Pirates of Penzance May 5, 2007
By Glen Creason
Talk about authoritative! The one hundred and seventeen year old comic opera of “Pirates of Penzance” hit the boards of the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts over the weekend and was perfectly performed by the one hundred and thirty-six year old Carl Rosa Opera Company. The hugely professional and accomplished troupe right directly from Merry Olde England showed respect and affection for the classic, taking it to the top of its form. Gilbert and Sullivan’s delightful piratical romp literally sparkled from the polish administered by such a talented ensemble. The Carl Rosa actors and actresses are veteran performers who understand the craft and use it to really make the old jewel fairly twinkle in dialogue, song, costume and sets. If you love the works of the godfather’s of the musical then this one would be your steak and kidney pie.
The plot, like something from a late-night triple-meat-pizza nightmare totters back and forth between the beach filled with not so scary pirates to the grounds of the estate of Major General Stanley and his many, many daughters. The key characters are young Frederick who has been apprenticed to these mild pirates due to the hearing difficulties of his governess (his father wanted to apprentice him to a Pilot!), Mabel the sweet young daughter who is Fred’s intended, Major General Stanley and the King of Pirates. The plot may seem convoluted but you never have a chance to ponder such due to the brisk pace and wonderful music that some in wave after wave. This production profits from the fine work of these principals. Kevin Kyle as Frederick has the voice and acting skills to get the most out of the honorable and steadfast young idealist. Charlotte Page as the pretty Mabel had probably the finest voice on stage as evidenced in “Poor Wandering One” and added a lot even the ensemble musical numbers like “Oh Dry the Glistening Tear.” Barry Clark was truly outstanding both with his strong baritone and physical comedy gifts while singing the trademark “I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major General” Clark was impeccable in song and held the proceedings together without reverting to buffoonery that might weaken the overall show. The costumes and sets should be mentioned, as they were top-drawer throughout. From the distressed but colorful pirate getups to the elegant wedding attire in the finale the stage was always an interesting and colorful feast for the eyes. There was quality throughout and the experience of principals showed in the fine work of Bruce Graham as the Pirate King, Rosemary Ashe as governess Ruth and Anthony Raffell as the Sergeant of Police. Overall, the evening enchanted without being silly, got plenty of laughs from it’s century old jokes and left many an audience member whistling “I am the Very Model of a Modern Major General” delightedly as they strolled to their cars. The Carl Rosa Company takes Gilbert and Sullivan seriously and in turn gives the audience great music and plenty of fun.