“The Pirates of Penzance”



Pirates ***** It isn’t often, that Marriott Lincolnshire Theatre does a play that is not a mainstream musical, but their latest production, “The Pirates of Penzance” , a Gilbert & Sullivan Operetta shows that they can, indeed do anything musical on their small stage. Known for their traditional musical comedy productions, doing an operetta is off the beaten path for this , the largest of the regional theaters, but the rendition of this famed operetta is filled with talent, energy and enough talent to make your eyes roll.

This is the fifth of teh Gilbert and Sullivan collaborations. It is designed to be a comedy and as hard as it is to believe, premiered in New York in 1879 ( the first Gilbert and Sullivan to premiere out of England). This particular show is considered to be a musical treasure to those in the theater community and we are very fortunate that Marriott has chosen this piece as part of its season. Most regional theaters tend to go for the standards, but over the years, Marriott has shown its “guts” in taking on different productions and showing its large subscription base that there is more to musical theater than Lerner and Lowe. Rodgers and Hammerstein, Sondheim and what we call “musical theater”- there is OPERETTA ( and Gilbert and Sulliavn made this a specialty theatrical experience).

What is the story line to the “Pirates “- Frederick ( a charming performance by Omar Lopez- Cepero)  is mistakenly apprenticed to a band of pirates, instead of pilots , as the nanny dedicated to getting this done, Ruth ( a divine and comical performance by the always reliable Alene Robertson) had a hearing problem- pirates- pilots, pretty close, heh? On his 21st birthday, he would be allowed to leave the pirates and forge his own life, being released from his servitude. This is done in the very start of the play and he meets the beautiful Mabel ( the dynamic and beautiful Patricia Noonan) one of seven attractive daughters of the Modern Major General  ( a powerful performance by Ross Lehman- one that he was born to play). They fall in love, but must overcome the obstacles that G & S have set before them-

It turns out, Frederick was born in a leap year, on February 29th so in fact, he is not 21, but Five and a 1/4 years old, so he will ahve to serve the Pirates for 63 more years. Mabel agrees to wait, which shows her true love fir this young man. “Pirates” is an unusual offering at Marriott, but I am so glad they have veered off the path to try something different and expose their audiences to the cleverness of this dynamic duo of  W.S. Gilbert and Sir Arthur Sullivan, who knew the value of satire and comedy in musical story telling- they were great and their works still have value!

What makes this theatrical experience truly work is the talent that has been assembled to bring this story to life. Besides the very funny Lehman and the hysterical Robertson, we have Kevin Early as the Pirate King- he is simply wonderful and as the sisters,  Kelly Anne Clark, Natalie Ford, Christine Mild,  Susan Moniz ( always spectacular), Christine Perkins and Alexandra E. Palkovic- pure delights. The policemen, led by Andrew Lupp ( what a talent- what a dancer) Sam Rogers, Brandon Springman Roger Anderson, Brian Bohr,Carl Draper,Liam Quealy and Bernie Yvon- many of these men also play pirates and switch back and forth. I have always said that the ensemble is the icing on the cake when it comes to musical theater and these marvelous ensemble members prove my point- if the ensemble is not up to the standard set by the director, your show is so-so, but with a powerful and energetic ensemble as this production has, even the not so sure about Gilbert and Sullivan audience member will enjoy this production.

What makes an old show new and sparkling in a new type of production is the direction and choreography, handled to prefection by  Dominic Missimi ( director) and Matt Raftery(Choreography) who make a small , intimate stage feel as if it was a large Broadway production. What we have in this production is a limited space, minimal set ( although , I must say that Thomas M. Ryan is marvelous) and strong talent that makes this a true theatrical experience- one that will be remembered for years to come. Think about it- how many of you have ever seen a Gilbert and Sullivan Operetta ( more music than words)? Probably, very few- you deserve to experience one and if you are going to, who could ask for better than this?(you won’t find it).

As always, Marriott gives us great costumes ( Nancy Missimi), solid lighting ( Diane Ferry Willimas), the incredible Sally Weiss handling the props and some special puppets created by Meredith Miller, Ryan T. Nelson handles the musical direction and is able to make the band sound as if there was a full orchestra- bravo, Ryan. While Marriott is knows for its “traditional” musicals, I , for one, congratulate their executive staff of Terry James, Andy Hite and Aaron Thielen, for spreading their wings and fling out to another level of musical theater, the operetta. This allows their audience to expand its horizons and experience something that in most cases, they have never witnessed before. Thanks guys!

“The Pirates of Penzance” will continue at Marriott Theatre of Lincolnshire throug June 10th with perofrmances as follows:

Wednesday at 1 and 8 p.m., Thursdays and Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 4:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sundays at 1 and 5 p.m.

Tickets range from $41-$49 and are available at the box office located at The Marriott Resort in Lincolnshire ( 10 Marriott Drive-  jus south of Rte 22/Half Day Rd and Milwaukee Avenue ( rte 21) in Lincolnshire, by phone at 847-634-0200 or online atwww.tickemaster.com   You can also visit www.MarriottTheatre.com