Fall SOTA production promises a swashbuckling performance

Witty and endlessly entertaining, this year's musical, "The Pirates of Penzance," will plunder and pillage its way into audiences' hearts this week in Brodie Hall's Alice Austin Theatre.

For those unfamiliar with this treat written by W.S. Gilbert and composed by Arthur Sullivan, the story goes as follows: young, dutiful Frederic, mistakenly apprenticed to the Pirates of Penzance as a boy by his devoted but dowdy nurse, Ruth, has finally served the terms of his indenture and is eager to put piracy behind him.

Frederic, played by senior Christopher Blasting, sets off in search of love and a way to rid the world of the (somewhat) dastardly pirates who were once his comrades. The musical unfurls as Frederic's past and present collide in a bizarrely endearing foray of mash-ups and mayhem complete with swords, girls and colorful party hats.

The show runs like a Jane Austen novel rewritten by the Monty Python gang. The ingeniously simple storyline is altogether the perfect podium for the pleasurable progression of song and dance that makes "The Pirates of Penzance" such a swashbuckling ball. Anyone looking for angst-ridden love ballads, jazz hands or edgy societal criticism, though, should look elsewhere. This is not that kind of musical.

As director David Munnell, a visiting professor in the School of the Arts, said, "This is a musical that is pure joy for everyone."

None of that joy, however, would have been possible without a talented cast. If there was a weak link amongst the "The Pirates of Penzance" actors, then he must have already walked the plank by the time the curtain opened.

Standing against the beautifully crafted scenery, the main cast members shined, giving heart and style to their respective roles. Not one voice faltered or fell out of key throughout the night and, while that is an accomplishment at any time, it is especially impressive given the speed and intricacy of the music and lyrics for which "The Pirates of Penzance" is celebrated.

In that regard, a special mention has to be made of senior Lucas Groth, who played the uproariously comical Major General Stanley. Never before has someone twisted their tongue that skillfully at such terrifying tempos - I take my hat off to you, sir.

The named characters' performances deserve high praise, but they are not the only stars of this show. Too often are chorus members doomed to theatrical obscurity. Yet, the musical's three chorus groups not only stood out with their strong, harmonized singing, but they provided some of the most humorous and memorable moments in the entire show.

"The Pirates of Penzance" is a lesson in multi-tasking; eyes may want to focus on one of the main cast members as he or she serenades on stage, but with the Pirate King's pirate chorus pantomiming and petting a parrot in the corner, audiences will just have to develop chameleon-like eyesight or risk missing the humor that pervades each and every second of this musical.

A clever comedy, "The Pirates of Penzance" is a surprisingly well-balanced, complex and fantastically-performed musical indulgence that everyone should see and enjoy.

The show, which was sponsored by Student Association and the School of the Arts, will run Nov. 18 - 21 at 8 p.m. and on Nov. 22 at 2 p.m. Tickets are available through the Brodie box office.