Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Pirates of Penzance” is Rollicking Tale in Loveland

Pirates LogoLoveland Opera Theatre Provides Pure Fun on the Rialto Stage

Reviewed by Tom Jones
February 27, 2016

Daffy cops are in full chase as down-on-their-luck pirates try to woo a herd of the Major General’s daughters. Gilbert and Sullivan provided several delightful comic operettas, with “Pirates of Penzance” probably being the most entertaining, and containing wondrous melodies.

Setting is the coast of southern England where want-to-be-macho pirates have put ashore and are excited to find a group of sprightly young maidens frolicking on the beach. The young maids frolic. The pirates rollick. And everyone has a grand time! Except perhaps the Major General whose daughters and wards are smitten by the pirate band. The band is down on its luck, not realizing the reason they haven’t found pirating to be successful. This group of pirates will not harm anyone who claims to be an orphan. Word is out, and now all ships seem to be manned solely by orphans.

Photo Credit Darlene St. John Photography
Photo Credit Darlene St. John Photography

One of the pirates is young Frederic, portrayed with great charm by Christian Mark Gibbs. Gibbs was a highlight of Midtown Arts Center’s “Merry and Bright” this past Holiday Season. He has a wonderful voice, and is convincing as the pirate about to celebrate his 21st birthday. He has been indentured to the pirates for many years, having been under the care of the kindly Ruth. He does not conceal his plans for the future. He tells the Pirate King that while he loves his pirate friends, he loathes what they do, and vows to spend the rest of his life putting pirates to death.

Joel Sutliff is great fun as the somewhat dim-witted Pirate King. Nothing dim-witted about his powerful voice, as he announces “Better Live than Die” early in the show. Robert Hoch is zany as the Sargeant of Police whose daffy officers can’t put their military training into action.

Photo Credit Darlene St. John Photography
Photo Credit Darlene St. John Photography

The Pirate King and the Sargeant of Police don’t appear to have a combined IQ of 30 and are pitted together against the over-the-top Major General, played by Adam Ewing. Ewing has a booming baritone voice, and he struts around the stage as if he is truly in command. His “I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General” is the personification of musical comedy madness.

The soon-to-be-free Frederic is smitten by the Major General’s daughter, Mabel, played by Phoenix Gayles. At first glance Gayles does not appear to be a dainty damsel-in-distress looking for a husband. By the time she concluded her heart-felt anthem, “Poor Wandering One,” however, she had the audience in the palm of her hand. A person sitting in the audience behind me noted in awe, “Where did that voice come from?”

Frederic’s care-giver Ruth, however, is dismayed Frederic is about to abandon her. Kristyn Christman-McCarty is very good as Ruth, a woman growing older, and not wanting Frederic to leave.

Photo Credit Darlene St. John Photography
Photo Credit Darlene St. John Photography

Ruth and the Pirate King realize that while Frederic is about to enjoy his birthday, his contracted indenture is in effect until his 21st birthday! Luck would have it that he was born on February 29, having celebrated only five actual birthdays!

These super-silly goings on are a sight to hear and see. The production is directed by Timothy Kennedy, who is an absolute master! He helps the cast to articulate their crazy lines and keeps everything moving at break-neck speed. Except for the very beginning. Most musical productions have an overture before the show itself actually begins. For this production, the excellent orchestra begins the overture with the stage curtains opening to see the pirates landing on shore. Nothing is sung or spoken while the overture continues. As excellent as the overture is, it does not help to have the audience waiting so long for someone to speak or sing. The result is an off-putting start to what turns out to be a dazzling delight of a show.!

Photo Credit Darlene St. John Photography
Photo Credit Darlene St. John Photography

The set is effective, lighting very good, costumes are colorful. The whole show looks great. The cast is very, very large with a hard-to-believe ensemble of trained voices hitting every right note!

Once the show begins, there is non-stop enjoyment as the pirates, the damsels, the police, and everyone else involved appears to have the time of their lives, for the benefit of a greatly-appreciative audience. The “pure” pirates perform to perfection – and so does the rest of the cast!

March First and Second, 1,100 Second Graders from the Thompson School District will be bused to the Rialto for a shortened version, “Pirates for Kids.” Juliana Bishop Hoch, Producer and Artistic Director for the Loveland Opera Theatre notes that this event is a “dream come true” for her, as the project has been in the making for eight years. Grants have been received to make the show a reality for the school district students.

“Pirates of Penzance”
February 6 to March 6, 2016
Loveland Opera Theatre on the stage of the Rialto Theater in Loveland
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