Merry ‘Pirates’ a high-energy treasure
Ross Lehman celebrates his status as modern Major-General with the cast in "The Pirates of Penzance." | Photo courtesy of Peter Coombs and Marriott Theatre
‘The Pirates of Penzance’
Marriott Theatre, 10 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire
1 p.m. and 8 p.m. Wednesdays; 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays; 4:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturdays; and 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. Sundays, through June 10
Tickets: $41-$49, plus tax and handling fees. Discounts available for students and senior citizens. Dinner and theatre tickets, $55, are available Wednesday and Thursday evenings. Dinner is at Kings Wharf Restaurant or the Fairfield Inn (based on dining availability)
(847) 634-0200 or visit www.marriotttheatre.com
Updated: April 17, 2012 6:12PM
It’s not your high school Gilbert & Sullivan, nor like any other you’ve ever seen. Marriott Theatre’s production of “The Pirates of Penzance” is so full of laughs, songs, vigorous dances and glorious costumes that all past stagings, professional and amateur, pale by comparison.
Directed by Dominic Missimi, recently retired from Northwestern University’s theater department, the show starts with 10 pirates invading the stage in search of a glass of sherry.
Yes, sherry, not rum! So right away you know that these are no ordinary pirates and that becomes more and more obvious as the show goes on.
Matt Raftery’s athletic choreography suggests that when not looting ships at sea, this crew is working out below deck. They leap from nautical ladders, their Jack Sparrow-like Pirate King, Kevin Earley, swings in on a rope, and they jump and tear about Marriott’s square stage with unrivaled energy.
Like all G&S plots, this story is a satire, spoofing the Victorian notion of duty above all. Young Frederic has been apprenticed to pirates since he was a boy, but is to be released on his 21st birthday. His nurse, Ruth, is the only woman he has ever seen and though she is very much his senior, she harbors hope that he will marry her.
Before Frederic leaves the pirates, with whom he has bonded like brothers, Ruth confess that she was, years ago, told to apprentice him to a pilot, but she mistakenly heard pirate. So his presence among them was one big mistake, and, in fact, when he is released he becomes duty-bound to curtail their nefarious activities.
Frederic is played by Omar Lopez Cepero, who is a hero straight from central casting — sweet-faced, with a beautiful voice. Ruth is irrepressible, nine-time Jeff winner, Alene Robertson, whose unerring comic timing is integral to the hilarity of this raucous production.
Ruth and Frederic glide ashore from the ship aboard a small row-boat — on wheels. There they encounter six of the seven lovely daughters of the Major-General, who, in full bustle, carrying pastel parasols and enjoying the salubrious sea breezes. Frederic is charmed by their collective beauty.
Then the seventh daughter Mabel (Patricia Noonan) arrives. She and Frederic instantly fall in love and she graciously forgives him for his pirate past. In her song “Poor Wandering One,” Noonan exhibits a splendid soprano voice and hits all high notes and embellishments with aplomb.
Chicago’s own delightful Ross Lehman plays the Major-General. You might say he’s risen in rank, as he was Captain Andy in Lyric Opera’s highly-acclaimed production of “Show Boat,” last winter.
Lehman wears a red coat, a kilt, and carries a red parasol, his shoes covered by impeccably white puttees. He’s a lovable dandy, and delivers “Modern Major General” with the required high speed and agility.
Local G&S expert Kingsley Day has even added a verse with Chicago theatrical references universally cheered by the opening night crowd.
Lest the course of Mabel and Frederic’s love run too smooth, the pirates discover a loophole that will force the dutiful young man to do his duty and remain their apprentice for another 63 years. Mabel, of course, vows will be true to him until then.
And there’s plenty of confusion and comic mayhem as Frederic now finds himself on the wrong side of an attack he organized to put the pirates out of business.
The treble voices of the daughters, the basses on the pirate ship and in the constabulary, once again prove that the G&S music, with its charming melodies and clever lyrics, is absolutely timeless.
Trust me, you’ve never seen “Pirates” so wild and alive, as it merrily pokes fun at the Western world’s conventions of family, love and most of all duty.