BWW Review: MASTERVOICE'S PIRATES OF PENZANCE at City Center
Although they each died over 100 years ago, Librettist W.S. Gilbert and Composer Arthur Sullivan would surely be very entertained and pleased by Mastervoices' glorious production of The Pirates of Penzance as seen at City Center on October 16th.
In the deft hands of Conductor Ted Sperling leading the Orchestra of St. Lukes and a majestic chorus of a 100 spectacular voices and featured performances from Deborah Voight (Ruth), Hunter Parrish (Frederic), David Garrison (Sergeant of Police), Betsy Wolfe (Edith), Montego Glover (Kate), Philip Boykin (Pirate King), Zachary James (Samuel) and Douglas Hodge (Major General).
The stage opens with the male choir in the tuxedos and the band of Pirates on the coast of Cornwall, play and party as Frederic (a pirate apprentice) reminds the pirate king that his obligation to the gang is soon over. He was apprenticed to the pirates only until his twenty-first birthday, which is that day, and he is leaving them. Ruth (Frederic's nursery maid when he was younger) explains that Frederic should never have been a pirate except for her mistake: She was told to apprentice Frederic to a pilot, but she misunderstood and placed him with a pirate instead. Voight displays a light touch hitting the comedic highlights and not altogether kind words on her looks gracefully...although her revenge is to had...especially as Frederic spies and falls for a younger, fairer Mabel (Julia Udine) who's come upon the coast with their father, the Major General.
Hodge's charm is apparent and he has a masterful grace with his big moments especially in "I Am The Very Model Of A Modern General" the now legendary patter song. Though not as fiercely pattered as other major-general's - he captivates and is fine voice through out the evening especially during Act 2's "Then Frederic." The pirates led by Boykin and James are boisterous, entertaining, and winningly voiced. Wolfe, Udine, and Glover and her sisters are charming and beguiling especially as backed by the female members of the Mastervoices. Each creates a distinct character and memorable moments, even with binders of music in hand. Parrish holds his own against very impressive company from Udine, Wolfe, Glover, and Voight but he displays the right mix of boyish optimism, moral fortitude, and romantic yearning.
It is truly breathtaking to have a 100 person chorus back Broadway and Opera veterans and City Center was awash in glorious musicality. With the comedic high notes from the conflict between pirate and police, Garrison holds his own.
MasterVoices is to be commended for presenting a forthright, hilariously comedic production - in glorious voice - as a means of bringing opera to all ages (numerous children were in the audience) while also creating a lovely sung charming evening. True love and beautifully song opera make for a winning evening.
MasterVoices lend their voices this season to "The Life and Death(s) of Alan Turing" October 17th at the American Lyric Theater; Mahler's Symphony No. 2 at Carnegie Hall November 5th; and a world premiere of Michael John LaChiusa's and "Dido and Aenaes" in April 2016 at City Center.