Enchanting Pirates At Huntington Theatre Co.
A Brilliant Adaptation of Pirates of Penzance
By: Mark Favermann - 05/25/2009
Pirate King, Frederic and Nursemaid Ruth played by Steve Kazee, Anderson Davis and Cady Huffman
PIRATES! (Or, Gilbert and Sullivan Plunder'd), based on Pirates of Penzance by Gilbert and Sullivan, adapted by Gordon Greenberg, Nell Benjamin and John MacDaniel. Directed by Gordon Greenberg. With Steve Kazee as the Pirate King, Cady Huffman as Ruth, Ed Dixon as Major General Stanley, Anderson Davis as Frederic, Faral Alvin as Mabel, Mel Johnson, Jr. as Sergeant of Police, Caesar Samayoa as Samuel, and Julia Osborne as Edith. The ensemble includes Krista Buccellato, Wes Hart, Sam Kiernan, Douglas I. Lyons, Chris Messina, Brittney A. Morello, Michel Rossmy, Joel Perez, Dave Schoonover, Kristen Sergeant, Christopher Sergeeff, Erica Spyres, Victor J. Wisenhart and Sarah Ziegler.
At The Huntington Theatre Company's Main Stage, The Boston University Theatre, 264 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA
May 15 to June 14, 2009
For tickets: 617-266-0800, www.huntingtontheatre.org. Running Time: apprx. 2 hours and 15 minutes with one intermission.
A great show is currently at the Huntington Theatre Company, me harties. Attach your patch, swashbuckle and parrot and sail, row, or swim over there immediately. If you don't, you may walk the entertainment plank. Pirates! Or Gilbert and Sullivan Plunder'd is a spectacularly entertaining late Spring hit. Raucous and rowdy with a bit of slapstick and a lot of humor, this is a musical comedy at its best. Pirates! is a must see!
Pirates seem to be everywhere; the overthetop Disney franchise films with Johnny Depp, the competitive Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the lowly Pittsburgh Pirates, even the cutthroat Oakland Raiders. There are the seriously threatening, deadly Somali pirates in the Red Sea and Indian Ocean and even the pirate language translations on ubiquitous Facebook. Sometimes good, but more often bad (due to recent notorious kidnappings and ransoms by Somali pirates), pirates have a very mixed image. In fact, pirate costume rentals and pirate character hiring are definitely down. Things may be turning around for buccaneers, however. At the Huntington, there is a thriving not-so-secret pirate enclave that is not only thoroughly entertaining but totally full of joy, laughter, wonderful Gilbert and Sullivan songs, as well as schtick and clever choreography.
The story is based upon the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, The Pirates of Penzance. However, it is PG rated rather than the family fare that the collaborators generally presented. It works. Like the original, it tells the story of a Pirate King (played by a wonderfully Johnny Deppified Steve Kazee) with a motley crew of pirates, their ridiculously dutiful apprentice Frederic who desires to be freed from long servitude, and Frederic's not so wholesome nursemaid Ruth. The pirates have a rule not to harm anyone who is an orphan since they are all orphans themselves.
On a foray to an island, the pirates discover a group of beautiful women. They wish to take them away and marry them. The women's guardian is a modern Major General Stanley, the governor of the region. He pleads with them not to take his virgin wards and lies about being an orphan himself. Feeling guilty, Major General Stanley (personified by a glorious scene munching Ed Dixon) is comforted by his daughters and appoints a less than brave, local, ragtag unarmed police force led by a Reggae singing sargeant (knowingly played by Mel Johnson, Jr.) to stop the pirate invasion. There are the usual twists and turns of the Gilbert and Sullivan pieces, but all somehow ends well with a superb ensemble cast that is both artistically and athletically talented.
Steve Kazee somehow interprets the Pirate King as a version of Depp's Captain Jack Sparrow. Visually and dramatically it works. Cady Huffman plays a voluptuously regenerated nursemaid Ruth and Anderson Davis plays an, at times, cluelessly conflicted Frederic on his 21st birthday. Mabel is played forthrightly and lovely big voiced by Farah Alvin. Throw in the need to always be honest with an oddly written indentured servant contract. Add a strange, landlegs disease with sprinkles of miscegenation and racism, as well as, contemporary negative references to politicians and business leaders, and you have a smorgessborg of contemporary interpretive Gilbert and Sullivan. There is word play and clever rhyming piled high on the show's delicious presentation platter.
Starting with a very Victorian notion of social values and morality, Gilbert and Sullivan took aim at society's often duplicitous strictures. This is the starting point for the three collaborators who crafted this show: Gordon Greenberg (also the Director), Nell Benjamin (additional Book and lyrics) and John McDaniel (musical director). All the usual pirate jokes are delivered with a contemporary twist. Topical references are sprinkled throughout. The show contains the entire original score and more.
As usual the creative team excels, the production values at the Huntington are superb for Pirates. Scenic designer Bob Bissinger, costume designer, David C. Woolard, and lighting designer, Jeff Croiter, seemlessly create a spectacular environment. F. Wade Russo's musical direction and conducting are both spirited and beautiful. Denis Jones's choreography should be specially noted for its precision and integration into the overall production.
Earlier versions of this show were presented at the Goodspeed Opera House and Paper Mill Playhouse to great acclaim. They could not have been any better than this production. If interested in entertainment and just a fun ensemble performance, better run, swim, or duck-walk to see this show before it is sold out. Or, you could wait until it is on Broadway.