“THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE,” through Sept. 1, CenterPoint Legacy Theatre, 525 N. 400 West, Centerville, (801-298-1302, centerpointetheatre.org); running time: 2 hours (one intermission)
Editor's note: This is part of a new Deseret News series highlighting Utah's community theater programs.
CENTERVILLE — A rollicking band of pirates has swashbuckled onto the stage at CenterPoint Legacy Theatre in “The Pirates of Penzance.”
The classic Gilbert and Sullivan comic opera first debuted in New York in 1879. Sullivan, in a letter to his mother before the musical debuted, noted, “I think it will be a great success, for it is exquisitely funny, and the music is strikingly tuneful and catching,” documented Gilbert and Sullivan historian Arthur Jacobs.
The comic opera was an immediate hit and has proven one of the most enduring offerings in musical theater. All that is to say, even if you think you’re not familiar with “Pirates,” you are — the music and storyline have been widely parodied and imitated since its debut.
It’s about Frederic, a pirate apprentice who, on his 21st birthday, has completed his years of service to the band of sensitive pirates. His first taste of freedom brings him face to face with a bevy of beauties — unwed daughters of the Major-General. It likely goes without saying that there is love in the midst, misunderstandings, timid police officers and yes, rowdy pirates to punch up the story.
“Pirates” is a much beloved offering, and the CenterPoint production makes it easy to see why: It’s fun, it’s funny and the music is terribly sing-able (yes, you’ll be humming it for days).
Director/choreographer Liz Christensen has assembled a talented cast, showcasing impressive voices and a fine ability for handling the comedy. It first should be noted, however, that the pre-show announcements are among the most-clever — a true mood-setter. The playbill doesn't note who is responsible, but it is very well done. Also, the production's use of supertitles, both comedically and otherwise, is used to great effect.
Saturday night’s show featured Jake Omer as the Pirate King, Alan Smith as Frederic and Jason Wadsworth as the Major-General. All men do a great job, and Smith’s vocals and Wadsworth’s characterization (and his ability to recite all the words to “I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major General”) are commendable.
The ladies really stand out vocally, under the musical direction of Anthony T. Buck. Sarah Jane Watts is lovely as Mable; her beautiful, lyric-soprano voice bounces through the G&S score with ease. Ditto that for ShaRee Larsen as Edith, the sassy head sister.
The colorful costumes (Jeana Forthman, Nita Smith), wigs (Hope Bird) and lighting (Seth Miller) help set the whimsical scene. And Bryan Christensen’s set design is playful and fun.
Liz Christensen’s choreography kicks off great then begins to look the same throughout the musical. A greater variety of movement or dance styles would be nice to emphasize the different scenes and characters. Also, the police officer numbers, “When the Foeman Bares His Steel” and “When a Felon’s Not Engaged in his Employment” are typically rousing show-stoppers. Christensen staged these more sparsely which, if you’re a fan of these big splashy numbers, might leave you disappointed, though the officers do a fine job delivering the songs.
All in all, the CenterPoint production of “Pirates” is a great night out — it’s lively, it clips along and it’s a whole lot of fun. Other than the theater choosing to sell concessions wrapped in cellophane wrappers (terrible noise offenders), the evening is delightful.
Content advisory: “The Pirates of Penzance” contains flirtatious dancing and references to alcohol.