BWW Review: THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE at Rancho Mirage Amphitheater
Saturday was a beautiful night under the stars and LimonCarr Desert Theatricals, in partnership with the City of Rancho Mirage, provided just the right entertainment with their production of The Pirates of Penzance.
Directed and choreographed by Ray Limon, with Joshua Carr as musical director and doubling on the keys, the entire production was first rate. The set design by Georg Hauschild never upstaged the multi-talented cast performing their swash-buckling antics and energetic dance numbers, and tucked the musicians neatly behind the set.
The plot is basically "recently-released-from-servitude pirate meets general's daughter and falls in love. Hilarious antics ensue."
We open on Frederic's 21st birthday, and Frederic (Matt E. Allen) is telling the Pirate King (Jim Hormel) he is leaving their merry band of pirates. It was a mistake he was there in the first place, his "nanny" Ruth (Robin Lavalley) had heard Frederic's dying father incorrectly, she was to apprentice him as a pilot on a ship. She heard pirate ship.
The pirates are a plucky, boisterous bunch, and the cast did not disappoint. Hormel's bawdy Pirate King sets the right tone for his kind-hearted band including Steve Morgan as Samuel, Robert Neil (who doubles as sergeant of police), Thomas Bedolla, Alex Compomizzi, Christian Fonte, Troy Garza and Billy Rodriguez also doubling as the police.
After leaving the pirates, Frederic meets up with Major General Stanley's (Randy Doney) eight daughters (Tori Alforque, Katie Lietz Bailey, Shealagh Burke, Wendy Creighton, Gia Rueda, Alessandra di Pierro, Ava Sarnowski, Julie Schwaben) and Frederic immediately falls for ninth daughter and beauty Mabel (Victoria Patton).
I don't think I have ever seen a large production where the "chorus" has such defined characters. Each daughter had a distinct personality, which made the production even more fun, and Schwaben in particular could make a career out of mugging. Another standout was Alforque's vocal chops, which were the finest of the maids until Patton begins to sing.
Patton's a fine actor, but her vocals are as rich and as creamy as butter. Her range is impressive, and just when you think she couldn't possibly sing a higher note, she hits it with ease.
Allen's pleasantly-voiced Frederic is sweet and naive, which is great for the first act, but I would have liked to have seen more character growth from him. After all, he has just plunged himself into a brand new circumstance. But otherwise Allen hits the right notes as the reluctant pirate and willing young lover.
Lavalley's Ruth is pure comedy, and Doney's Major General Stanley nails the show's famous and most parodied song,"I am the very model of a modern Major-General".
The musicians were top notch, and had the sound of a full orchestra but consisted merely of two sets of keys (Joshua Carr and Steven Smith), two violins (Cindy Brogan and Gail Cruz), a cello (Kathleen Smith), flute and piccolo (Jennifer Dean). There were also three pit singers (Patricia Cooper, Elizabeth Henry and Joanne Mulrooney Moser who was also the assistant to the director) enriching the musical numbers.
Costumes were well curated by designer Jenny Wentworth, with wigs by Cliff Senior, sound design by David Hobday, tech by Greg Habelow and lighting design by Danny Duran.
LimonCarr will be announcing their 2019/2020 season soon, but we do know their much lauded, hit production of A Big Band Christmas will be repeated this holiday season.
Keep up to date by visiting:
All photos by SHAWNA SARNOWSKI PHOTOGRAPHY 2019