The operettas of Gilbert and Sullivan are ordinarily left to specialists, mostly light-opera groups who work their way through the repertoire over a period of years. While the benefits of such an “experts-only” approach are apparent, it tends to inhibit experimentation and limit audience appeal to the already converted. With this new version of The Pirates of Penzance, Westmont’s John Blondell and his marvelous cast and production team have shed nearly all the weight of precedent and created something as light, bright, and pleasing as one of the many helium-filled balloons that float across the stage in Danila Korogodsky’s brilliant scenography.
Mak Manson would appear to have been waiting all his performing life to play Richard, the Pirate King, and he does so with gusto and wit. As Frederic, the pirate’s apprentice, Ben Offringa brings the right touch of absurdity to his character’s dutiful responses to some truly outrageous reversals of fortune. In the crucial role of Mabel, Megan Silberstein is radiant, singing the bravura passages in a rich, clear soprano while never losing the thread of her character’s place in the plot. Paige Tautz makes a great and forceful Ruth, and Connor James Bush gets some of the night’s biggest laughs as Major General Stanley.
The show’s single biggest triumph, however, has to be the wonderfully complex yet always entertaining and graceful choreography contributed by Victoria Finlayson. It’s consistently inventive, and the large cast has a ball with it, alternately prancing, marching, prowling, and parading around the theater until the audience is whipped into a properly Victorian frenzy. As the finale has it, “with all their faults, they love their Queen.”