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Mostly smooth sailing for 'Pirates of Penzance'

Cast tries hard, but some fare better than others

PIRATES OF PENZANCE,Hale Center Theater Orem, through April 7 (801-226-8600). Running time: one hour, 45 minutes (one intermission)

OREM — Wooden legs, eye patches, swords and beautiful maidens help Hale Center Theater's production of "Pirates of Penzance," but as one song in the show states: "What ought we to do?"

Simply stated, this is an OK production, but it's not quite the caliber you generally get at Hale Center. The cast members play off each other well, the costuming and staging are nice, but everything seems to be off just a bit. There are highlights, and it is because of those that "Pirates" is worth seeing.

This Gilbert & Sullivan comic operetta tells the story of a young apprentice pirate, Frederic, who reaches his 21st birthday believing he is to be discharged from his duty. When he is left ashore with his nanny, he is immediately surrounded by a gaggle of girls who take interest in his pirate potential and the fun begins.

His former fellow crew members, and their boss the Pirate King, change their minds about letting Frederic go, and they plot to abduct both him and the girls. It seems Frederic is still apprenticed, because he was born in a leap year. Enter the ladies' father, Major-General Stanley, and his officers, which makes the party all the more fun.

Noted cast members include Ryan Simmons, the Sergeant of Police. His antics and body gyrations keep the audience in stitches. Luckily his performances are nightly (most roles are double-cast).

This review reflects the Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday cast, which includes Christy Rae Turnbow (Mabel), who is by far the musical standout. Her lyrical voice is the only one in the cast that seems to meet the operatic test. When you're expecting operetta and you get Broadway show tunes-style, it's a disappointment; most often the two just don't mix. Rob Moffat (the Pirate King) and Thomas Every (Frederic) get pretty close vocally, but while most of the cast has great singing voices, they are not at a Gilbert & Sullivan level.

What was most disappointing was Mike Gray's vocal renditions as Major-General Stanley. While he looks terrific and his spoken words are fine, he is breathy and can't quite keep up with the vocal requirements.

Combined, the cast sounds wonderful in the vocals. But alone, the treasure chest most often sinks in the sand.

This is an all right production and should be given a chance. Perhaps with the double cast it may prove better on Monday/Wednesday/Friday.