From conductor Sue Swaney’s downbeat right through to the triumphal matrimonial chorus the IU Theatre production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s "The Pirates of Penzance" is a delight. Director George Pinney’s background in dance and specialization in combat choreography were very much on display. Dance, dance stunts and stylized fights filled the stage right from the first notes of the overture through the warmly received curtain call.
"…Pirates…" is subtitled "The Slave of Duty" and Stan Q. Wash as Frederic was certainly that slave. Wash was outstanding both as an action and a romantic figure and sang very well. Frederic has been dutifully serving out his apprenticeship as a pirate because his nursemaid misheard the word "pilot" as "pirate." Mollie Dustin was very funny as the hapless nurse, little Frederic’s own "Ruth." Though Dustin hardly looked like "the remains of a fine woman."
John Armstrong was the swaggering "Pirate King," Frederic’s commander. He sings that he "sinks a few more ships, it’s true than a well bred monarch is forced to do." Armstrong was a fine figure of derring do, ably supported by his crew and right hand pirate Samuel played by Heath Calvert.
Opposing the pirates were the overly sensitive police led by their Sergeant, the redoubtable Jordan Bisch. These are men who so deeply sympathize with the people they arrest that they testify that "a policeman’s lot is not an ‘appy one."
In the middle these opposing groups, Gilbert and Sullivan place the silly old General Stanley and his bevy of beautiful daughters. Blake Bowen was a delight as the featherbrained old general and masterful in his presentation of the classic patter song , "I am the very model of a modern Major General."
Chief among the General’s daughters was Elizabeth Stanley as Frederic’s plucky love, Mabel. Stanley’s singing of the operetta’s spoof of coluratura fireworks was much appreciated by Saturday night’s audience.
Mark Smith’s designs for the rocky Cornwall coast and the ruined chapel were different enough to enjoy and similar enough to be manageable in the theatre. Alexandra Morphet’s costume’s struck a nice balance between the realistic and fanciful looked good on everyone .
The IU Theatre’s production of "The Pirates of Penzance" does a very nice job of balancing the music and the drama, the real beauty of many of Gilbert and Sullivan’s settings and the wonderful burlesque of others.