The Pirates of Penzance 2015

Pirates and Cops go Over the Top

We are forewarned that The Pirates of Penzance is going to be a bit crazy when the Little Mermaid (straight from last year’s Christmas show in Cambridge) shows up on stage before the pirates’ ship comes into view.  The Pirates of Penzance has been revived by Drayton Entertainment, and is now on stage at the St. Jacobs Country Playhouse.  This show was presented 25 years ago, in Drayton Entertainment’s inaugural season – when Artistic Director Alex Mustakas took on the role of the Pirate King.  So all these years later he’s in the role again and directing this production.  (Also, a shout-out to Christopher Wilson who has been in both productions!)

The Pirates of Penzance was first staged in 1879, a popular operetta by the well-known team: music by Arthur Sullivan and libretto by W. S. Gilbert.  There are pirates who are not very fierce, some lovely young ladies, and a police force of frightened British Bobbies in this zany romp. Pirates of Penzance 2015 3

As if that’s not enough, many musical theatre and movie references have been added to this production, some whipping by so quickly they are barely noticeable.  First there is the signature West Side Story finger-snapping dance, which morphs into the chicken dance.  Then the steps are mounted to the tune of Rocky and the pirate ship becomes the Titanic, where the Pirate King is promoted to King of the World.  Our reluctant hero, Frederic has some Elvis moves and then we get the famous Fiddler on the Roof dance.

In act two, it all goes completely crazy in a  Keystone cops scene where we are treated to snapshots of Drayton Entertainment’s hit characters dashing across the stage.  The references are no longer veiled; they go right over the top.  The cops dance to A Chorus Line, and then there’s the Les Mis march while the Jolly Roger flies overhead. Next the audience scratches their collective heads as Mary Poppins in her red coat and two chimney sweeps appear, followed by Dorothy and the Lion, all the way from Oz.

The ensemble crosses the stage competing in the egg and spoon race, a la Anne of Green Gables, then Mother Superior sings Climb Every Mountain.  Snow White passes through, while the guys from Chicago lift Roxie Hart over their heads, just before the three little maidens from another G&S, The Mikado, appear. And just when you think it is enough, the alligator from Peter Pan shows up.

Soprano Suzanne Rigden excels as Mabel.  Her rich operatic voice fills the theatre.  As her suitor Frederic, Jamie McKnight is excellent with his signature dead-pan humour and his smooth tenor voice.  Eddie Glen, always a comedic favourite, is hilarious as the police sergeant. Rebecca Poff is outstanding as the homely Ruth and Alex Mustakas is obviously having fun as the Pirate King.

As director, Mustakas has taken advantage of the madcap humour in The Pirates of Penzance, embedding his hit shows to create a sense of belonging among his regular patrons.  We are all in on his joke because we recognize these characters. It’s fun, but it’s really a very gratuitous promotion for Drayton Entertainment.  Is it fair to do this to Gilbert & Sullivan?  Some of the cleverness of the G&S dialogue and lyrics is lost in the silliness of this tribute to musical theatre.  Certainly, Gilbert & Sullivan’s satiric message of pirating intellectual property is not evident in this production.  But judging by the laughter on opening night, the audience was eating it up.  And if you love just plain silly stuff and you want a laugh, get your tickets to Pirates of Penzance and enjoy!

The Pirates of Penzance continues with eight shows a week until October 20 at St. Jacobs Country Playhouse. Tickets are available by calling the Box Office Toll Free 1-855-372-9866, or check http://www.draytonentertainment.com/

Photo: Alex Mustakas, Jamie McKnight and Rebecca Poff in The Pirates of Penzance at St. Jacobs Country Playhouse.  Photo by Drayton Entertainment.

The Pirates of Penzance
By W.S. Gilbert & Arthur Sullivan
Directed by Alex Mustakas
Choreographer and Assistant Director David Connolly
Musical Director Steve Thomas
Performed by Suzanne Rigden, Jamie McKnight, Alex Mustakas, Rebecca Poff, Eddie Glen, et al.
Produced by Drayton Entertainment
St. Jacobs Country Playhouse
Oct. 7 to 25, 2015
Reviewed by Mary Alderson

 

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