BWW Review: New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players' Rollickingly Fun THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE
Though there's nary a mention of snowfall or jingle bells in THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE, the abundance of joy and good clean humor, not to mention some terrific voices, in the New York Gilbert and Sullivan Players' frothily charming production of G&S's 1879 romantic romp makes it a grand choice for holiday entertainment.
Best known for its tongue-twisting patter song, "I Am The Very Model of a Modern Major-General," and the rousing pirates' chorus "With Cat-Like Tread" (which, with a revised lyric, is more familiar as "Hail, Hail, The Gang's All Here), the 5th collaboration of the iconic pair contains some of Arthur Sullivan's most sweeping romantic melodies (played by co-director and conductor Albert Bergeret's 25-piece orchestra), with a libretto packed with some of W.S. Gilbert's cleverest lyrics and routines.
In keeping with NYGASP's 44-season practice, Bergeret and co-director David Auxier's crisp production, choreographed by Bill Fabris, is presented in the traditional D'Oyle Carte style, peppered with a smattering of contemporary references.
The title characters, who hail from a small coastal town near the southwestern tip of Britain, are among the most civilized blokes to ever fly the skull and crossbones, more likely to dance a spirited minuet than partake in any serious swashbuckling.
Under the command of their Pirate King (Matthew Wages, sporting a Noel Coward-ish elegance), they are sworn to never harm an orphan. Thus, piracy has not paid well for them, as the inhabitants of every ship they attempt to attack claim to be parentless.
As the merriment begins their apprentice Frederic (impeccably earnest Carter Lynch), is celebrating his 21st birthday, thus ending his indentured servitude, an unfortunate circumstance caused by a miscommunication from his faithful nursery maid, Ruth (hearty mezzo Angela Christine Smith).
Although he's an honest lad who deplores piracy, Frederic is also a self-proclaimed slave of duty, and would never think of breaking the contract that bound him to their ship since childhood. But now that his commitment to them has dissolved, he's determined to have the pirates brought to justice.
But first, he ventures off into the world and falls in love Mabel, one of the many wards of Major-General Stanley, just around the time when his former mates try to carry away (for the purposes of marriage, of course) her chorusful of sisters. As Mabel, Katie Dixon sports a powerful soprano, full of enchanting expression. The romantic duets between her and Lynch are quite moving and the large ensemble of women is terrifically funny in their chipperness.
David Macaluso splendidly delivers the Major-General's signature patter, including a clever bit where he overtakes the orchestra and waits for them to catch up.
As the story progresses, the Major-General manages to trick the pirates into letting them go (three guesses how), but when a loophole is discovered in Frederic's contract, he is once again bound with the would-be cutthroats until a band of bumbling police officers are called upon to save the day... sort of.
Emulating the physical dexterity of Mack Sennett's Keystone Cops, the tall and lanky Auxier plays the Sergeant of Police with hilariously nimble physicality, singing with a sturdy basso that occasionally flips to a nervous squeal. His song and dance with a chorus of constables, seasoned with some marvelous music hall bits, is a thorough delight and a highlight of this very enjoyable production of an enduring classic.