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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, November 4, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 44
Updated music brings Pirates of Penzance into 2011
Arts & Entertainment
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Updated music brings Pirates of Penzance into 2011

by Miryam Gordon - SGN A&E Writer

Pirates of Penzance
Freehold Theatre
Through November 19


Making operettas from Gilbert and Sullivan relevant to a new generation is a laudable effort, and director Brendan Mack's little band of players (STAGEright) takes a dive into parodying G&S's classic Pirates of Penzance with some diabolically clever cultural updates. However, they often skirt the edge of the 'aren't we clever,' wink at the audience, and dive off.

If they had walked that scary edge with a bit more assurance, their madcap zaniness would have been sublime. It's certainly fun, but ends up feeling more like 'Let's put on a play in a garage!' than it needs to be.

Thank goodness for lead actor Jordan Melin as Frederic, a young man who tries to leave indentured piracy on his 21st birthday. Melin not only knows where the aforementioned edge is and stays on it, but he's also a darn good singer! Also generally hitting her notes well (in a difficult singing role) is Arwen Dewey as his love interest. Ashley Coates also sings well as Ruth, the hard-of-hearing nurse who wants to marry Frederic.

Not everyone can sing in the uneven cast, but many in the ensemble make up for it with verve and silliness. Colton (Cozy) Josephsen, Sophia Federighi, Tracy Lewis, Britt Boyd, Evan Thomas, Katherine Kuntz, and Ben Cournoyer play multiple roles, cross-dress, and zip from costume change to costume change, along with music director Paul Linnes doubling as the (modern) Major General.

Mack ingeniously entwines Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, and other contemporary musical icons into choreography and music mixes. Wait for the intermission music, including the theme song to The Andy Griffith Show seamlessly mixed with current pop!

The program helpfully details the entire plot of the improbable operetta, describing how Frederic got indentured to pirates (his nurse misheard the command to indenture him to a ship's pilot) and how his sense of duty convinces him he has to return to the pirates rather than kill them. All the music is there if you know it. Songs include 'Poor Wand'ring One' and 'Modern Major General,' which have seeped into wide cultural awareness.

An aspect of additional fun and flavor is the pre-show. Before the cast take on specific G&S characters, they entertain with some current melodies and campy, enthusiastic jokiness setting the tone for the rest of the event.

Linnes is a real prize since he accompanies them only on piano and has an extensive resume of music direction for companies around town. He's a wonderful musician. He gets a little frenetic, though, when he has to dive in as a character, losing some of his musical gravitas in the process.

Overall, the lightheartedness and the wicked sense of humor win out, and most of the general sloppiness is forgivable. With the help of the synopsis, no one should be confused about the plot. You might want to bring a pillow, though - those folding chairs are not charitable to the backside.

For more information, go to www.seattlestageright.org or www.brownpapertickets.com/event/200752, or call 800-838-3006.

Discuss your opinions with sgncritic@gmail.com.

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