“PIRATES OF PENZANCE” BRINGS OLD ENGLAND CAMP, GOOFINESS AND
ICONIC PIRATE TOMFOOLERY
The Pirates sail into Livermore as Tri Valley Repertory Theatre continues their 32nd stellar season. The colorful fun PIRATES OF PENZANCE is now on stage at the Bankhead Theatre in Livermore until Jan 31st. The iconic Gilbert and Sullivan operetta dates back to 1879. With countless stagings and updates, this version of The Pirates of Penzance took New York by storm when it premiered in Central Park in 1980, leading to a subsequent smash-hit Broadway run.
The talented director, Misty Megia, has assembled a tight talented cast of 32 actors to bring this two act classic to the Tri Valley Rep. It is a pirate ship we probably all have seen at least once, and remember this comedy for its famous patter songs “Modern Major General”, swashbuckling pirates, and a bumbling police force. *Megia says in creating this company "Some of these guys showed up dressed as pirates the first day. - I'm just the bumper for them, bringing the humor out, which can get lost in the music. I've been treating it like a Shakespeare show, physicalizing a lot of the story." The lively tomfoolery of this pirate tale has the perfect cast to play the main leads of satirical lyrics and British humor.
The story of Frederic, marvelously played by the talented Nikita Burshteyn, who mistakenly believes on his 21st birthday that he's finally free of his duty to a band of orphan-loving pirates and can instead pursue his heart's desire to find true love with a beautiful woman.. The Pirate King is elegantly played by local favorite, Peter Budinger, who pairs well with Bernstein in the many swashbuckling scenes. They bring the house to almost a standing ovation during “Now for the Pirates Lair”. Megia's production opens to the vibrant colors of Brian Olkowski's set, a bright orange pirate ship that forms a porthole for the gang of the pirate ship to poke through. The pesky pirates are led by Budinger's booming bass Pirate King. Choreographer, Christina Lazo, keeps the pirate cast busy dancing and fighting using the full space of the deep Bankhead stage.
WS Gilbert's love of paradoxes make this story “the slave of duty”. Scott Kenison is skilled as the The Major General who knows everything about anything except military matters. The soft-hearted pirates allow orphans to go free. Frederic (Burshteyn) was apprenticed mistakenly by his nursemaid, Ruth. She was told to apprentice him as a pilot, not a pirate!
Frederic's apprenticeship ends on his 21st birthday. His duty to his pirate family is over and he joins the side of law and order. The pirate band isn't pleased, but Frederic is an honest lad, and must follow his instincts. As the pirates depart, Frederic is left with his lifelong nursemaid, Ruth, entertainingly played by the adorable Ali Lane. Never having seen another woman other than Ruth Frederic will marry her, if she is beautiful. Ruth happily tells him she is beautiful and the marriage is agreed upon. This is the point where Old England begins to unfold with equal parts camp, goofiness and classic "save the Queen" nonsense.
Major-General's daughters, in an endless array, visit the remote pirate seashore. Frederic is faced with dozens of beautiful young women, all flaunting happily across the rocky beach. Burshteyn's comic timing is excellent as he adds a gentle tone to his Frederic; he is smitten. He spies the lovely Mabel (Aimee Roylace), and instantly falls in love much to the dismay of Ruth who runs off to join the pirates. Roylace has a skillful voice that fills the Bankhead, and with Burshteyn they bring a wonderful touch to the zany madness on stage. “Stay, Frederic Stay” is one of the two duets they sing and both bring charm to the song. “Then Frederic” Burshteyn keeps the 21 year old naive, and yet his over the top moments are the best and his voice is a powerful tenor that keeps shining.
The Major makes a dapper entrance and performs the patter song, "I am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General" Kenison is hilarious and sets the tone for his gentleman characterization and for the silliness of the rest of the show, including running into walls and maintaining his dignity. His daughters, played by giggling girls, are all excellent. Ally Murphy and Leslie Lawrence are standouts. The daughters are all over, animated and so fun to watch as they swoon over Frederic. Lane's nursemaid Ruth is fun and her comic timing in “A Little Lad” also is an enjoyable number that opens the first act.
The two hour operetta moves from the Pirate ship to the island beach and cemetery with Jan Koprowski’s wonderful costumes. Lovely dresses for the sisters, and classic period pirate look for the male cast. The Pirate King is memorable with his long jacket and vintage boots and sword. Choreographer, Christina Lazo, gets the company busy with some classic pirate steps and it is entertaining even as the cast fumbles into one another. All the musty Pirates are lovable with standouts Dalton Freitas, Gary Foley, Tom Farris and the clever Charles Elwood Gay III.
Fight captain, Durand Garcia, brought some skilled sword moments to the stage. Wig Mistress, Lexis Lazear, designed a fall of beautiful golden hair for Mabel. Joshua Gonzales adds to the madness on stage as the Sergeant to his team of keystone type cops who turn the second act into a comical circus ballet. Music director, Greg Zema, has a full 14 piece orchestra in the pit and they are excellent. The overall chorus is pleasing and this cast brings Gilbert and Sullivan to perfect pitch. Paul Vega’s lighting design is simple and his bright beach is ideal for that large Bankhead stage.
PIRATES OF PENANCE, is a wonderful night of iconic musical theatre, and a great way to start your 2016 theatre season. It is funny, charming and you will walk away humming some G&S vintage pitter patter, tomfoolery and an understanding of Duty.
Tri-Valley Repertory Theatre Presents:
The Pirates of Penzance
By Gilbert and Sullivan
Directed by Misty Megia, Choreographer Christina Lazo
Music Director Greg Zema
January 16th-31st, 2016
Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 2pm
with an additional Saturday matinee on January 30th
at the Bankhead Theater
2400 First Street in Livermore, CA
For tickets - visit the Bankhead Theater box office at 2400 First Street, Livermore, CA or call 925-373-6800,
Tuesday thru Saturday, noon to 6pm, or visit online:
For more information,: www.trivalleyrep.org
PHOTOS BY DC SCARPELLI AND ROBERT SHOLTY
Misty Megia quote *Lou Fancher Correspondent Contra Costa Times