as Francisco/Player/Osric, Darien Battle as Player King/Fortinabras/Priest and Suzy Kohane as Player Queen and Female Attendant.
Audience members were left in awe by the power and passion of the performance and gave a wild standing ovation at the end.
Tacoma was the tenth stop in a seven-month tour that will segue into Tom Stoppard’s comedy rewrite Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, featuring the same cast.
John Skelley (Hamlet) noticed tears in the eyes of several members of the audience as he gave the famous “To be or not to be” monologue.
Upon asking after the performance, the reply was,“In that moment, I understood theatre. Why it exists. Why it will continue to exist. And this is why I love it.”
Theater is a representation of life. The stage provides a platform for the actor to share a view of the world, whether relatable, political, comedic or tragic.
Often the subject does not matter, for the issues and characters exist across time. So as long as people are human, the theatre will remain a moving mirror of our common conditions.