Romp: n. A high-spirited, carefree and boisterous play.
That pretty much sums up creator/director Jim Christian's "Pirated," now running at Rodgers Memorial Theatre.
Set in 1933 Hollywood, silent pictures are on their way out and "talkies" are the new trend. Not wanting the extra cost of hiring actors who can sing, and vice versa, owner and director Roger Marshall, mounting a production of "The Pirates of Penzance," opts to have his silent stars mouth the words sung by a cast of less-than-attractive vocalists. This is when, as they say, high jinks ensue.
Leading the disgruntled vocalists to get out from under their anonymity is Daniel, played on Saturday night by Cameron Garner (double-cast with JD Madsen). Garner was wonderful. Not only was he very funny, his tenor voice easily sang through the Gilbert and Sullivan score. Constance, his love interest and daughter of Marshall, was played by Melissa Cecala (Lindsay Hickman, double-cast) who handled the lyrical soprano with ease, and the two were darling together.
There were plenty of other standouts. Daniel Fredrickson's low, mellow voice was gorgeous as the Pirate King (Craig Williams, double-cast), and Maurie Tarbox had just the right amount of sass as the reporter who is on scene trying to get the dirt (Chris Brown, double-cast). Throw into the mix a handful of adorably charming cops (who can really sing and dance!) and you're in for a very fun night.
Perhaps I caught Dave Hill (David Marsden, double-cast) on a bad night. But his Roger Marshall frequently seemed a little unsure of what he was going to say next, leaving his fellow actors staring blankly at him.
Here's the thing with "Pirated!" and here's the problem with Rodgers: The scope of "Pirated!" calls for a space larger than the tiny Rodgers Memorial Theatre. There is so much going on in this musical. With a cast of approximately 30, frequently on stage at the same time, many prop pieces, action at the front of the stage and in the background, action on the sides of the stage it's a lot to take in. There were moments that some portions of the house couldn't see the jokes unfolding. Though the cast did a commendable job, Rodgers' intimate space is a little too small to do the show full justice. When you buy your tickets, try to sit in the back in the center.
The only other downside to an otherwise enjoyable production was the sound, which was a bit overwhelming. Gilbert and Sullivan's "Pirates of Penzance," which is the score for "Pirated!" is opera which traditionally doesn't need amplification, especially in a such an intimate space. With 30 wonderful singers on stage, all singing their hearts out, plus microphones, it got to be too much. Perhaps it would be better to use microphones on the solo lines and, during the group numbers, let the singers handle it. Or perhaps the soundtrack was up to loud. Either way, it felt like overload from where I sat.
Bravo to Steven Barlow whose wonderful music direction almost made Gilbert and Sullivan sound easy to sing; Melonie Mortensen's costumes from the 1930s to the pirate garb were very well done, as was Lester B. Lee's set.
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