Gilbert and Sullivan's most popular comedy translates well to community theatre and lends itself to a broad range of ability. The humor can be subtle or broad, the sets lavish or sparse and the singing operatic or belted out (though the former is certainly more accepted).
This Hale Centre Theatre production used both styles of singing with Melissa Brinkerhoff sounding like Beverly Sills as Mabel and Dan Morgan doing Frederic like Donny Osmond in "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat."Morgan's voice seemed to match the overall feel of the play that was "operetta for the modern masses."
Not only did the folks at HCT cut some of the wittier lines such as Major General Stanley's bit about his "ancestors by purchase," but they felt the need to explain a few of the jokes. The most blatant example of this was trying to explain the definition of "sat a-gee" by having the ensemble echo "sat on a horse." They also changed the Pirate Helmsman's line "we know what 'tis" to "we know what it's like."
That's not to say the production wasn't enjoyable. The energy was high, and there were lots of laughs.
Mary Parker Williams was a delightfully dowdy Ruth and had the audience in stitches every time she walked on the stage. Williams played especially well off David Kirk, who brought manic energy and rapid-fire diction to the role of the Pirate King.
Kelly Dehann was an adorable Major General, and his overall bearing added much to the play's slapstick feel. He sang the famous introduction number with appropriate arrogance and pomp.
David Stensrud was a natural Police Captain. His songs - "Taran-tura" and "A Policeman's Lot" - were showstoppers as much for his voice and character as the clever staging of the policemen gang.
Perhaps the most enjoyable aspect of the production was the inventive staging. Marilyn Montgomery, who directed and choreographed, made excellent use of the tiny theatre-in-the-round stage, and her cartoon-style choreography gave the show life. A lot of the group numbers featured synchronized bouncing and swaying, which the cast performed beautifully. The poses, tableaux and Rockette-style kicks were expertly timed.
This is the final production in HCT's South Salt Lake venue. The new Hale Centre Theatre at 3333 S. Decker Lake Drive in West Valley City is scheduled to open Oct. 1. Because no more productions are scheduled in the older space, "The Pirates of Penzance" will be extended. The extension (details will be announced) will include two benefit performances to raise funds for a local burn victim and a young boy with severe dystonia.