April 25-28, NVU Johnson’s theatre department put on the comic opera “Pirates of Penzance,” directed by Erik Kroncke, a vocal teacher here at NVU-Johnson. I went to the first performance on Thursday, April 25 and thoroughly enjoyed myself.
The play takes place in Penzance, which is a town in Cornwall, England, in 1877. It was written by Arthur Sullivan and W. S. Gilbert, and first premiered in New York in 1879. The first act is staged on a beach, where the pirates are first introduced. Frederic (Caleb Eugley), has been a pirate through indentured servitude since he was eight years old. The bargain was that he serve the Pirate King (Kyle Palmer) until his 21st birthday, and then he can leave. The story of his servitude is told by Ruth (Katelyn Shaw), who was Frederic’s nursemaid at the time, but is now the ship’s maid of all work.
The pirates themselves are quite silly and not very good at piracy. They are all orphans themselves, and swore never to have conflict with other orphans. This backfires however, because every ship they attack or villiage they raid, everyone claims that they are orphans and go free.
The first scene shows Frederik being released, finally being 21 years old. Shortly after leaving, he sees a gaggle of young women, the daughters of the Major General (Sam Lewis). He approaches the sisters, then finds himself falling in love with Mabel (Mak Vaillancourt).
Through a series of comical circumstances, and with the “help” of a pretty incompetent band of police (Sergeant of Police Timothy Pinckney, Athena Ambramowitz, James Stowell and David Constantine) the second act wraps up in an silly turn of events.
I was blown away by the talent on stage. The play itself was witty and fun, and every character was portrayed gorgeously. One of my favorite parts was when the Pirate King has his big number and dances around with moves like a mix between Jack Sparrow and Captain Hook. “It is, it is a glorious thing to be a pirate king!” One might also say, “It is, it is a glorious thing to watch Palmer dance and sing!”
Caleb Eugley, a second year NVU-Johnson student majoring in Theater and Drama, did a phenomenal job as Frederic. He had all the accuracy and precision of an experienced actor and fit the role marvelously.
Mak Vaillancourt’s ethereal soprano solos as Mabel were executed magnificently and left the audience awe-struck. Her first scene, “Oh, is there not one maiden breast?” was jaw- droppingly skilled and very funny, definitely another highlight of the show.
Katelyn Shaw, a sophomore majoring in Musical Theater as well as Theater and Drama, blew the role of Ruth out of the water. With her sense of humor and personality, it was clear to the audience that she had a lot of fun with the role and was very entertaining to watch.
The cast had such chemistry on stage that each interaction seemed natural and fun. The cohesion between each scene was seamless and beautiful. Even the transition into the second act was well done, despite the cast shuffling happening with several of the minor parts. Three of the lesser pirates, as well as one of the sisters switched into roles as police men. One of the sisters became a pirate, with another sister taking her place. Something I thought was very clever on the part of Kroncke, was the casting of the police. Of course, the audience notticed that roles had been moved around, and almost as a sign of acknowledgement to that fact he casted Athena Abramowitz (previously cast as a sister and stands five feet even) with David Constantine, Timothy Pinckney and others, who all stand six feet tall or over. This made for a good laugh and really added to the scene.
The accompaniment, consisting of Raymond Malone (violin), Paul Reynolds (viola), Zani Lewis (cello) and Mary Jane Austin (piano and musical director) were simply flawless. All of the sound was balanced and not one part got lost through the performance, which has proved to be a difficult feat in the past, considering Dibden’s acoustics. But thanks to such talented musicianship and a little help from sound designer Krystina Broscko, there was nearly perfect balance.
The sets, designed by Props Designer Isabelle Gazda, were simple but incredibly effective. Act one takes place on a beach, where there are rocks strewn about the stage as props for characters to sit or stand on through the act.
The second act took place in a graveyard with tombstones and a bench, as well as some night time lighting. Everything was aesthetically pleasing and added to the atmosphere of the play.
Each costume was suited to the character and looked fantastic on stage and off (when the actors met with the crowd outside at the end of the show). The main characters’ costumes were the most intricate, especially Mabel’s dress. Thanks to costume designer Kyle Roche, each character was given that much more depth and personality.
The show was a huge success and was well worth the time.