REVIEW: The Pirates of Penzance

Before the Pirates of Silicon Valley and the Pirates of the Caribbean, there were the Pirates of Penzance!!!  The superfluous exclamation points are a necessity for this Gilbert & Sullivan operetta that has continued to delight audiences for 136 years and shows no signs of slowing down.  Speaking to the inter-generational appeal of this broad musical comedy, the audience ranged from children to Millennials on awkward double-dates to great-grand parents, all of whom were laughing and cheering throughout the quickly-paced performance.  A tightly-run ship, Pirates wastes no time, delivering one hummable tune after another with not a single opportunity for laughs wasted.  The vocal agility of the cast was another element played for maximum comedic effect, with the bombastic Pirate King, played by Brandon O’Neill, delivering an impressive performance without stealing the show the way a certain Caribbean pirate might.  Where sometimes such winking hijinks can feel tired and overplayed, Pirates enjoys the benefit of being the first to the party, making the most of its originality while showing that it can adapt to the times with zeal and panache.  If this review seems gushing, it’s only because this long-time fan had high hopes that were exceeded at nearly every opportunity.  It is, however, my duty(!) to point out that the orchestra drowned out the vocals on a few of the more energetic numbers, which was disappointing because the lightning-quick staccato delivery of verses is one of the key elements of the show.  Gladly, the times this happened were few and the remainder of the show sailed along masterfully.  Talking to my friend after the show, we were impressed with how modern the production felt, given the age of the material.  Also, each member of the cast gave as much life to the production as the headliners, delivering witty sight gags if you were fortunate enough to catch them.  One could watch the Ordway’s Pirates of Penzance over and over again, if given the chance, and pick up new things each time.  So, here’s a first rate opportunity, to see comedy with impunity, like a gift from some divinity, that resides in this vicinity!  Tickets to see this rollicking band of pirates will be sure to roll out with the tide (of popularity), so act quickly.

The production runs through August 16, 2015 at The Ordway in St. Paul.  Discount tickets are available from Goldstar.

(Photo by Molly Shields)