Center Stage with Pat Launer on KSDS JAZZ88
AIRDATE: MARCH 19, 2010
Ahoy, Mateys ! Arrrrr ya ready for a little piracy? Well, climb on-board. These aren’t the Pirates of the Caribbean – they’re the Pirates of Penzance, which is to say, the pirates of the great Gilbert and Sullivan. The brilliant operetta collaborators were always taking satirical stabs at something or other in their veddy proper English society – from buccaneers to soldiers to cops, even Queen Victoria herself. Risky business in 1879. Ever since its Broadway revival 101 years later, the show’s been played broader and slapshtickier , with ever-increasing sword-wielding and swashbuckling — which is, thanks to Johnny Depp , exactly what we expect of our swaggering — or singing — pirates these days.
And so it is at the Welk Resorts Theatre, where there’s as much butt-wiggling as weapon-waving, and more pelvic thrusts than “The Rocky Horror Show.” Well, you can’t be expected to play this story straight. Due to a mis -perception, young Frederic is mistakenly apprenticed to a pirate, instead of a pilot, indentured until age 21. Now he’s come of age, and he’s anxious to see the world – and other women besides his 47 year-old nurse, the one who made the heinous hearing error in the first place. He’s ready to leave the band of soft-hearted brigands behind. First day out, he falls in love with Mabel, one of eight daughters of a Modern Major General. In this pared-down version, though, there are only six daughters. And only three policemen, who double as pirates. The orchestration and instrumentation are minimal, too, but the antics are staged to the max – with one exception.
The Policemen, who look aptly like Keystone Kops, aren’t as ridiculously inept and bumbling as they should be, though they dance impressively. Their number should be a side-splitting show-stopper. Here, it’s the only comic element that isn’t over the top. In general, as the plot gets sillier, so do the shenanigans. The Pirate King convinces Frederic that, since he was born on leap year, Feb. 29, he’s actually only 5½ years old, which means he owes the pirates 63 more years of duty. Miraculously – as often happens in comic opera, the whimsical precursor of musical comedy – everything turns out right in the end, all the guys get their gals, and Frederic is free.
The principals in this production are first-rate. Randall Dodge , who won a Patté Award for his outrageous performance at Moonlight Stage in 2005, returns as a delightfully hammy Pirate King. And handsome Richard Bermudez is back as ingenuous young Frederic. Both are in excellent voice, as is Karenssa LeGear as flirtatious Mabel. Bart Williams is great fun as the bombastic Major General.
Director/choreographer Ray Limon keeps it all lively, flashy and campy, which works fine for 19th century comic operas — and 21st century pirates.
“Ring Round the Moon” runs through May 2 at the Welk Resorts Theatre in Escondido .
©2010 PAT LAUNER