I can describe this show in just three words: jolly good fun! This Gilbert & Sullivan romp has everything going for it - a fine cast of both experienced performers and students, a terrific setting, rollicking score, excellent costumes - all it needs now is packed houses six nights a week.
Gilbert & Sullivan were probably the Monty Python of their day, more than a century ago, merrily blending political and social barbs with Mack Sennett lunacy. Certainly "Pirates of Penzance" has a Keystone Kops flair to it - an inept band of pirates, a chorus of fresh-scrubbed, innocent young maidens, a hesitant posse of British constables, a case of mistaken apprenticeship, and the wonderfully dapper "model of a modern major-general."It's a mirthful, lighthearted tale, and Glen L. Slight has directed it with a light-as-a-feather touch, making good use of the intimate theater and a strong cast.
The leading performers were particularly outstanding - notably S. Frank Stringham as the Pirate King, Roger Summerhays as love-smitten Frederic, the hilarious Smith Nielsen (seen most recently in two Desert Star Playouse melodramas) as Major-General Stanley, operatically trained Carol Nelson as the lovely Mabel, and Darla Davis as the somewhat out-of-touch nurserymaid, Ruth.
(It's Ruth who causes young Frederic's problems early on - the very fact that he's been indentured to a band of bumbling pirates for the past 21 years is because she had misinterpreted the boy's instructions and had him be an apprentice to a pirate instead of a pilot.) Things get even more complicated, in a typically Gilbert & Sullivan far-fetched way, when - just as Frederic is primed to kiss his indenture goodbye - it's discovered that, because he was a "leap year" baby, born on Feb. 29, he is duty-bound to continue serving with the pirates for another 60 or so years, until 21 birthdays have been counted.
Naturally, by the time the second act comes to a close, there are happy endings all around.
There's a minimum of dialogue and a maximum of Gilbert & Sullivan tunes (nearly 30 of them), with tongue-twisting lyrics.
The pirates themselves - a motley crew whose track record is hardly worth writing home about - get things off to a rousing swashbuckling start with "Pour, O Pour the Pirate Sherry," exulting the excitement of their lives as hooligans on the high seas.
This sets the pace for the musical fun-and-games that follow - an evening of music and comedy in the best Gilbert & Sullivan tradition.
Stringham (whose flair for comedy is exhibited at every turn), Summerhays, Nelson, Nielsen and Davis all have strong, well-trained voices.
The masterful Clif A. Davis, aided by sons Chad and Chris, have created a setting that puts the audience smack-dab beside the rocky Cornwall coast.
Janice Pyper's pianoforte accompaniment, Alan la Fluer's choreography, Diane Allen's costumes and Duane Woodruff's lighting also add considerably to the production.
There were a few rough spots on opening night, but nothing more than the minor problems that usually correct themselves after two or three performances. Although Summerhays is an excellent soloist with a beautiful tenor voice, there were a couple of times when his dialogue wasn't entirely clear.
(And, while this doesn't really have any bearing on the plot or structure of the play, my wife and I did spend some of our intermission time trying to get the cast list on our printed program to jibe with the number of girls portraying the major-general's wards. When the young maidens first come traipsing out onto the seashore, there are six girls - but only five are listed on the program. After the show we discovered that Diane Lyon's named had been inadvertently omitted from the cast list - although she did get a short "bio" in the "About the cast . . ." pages.)