Those Dastardly Pirates

Photography by Amy Pasquantonio

Just the name “pirate” is enough to make sensible people quiver in their boots. Unless of course, said pirates are of soft nature, the kind more interested in pleasure than pillaging. The Pirates of Penzance, that band of lady-loving, rum-swilling, orphan-pitying goofballs, has come to The Wick stage with its signature operatic tunes and laugh-out-loud silliness.

The story follows young Frederic (Clay Cartland), who has been conscripted until his twenty-first birthday by the dastardly (and we do use that term loosely) Pirate King (Sean McDermott). On the day he turns 21, Frederic abandons the pirate life—and his somewhat devious nursemaid, Ruth (Patti Gardner)—to make his own way in the world. This, of course, will require a lovely female companion. Enter Mabel (Lindsey Johr), the daughter of the Major-General (Troy Stanley), whom he meets before he even leaves the shore. Mabel has lots of sisters, who are captured by the pirates but rescued by their father, who tricks the pirates into thinking he’s an orphan.

Confused yet? It gets more complicated than that. It turns out Frederic was born on leap year, so he has had only six birthdays, not 21. Back he goes into the pirates’ lair. Since he has sworn an oath of duty to the pirates, he tells the Pirate King about the Major-General’s deception and the pirates swear revenge. There is swashbuckling, a quartet of bumbling cops, and a flurry of activity as everyone, including the daughters, get into the action. In the end, the Queen saves the day: Out of duty to Queen Victoria, the pirates put down their swords and end their shameful shenanigans. Now that they are law-abiding citizens, the Major-General gives them his daughters’ hands in marriage, and everyone lives happy.

The charm of Pirates is in the musical composition by Gilbert and Sullivan. The comic operetta features such classic tunes as “I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General,” which Stanley delivers beautifully even in tongue-twisting fast mode. McDermott, a veteran of the stage, gives a brilliant performance—humorous in his wickedness and full of masculine energy when delivering such songs as “Oh, Better Far to Live and Die” and the very beautiful “Hail, Poetry” at the end of the first act.

The songs have been lauded for their messages about duty and loyalty, but it’s hard to pay attention to a higher meaning when so much merriment unfolds on stage. The best part of this show is its lighthearted nature, which is pure, undiluted entertainment.

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