The Pirates of Penzance
Sun Dec 19 2010
Photograph: Paul Metreyeon
At first glance, one might expect Richard D’Oyly Carte and associates to spin a bit in their graves at this gleefully irreverent staging of the 1879 operetta. The Pirate King (Robert McLean) appears tricked out as Hunter S. Thompson as Raoul Duke, and Mabel (Christine Stulik) and Frederic (Zeke Sulkes) open Frescas while awaiting a piratical attack. But the producer and his resident geniuses of topsy-turvy might well recognize that Graney and the Hypocrites share their taste for exuberant nonsense. With beach balls and sunglasses, this Pirates is a welcome blast of summer amid winter’s It’s a Wonderful Nutcracker lull.
The production employs Graney’s trademark promenade style: The audience is spread throughout the Chopin’s basement space, with action mostly focused on a central diagonal platform flanked by twin wading pools. A ten-person ensemble doubles as the orchestra, plucking out Kevin O’Donnell’s arrangement of Sullivan’s score on a curious array of instruments (guitar, mandolin, banjo, glockenspiel).
Musically, it’s not a show for purists; while Stulik displays a vibrant soprano, vocal impact and even tuning at times fall by the wayside in the piece’s mad onrush. Particularly in such full-cast numbers as “With Cat-Like Tread,” it might have been nice to have the support of a separate music section. But the production offers an exceptionally fun evening, featuring a literal showstopper by Matt Kahler. Truly the model of a modern Major-General, Kahler deploys Gilbert’s infectious patter with precision and diabolical wit.