Pirates of Penzance 2014 review in Livermore Independent

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Triumphant “Pirates” Land in Livermore By Susan Steinberg “Hail, Hail, The Gang’s All Here:" a pack of poetical pirates, a bevy of beautiful maidens, a quivering corps of cops, and assorted eccentric characters. It’s the world-famous G & S operetta “The Pirates of Penzance," and in the capable hands of the Lamplighters Music Theatre, it’s a non-stop laugh-fest full of glorious singing. Best news of all, it’s coming to Livermore’s Bankhead Theater for performances on Saturday, August 23rd and Sunday, August 24th. The singers are also extraordinarily talented actors. A sold-out house resounded with bravos at their opening night in Walnut Creek’s Lesher Theater. Audiences were equally enthusiastic at Mountain View’s Performing Arts Center last week. Although I saw different lead singers at these two venues, I would be hard-pressed to declare a preference. In fact, I plan to see the show a third time in Livermore. (Yes, I’ll be buying my own ticket – it’s that delectable!) How lucky Valley residents are to have this internationally-awarded company here for three delightful performances, a chance to enjoy worldclass entertainment in our own local community! Both tenors playing Fredrick, the sappy “Slave of Duty” (the show’s subtitle) exhibit boyish charm and sincerity, as well as suitable soaring voices for the beautiful vocal lines,

Samuel Faustine as Frederic (double cast with Robert Vann), Chris Uzelac as Samuel, Charles Martin as the Pirate King (double cast with Ben Brady) and Deborah Rosengaus as Ruth (double cast with Sonia Garieaeff), The Pirates of Penzance. Photo - Rhys Cheung, 2014. well worth the hours of driving to out-of-town venues! Apprenticed (by mistake) to a pirate crew as a young boy, he has become a comically admirable “slave of duty” to them, despite despising their vocation. Freed from his contract at age 21, he vows to capture them only to discover that, as a leap year baby, going by birthdays, he is only “5 and a little bit over.” Ah, the perplexity of being a truly conscientious soul to the point of sheer idiocy! Poor Fredrick now feels sadly duty-bound to

return to piracy and join the assault on the castle of his beloved fiancee’s father. That befuddled personage, gloriously sung and acted by the wonderful Lawrence Ewing, shows off his erudition in the pompous patter-song “I Am The Very Model of a Modern Major-General” in which he describes his knowledge of arcane facts of history, art, and mathematics while admitting that he is totally innocent of any military education. That statement has tickled audiences from Victorian Times right up to our own

day: the man in charge (of FEMA, for example) who has no qualifications for the job. His giggling gaggle of daughters (all Wards of Chancery) are the pirates’ prospective brides, a distressing prospect for a proper person of rank. But how can he possibly thwart their plans? Adding to the high hilarity is a dashing, not-too-dastardly Pirate Captain (on opening night a gallantly aristocratic Charles Martin, whose rubber-faced mugging had the audience roaring with laughter).

Ruth, Frederick’s old nursery maid, responsible for his erroneous indenture, provided great comic relief as well, her expressions a perfect foil for every stage action. And action there was a-plenty, especially when a timid police force tried to summon up enough courage to face and fight the dreaded pirates. Their cockney Sergeant, an adorably-addled and timid minion of the law, endeared himself with the rueful solo, “A Policeman’s Lot is Not a Happy One," echoed by his quaking chorus of cops, individually and collectively riotous.

Their Keystone Kops choreography brought down the house at every performance. Soaring over the company’s ensembles, heroine Mable’s gorgeous soprano negotiated virtually coloratura passages of great musical beauty while flirting outrageously to captivate the innocent young Frederick. Poor boy, he’s been at sea all his life, with no other female but Ruth, so just imagine his wide-eyed susceptibility to the coquettish charms of this sparkling and teasing beauty. Their instant mutual attraction and ensuing attempts to “get better acquainted” shock and scandalize all of Mable’s adorable sisters, but also fascinate them enough to eavesdrop dreamily on the happy couple. The results are predictably hilarious. A full professional orchestra led by famous Music Director Baker Peeples, started the show off with a rousing overture, including the famous “Hail, Hail, the Gang’s All Here," and maintained the merry pace with unflagging enthusiasm. Meltingly romantic melodies prepared the audience for the irresistibly touching scenes to follow. It’s a rare combination, and was handled superbly. Huge romantic sets and lavish costumes added to the impressive production, brilliantly directed by Jane Erwin (continued on page 5)