'PIRATES OF PENZANCE' Delightful singing elevates silly script
Even after 106 years, the performance has legs.
By L. CROW
Gilbert and Sullivan's "Pirates of Penzance" premiered in New York, in 1879, opening at the Opera Comique in London in April 1880, where it ran for 363 performances.
The plot is silly and trivial: Frederick wishes to leave the apprenticeship of the pirates, where he has been since age 8. He has fulfilled his indentures, and, at age 21, is now free to leave and join respectable society. He is determined to fight the pirates, who aren't much for fighting, being softhearted orphans.
Meanwhile he falls in love with Mabel, one of many maiden daughters of the Major General. But the pirates inform him he was born on leap year, so, technically, birthday-wise, he is only age 5. He agrees to return. But all ends well, as the gentle pirates are each matched up with a maiden. Charming? Yes. Trite? Most definitely.
But the plot isn't the reason you should come to this comic opera, now playing at YSUs Ford Theater. It's the music that is phenomenal, a perfect showcase for the treasure trove of talent in the performing arts program and beyond, at YSU.
Momentum builds through the first act. The stage begins to sparkle as the maidens enter. One of their most endearing scenes is "How Beautifully Blue the Sky," as they flutter fans and pretend to talk about the weather.
The comical "Stay, We Must Not Lose Our Senses" is sung as the pirates jump out to capture the maidens, and the maidens put up a good fight. This is followed by the entrance of their father, the Major General, played by Vince Basile. "Away, Away! My Heart's On Fire" in Act II is delightful. All of the music is entertaining and easy listening.
It was the individual voices that really shone in the production. The main characters were all double (or triple) cast, so different people will be performing on different nights.
On opening night, Brianne Kochunas, as Mabel, and Joshua Lewis, as Frederick, were two of the most exquisite voices, both as soloists and in their lovely duets. Apparently the audience thought so, too, giving them a standing ovation at curtain call. Heidi Davis, as Ruth, also stood out for her exemplary singing. Her duet with Frederick at the beginning of Act I was just beautiful.
The group is accompanied by a small pit orchestra, conducted by David Keith Stiver, who joined in the silliness. Jerome Rezanka is the assistant conductor and also played the piano and reed organ. The singing and playing throughout the performance was professional and always on cue.
"The purpose of this work was to mock classical opera, and the royalty," says Rezanka. "The music is reminiscent of Mozart, as in 'The Marriage of Figaro.' 'Pirates of Penzance' was written during Queen Victoria's reign."
Over all, this production is well put together and executed, and worth seeing, particularly if you enjoy opera or operettas.
X"Pirates" is showing at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 3 p.m. today and next Sunday. For tickets or more info, call the box office at (330) 941-3105.