"PIRATES OF PENZANCE," through Aug. 9, Ellen Eccles Theatre, 43 S. Main, Logan (435-750-0300 or utahfestival.org); running time: 2 hours, 20 minutes (one intermission)
LOGAN — Providing a nice contrast to the melancholy tones of Utah Festival Opera and Musical Theatre's "Madama Butterfly" and "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" is W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan's silly, comic opera "The Pirates of Penzance."
“Pirates” is the playful operetta that makes fun of, well, opera, among other things. This production has “Pirates” overblown, as it should be, with exaggerated jokes, actions and burlesque-like characterizations.
Leading the lively cast is Edward Brennan as Frederic, who thought his pirate apprenticeship was over, only to find he was born on Leap Day, meaning decades more of servitude. What's more is he doesn't even want to be a pirate and, instead, wants to marry the beautiful Mabel. Brennan has a rich, full baritone and gave all his solos a grand sendoff, almost more than the scene or plot deserves. He was very easy to like and his voice is noteworthy.
Adding to the fun is Curt Olds, having obvious fun as Major General Stanley, father of eight or nine or 10 girls, one of which wants to marry Frederic.
Early highlights include the women’s ensemble. All of the women’s chorus numbers were strong. The introduction of Mabel, the sought-after daughter, is particularly fun. As Mabel, Olivia Yokers nails her high arias and is given plenty of opportunity to shine or falter, but never does the latter.
The male chorus is also solid — usually as the band of pirates — with the strong tones of Ezekiel Andrew, as Pirate King, soaring on top of the others. Duets between Brennan and Andrew were worth the price of piracy.
Costuming is, well, over the top, with some scenes looking like petticoats and pastels on steroids. The consistent Gilbert and Sullivan melodies are perfectly performed by the orchestra, with the underlying felling of lampooning ever present, and the actors even have fun with the conductor at times, much to the audience’s delight.
All in all, this production was an ideal way to show off operatic voices and characterizations by making fun of opera.
Content advisory: "Pirates of Penzance" does not contain any objectionable language, violence or sexuality.
Jay Wamsley has been an observer of theater and the arts in Cache Valley for more than two decades.
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