Monday, May 18, 2015

Dan Renkin (Feature Article)

Benton Locke-Harshaw as Robin Hood, crouching; Dan Renkin, fight choreographer;
and Callie Miller as Maid Marian rehearse for the Acme Theatre Company
production of "The Heart of Robin Hood," set for Memorial Day weekend. Renkin,
a Davis High School graduate now working in New York theater,
flies home every year to teach young Acme actors
realistic-looking sword-fighting skills.
Courtesy photo

When Robin Hood’s merry men engage with the Sheriff of Nottingham’s posse in Sherwood Forest this weekend, you can be sure that their swordplay will be a) realistic and b) safe.

This is due to fight coordinator Dan Renkin, a Davis High School graduate now working in theater in New York, who has returned to his hometown every year for the past six years to work with the young actors of the Acme Theatre Company to teach them the fine arts of stage fighting and handling those unwieldy swords.

Acme will present “The Heart of Robin Hood” Friday through Monday at the Davis Arts Center. The free production is its annual gift to the community as thanks for local business and community support of the company for high school-aged thespians.

Renkin never imagined he would have a career in theater, much less in New York. In fact, his whole career was really a series of fortunate accidents.

He remembers that as a young kid he enjoyed the productions of the Sunshine Children’s Theater, but didn’t get involved himself until some friends were doing a summer show with Acme at the Pence Gallery.

He came into the production late, but “they said ‘you can be one of the people we’ve never seen before for the funeral scene at the end.’ And so I got to stand around thinking ‘I’m not sure what I’ve gotten myself into, but this is really fun!’ ”

He graduated from Davis and headed off to UC Irvine to get a liberal arts degree “because that’s what we do in my family,” but in his second year, he realized he really missed doing theater.

“I wonder if they do that here,” he thought.

Renkin found an active theater program and began getting involved. He was also taking film classes on the side.

“Then there was a moment when I realized I had screwed up and had accidentally taken the first two quarters of the theory class that was required for the film major, but not for the minor,” he said. “There was no reason not to go ahead and get a second B.A. in film. I had no idea what was coming next.”

What came next was the recommendation of a friend who was working at the New York Conservatory.

“She spent a year on the phone with me saying ‘not only is this a really good program, but this would be a really good place for you.’ ” And so he went to New York.

He enrolled in the Circle on the Square Acting School and felt right at home immediately when the first person he met when he entered the building was Paul Shapiro, a fellow graduate of Davis High School. (Renkin later would collaborate with another DHS graduate, Ari Kreith, who runs Theater 167 at Manhattan’s West End Theater.)

“One of the teachers was B.H. Barry, the first fight director ever to win a Tony and the man credited with the birth of fight directing in America,” Renkin recalled. “He taught stage combat, which I had a little smattering of in undergraduate (days), just enough to convince me that it was not meant for me. I’m not athletic.

“But his teacher had been Errol Flynn’s stunt double, so he had certain standards for how you perform. All his drinking buddies and peers were people like Harold Pinter, writing very earthy, kitchen-sink stuff, not like Noel Coward, and he wanted to figure out how to make the fights natural like that.”

Barry found that he would treat fight scenes the same way he would treat them as an actor. It was easier to stage and the actors could remember it better; they also performed it more convincingly because they owned it.

“It became kind of an existential thing. And that made sense to me,” Renkin said. “That’s when the thing that was most terrifying to me became fun. When someone is quite literally the most skilled in the world at this thing that they do and they invite you to come learn more about it, you go!

“So I started going to his class. I assisted him on my first Broadway show, hoping that there would eventually be a second.”

Renkin also began filling in when Barry was unable to teach a class and eventually he began doing his own fight choreography (“I find mall atrias, for some reason, are a great inspiration for choreography ideas — I could slide down this railing, and jump over that table …”)

Then, six years ago, he was contacted by Acme Artistic Director Emily Henderson about helping with a show. She explained that Libby Renkin, Dan’s mother, had come to an Acme show and mentioned that her son did fight choreography and might be able to help out on their next production.

“So I cold-called this total stranger and said ‘I’m doing this play and it has 17 different fights and do you think you could come for a week?’ He said sure,” Henderson said. “It was really wonderful. He knew our style and everything worked perfectly.”

Added Renkin, “We had to explain to the kids who I was, and that I had been in Acme and graduated from Davis High and was now working in New York. When I told one of the students the year I graduated he said, ‘That’s when I was born.’ I responded with something completely unprintable, and we got along famously after that.”

It has been a win-win situation for everyone. Acme actors have learned professional fighting from a master, Renkin gets to come home on a regular basis to visit his parents, and Davis reaps the benefits of one of Acme founder Dave Burmester’s success stories.

How many other young-adult theater groups have an official fight choreographer who learned from the guy who learned from the guy who was stunt double to Errol Flynn and who introduced fight choreography to this country? Pretty cool.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Cinderella

Kecia Lewis and Paige Faure perform in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s "Cinderella,"
presented by Broadway Sacramento at the Sacramento Community Center Theater
through Sunday. Carol Rosegg/Courtesy photo

It was like going to a royal wedding at the Sacramento Community Center for the opening of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Cinderella.”

There was a royal white Cinderella coach drawn by white horses on which you could have your picture taken, which pulled up in front of the theater. The red carpet featured a parade of pint-sized princesses with tiaras and sparkly shoes. (Left your tiara at home? No problem. You can buy one in the lobby.) In the lobby you could also pose in front of the stairway to the palace.

In the theater itself, the stage was dominated by a magnificent forest of trees which, over the course of the evening, would move in all sorts of wonderful ways to make different configurations.

In the orchestra pit there was a real live orchestra with a real live conductor (Jay Alger). So many musicals these days use synthetic music that the sound of a full orchestra of more than a dozen musicians and 20 real instruments was as refreshing as six months at the seaside.

Then there was the production, which features the most spectacular magical costume change I have ever seen — the sort that makes you want to hit “rewind” so you can see it again because you can’t believe what you just saw (kudos to William Ivey Long, costume designer). And if that wasn’t spectacular enough, or in case you missed it the first time, they’ll do a variation of it in the second act — just as spectacular.

There’s even a real fire-breathing dragon to start things off. No expense has been spared on this production!

This is not Disney’s Cinderella. Many of the traditional elements are there, but this version was written in 1957 as a TV vehicle for Julie Andrews. Then there was a 1965 version with Lesley Ann Warren and a 1997 version with Whitney Houston and Brandy.

The current book by Douglas Carter Beane, is a more politically correct version of the familiar story. Cinderella’s (Audrey Cardwell) main goal in going to the ball is to warn Prince Topher (Andy Huntington Jones) of the terrible things going on in his country.

While he has been out slaying dragons and fighting giants, he has left the running of the country to his power-mad Lord Chancellor, Sebastian (Branch Woodman), who has brought the citizenry to starvation and eviction from their homes.

Stepsister Gabrielle (Kaitlyn Davidson) is not evil at all, and really wants nothing to do with becoming queen because she is secretly in love with Jean-Michel (David Andino), the social activist who is trying to get his message to the prince. Gabrielle, in fact, helps Cinderella get to the ball so she herself can sneak off to work in a soup kitchen with Jean-Michel.

The Fairy Godmother, Marie (Kecia Lewis), is not the cuddly little grandmother from the Disney film, but an over-the-top vision in purple and sequins (her own transformation is pretty spectacular, too), there to push Ella to take charge, make her own decisions, and fight for her own destiny.

There is still an evil stepmother (Paige Williams), who does make Ella do all the dirty work, but she’s not as mean as we have come to expect.

Stepsister Charlotte, an audience favorite, who tries desperately to fit her foot into the glass slipper, is the comic figure in the show and her “Stepsisters’ Lament” tickles the funny bone.

Anna Louizos’ scenery is sumptuous and the costumes are show-stoppers, especially in the waltz scene where the lighting design of Kenneth Posner made it magical.

It was nice to hear the sound of an old-fashioned musical. Though none of the songs were familiar, they were unmistakably Rodgers and Hammerstein. In fact, one song (“Now is the Time”) sounded like it could have been lifted from “South Pacific,” and I was surprised to read later that it had, in fact, been cut from that show.

This is a production that will entertain all generations in the family, from grandma down to the toddlers.

Spoiler alert: The prince ends up with Cinderella.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

There is a Happiness that Morning Is



As a critic, you are sometimes sent to review shows that sound like they are going to be pretty dull, but you go anyway. KOLT Run Creations’ “There is a Happiness That Morning Is,” at the Wilkerson Theater in Sacramento, was one of those shows. Based on the poems of the Romantic poet, William Blake, how exciting could it be?

It’s one of the perks of being a critic — the opportunity to discover gems like this that you otherwise would never think of seeing. Written by Mickle Maher, the premise for this one-act play is that two professors at a private college were observed having sex in the quad in full view of their students and the dean of the college. They have been ordered by the dean to apologize to their classes or lose their jobs.

Professor Bernard Barrow (Greg Hanson), who teaches a morning class in the poetry and prose of William Blake, goes first. Obviously still in the throes of after-glow, barefoot, dirt-covered, with leaves in his hair, he waxes poetic (literally, speaking in rhyme), rhapsodizing on the love-making and his 20-year relationship with Ellen Parker (Kelley Ogden) and railing against the administration and parents who were appalled by this very natural expression of the lovers’ passion for one another.

He chooses the poem “Infant Joy” (“I happy am, Joy is my name, Sweet joy befall thee!”) as he explains why he cannot be apologetic about the incident. Maher’s brilliant script, combined with Hanson’s delivery, make this a hilarious monologue.

In less skillful hands the device of using the rhymes of Blake and adding rhyming dialogue to fit the situation at hand might fall flat, but in the expert hands of both Hanson and Ogden it becomes a wholly accessible conversation for the audience.

I thought at one point that this must have been what it was like to see Shakespeare’s plays when he wrote them, when there was no such thing as “Shakespearean English” because it was just the language everyone spoke.

The afternoon class, led by Professor Parker, is quite different. As opposed to Barrow’s casual dress and demeanor, she is prim and proper, in a demure suit, with every hair in place. Though she leads off her class with an apology, it is, again, not for the incident itself, but, using Blake’s “The Sick Rose,” she apologizes for her years of conformity to the system (“O Rose, thou art sick! The invisible worm”).

As she warms to her subject, the obscenities flying out of her mouth are in sharp contrast to her appearance and again, the end result is a hilarious monologue.

However, Bernard decides to sit in on her class and this leads to as public an argument as their earlier love-making.

Rhymes and decorum go out the window when the dean (identified as “Man” in the program, and played by Greg Parker) interrupts. To say more about his role in this production would be to spoil the fun for the audience, so let’s just say that his character brings an unexpected intensity to the plot.

This show is so much fun that my only fear for it is that, given the remote location of the Wilkerson Theater and the perhaps unknown reputation of KOLT Run Creations, it might not be seen by as many people as should see it. Do yourself a big favor and buy a ticket. You will not be sorry.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Snow White


Several years ago, I wrote a feature article about the opportunities for children to participate in theater in this area — groups like the Woodland Opera Company’s Rising Star Workshop and Youth Summer Theater Camp, and the Davis Musical Theatre Company’s Young People’s Theater program. They’re active programs that have only grown since my original article. So I decided to check the finished product for both Woodland and Davis.

A few weeks ago, I reviewed Woodland’s “A Year with Frog and Toad,” and this weekend I went to see DMTC’s “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” I was pleased to see that both shows were an excellent example of the kind of theater experience young people are being given.

“Snow White” — with books, lyric and music by Carol Weiss, who writes musicals for children — is not Disney’s “Snow White.” For starters, there are dwarfs Keeper, Grinder, Cutter, Woeful, Muse, Picker and Poker. Also, the mirror plays a major role throughout the story.

The DMTC cast has 30 or so young people, ages 7 to 18, and is directed by Kendra Smith, who has done an excellent job showcasing a disciplined, talented cast.

Choreography by Jessica Arena and Jan Isaacson is impressive and the kids perform beautifully. The Act 2 starter, “Every Deed You Do” was outstanding and could easily stand on equal footing with any community theater stage, adult or young people, in the area.

Director Smith had told me that this production was to be done in steampunk style and I admit I had to research it. Huffington Post tells me, “It’s all about mixing old and new: fusing the usability of modern technology with the design aesthetic and philosophy of the Victorian age.”

The look abounds everywhere, in the costumes (particularly the hats) and in the set (designed by Stephen Giannetti).

Becca Paskowitz is a commanding Queen, her performance impressive in one so young (15). She also has a beautiful voice and, though this is a huge part, she carries herself like a pro throughout.
Her sister, Witch Wicked, is played by 15-year-old Cassidy Smith, who is every bit as impressive as Paskowitz. The two make an evil pair to be reckoned with and are more central characters than Snow White herself.

Snow is played by Isabelle Giannetti, a lovely, innocent girl whose only fault is being too beautiful. Giannetti handles the role beautifully.

Tylar Traum is the Mirror, a character dressed in silver standing inside a big frame, who communicates with everyone only in rhyme, and occasionally steps out of the frame to have a more personal confrontation. Traum was a delight to watch.

Jonthan Kalinen didn’t have much to do as the Prince, but in his brief appearances he comported himself well and sang a beautiful “Love Song” with Snow White.

Sir Pompous is the Queen’s cousin and Anthony Swaminathan shows a real comic flair in portraying this bumbling royal.

Jack Driggers is Keeper, the head dwarf, and does a good job with this small role, while Nate Fechner as the dwarf Woeful seems quite subdued until near the end when he shines wonderfully.

The other dwarfs are Sophia Nachmanoff, Devin Mitchell-Silbaugh, Stella Silver, Christian Duran and Elysia Martinez.

There are many other members of the YPT as ladies and gentlemen of the court, and the younger members play birds, bears, foxes, hedgehogs, as well as a rabbit, a fawn and a skunk. The ensemble works well together and it is wonderful to see how much they have learned in the Young People’s Theater.

“Snow White” continues through May 24. I saw it on the second weekend and the house was nearly three-quarters full, so it is obviously quite popular. Children especially will have a great time and might get bit by the performing bug themselves when they see how much fun everyone is having on stage.


Tuesday, May 05, 2015

The Homecoming

Julian Lopez-Morillas, Brian Harrower, Melinda Parrett and Ryan Snyder
perform in "The Homecoming," running through May 31 at Capital Stage. Courtesy photo

Harold Pinter’s “The Homecoming,” now considered by many to be his masterpiece, is celebrating its 50th birthday this year. It cemented the playwright’s reputation as “Britain’s foremost living dramatist.”

Though the play is seldom performed these days, Capital Stage is presenting a polished production directed by Janis Stevens, in which strong performances are given by a wonderful ensemble of six performers, four of whom are new to Capital Stage.

Is this a dark comedy with dramatic elements, or a dark drama with comedic elements? Yes. There is heavy drama in this story of a dysfunctional blue-collar family living in a working-class area of North London, but there are also lots of funny moments among the five men of the family and the newly introduced sister-in-law.

The family dysfunction is established early with the attempted conversation of the grizzled family patriarch, Max (Julian López-Morillas), with his suave, immaculately dressed son Lenny (Ryan Snyder), who steadfastly ignores him.

In turn, we meet the other men in the family — Sam (Joe Higgins), Max’s brother, a somewhat disheveled limousine driver, and Joey (Brian Harrower), a demolition man by day and would-be boxer at night. He’s the butt of his father’s cruel jabs, who tells him that he’d be a pro if he ever learned “how to defend and how to attack.”

We learn that Max’s wife died several years before, so the house has been without a female presence for a long time. It has become a man cave where each man lives in his own world and barely speaks to the others, though Max seems to do the cooking, to lots of criticism (“Why don’t you buy a dog? You’re a dog cook.”).

These four actors inhabit their vastly diverse characters flawlessly. López-Morillas is riveting as the bellicose Max, who can be sentimental when the mood strikes him, but who mostly spends his time yelling at his sons or complaining about his life.

Higgins gives Sam a somewhat androgynous persona, very proud of his popularity as a limousine driver, but rumpled in appearance and very definitely subservient to Max.

As for Lenny, Snyder is perfection. He is such a cool customer, but with such an underlying hint of something sleazy behind that polished veneer that we aren’t surprised to discover, in Act 2, that he is a pimp.

Harrower’s Joey is as different from brother Lenny as you can get. His body language conveys his insecurity, how he knows he’s the runt of the litter and only hopes that his dreams of becoming a champion prize fighter will change his life.

Into this mix come Teddy (Christopher Vettel) and his wife Ruth (Melinda Parrett), who have been living in the United States for the past six years and have dropped by, unannounced, en route home from Venice so that Teddy can introduce Ruth to his family.

Teddy is a professor of philosophy at a university and smugly considers himself quite a cut above his low-class family. Based on the awkwardness of their interactions, one wonders why he bothered coming home at all.

There is something “off” with Teddy and Ruth from the beginning. Their relationship seems strained. There are also doubts about the truth of their life in the United States. Presumably, they have had three children over the past six years and later Teddy talks about how he wishes he was home because the kids would be playing in the pool by now. Given what would have to be their ages if they had been born within the last six years, that seems hardly plausible. It adds another layer to the question of the relationship between Teddy and Ruth, alluded to later.

Vettel looks like he just walked out of a classroom, so accurate is his portrayal of the effete college professor.

Nobody does cold, aloof women as well as Parrett, and in Ruth, she has a gold mine to work with. Though she and Lenny see each other from across the room, it is obviously lust at first sight, and their banter throughout the play give us some of the funniest lines.

In short order, the life the men have been living is disrupted by the sexual tension created by the presence of a woman in the house and each of them lusts after her in different ways and for different reasons. Ruth is objectified, but turns that around and takes power from the feelings the men have for her, which also gives her the power to stand up to Teddy, when he insists that they return to the States immediately. Parrett is masterful when she first begins to bark orders at the men.

Ultimately, the men invite her to remain with them, while Teddy goes home, so she can be Max’s wife substitute, a mother-substitute for the sons, and perhaps earn her living working as a prostitute for Lenny.

As Teddy picks up his suitcase while Ruth settles into Max’s overstuffed chair with a contented sigh, it seems that the “homecoming,” after all, is Ruth’s.

Friday, May 01, 2015

The Jacksonian

Kurt Johnson and Jaime Jones perform in “The Jacksonian,”
playing now at the B Street Theatre.
In the background is Jason Kuykendall and Gina Hughes. 
Courtesy photo
 
The best thing that can be said about Beth Henley’s “The Jacksonian,” now at the B Street Theatre under the direction of Buck Busfield and Jerry Montoya, is that with only one act, it lasts only 90 minutes.

Watching the audience leave the theater silently and one of the performers slipping out unobtrusively into the parking lot without glancing at anyone leads me to believe I am not alone in that opinion.
 
Henley is a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright; my husband turned to me at the end of this show and said, “I don’t think she won the prize for this one.” (It was for “Crimes of the Heart.”)

This story is Southern Gothic set in a seedy hotel in Jackson, Miss., with a load of family dysfunction thrown in just for fun. Publicity for the play says that it is “set against the backdrop of the civil rights movement,” but other than the fact that it takes place in Mississippi in 1964 and contains quite a bit of racist language, you’d never know it.

The set is quite nice (designed by Samantha Reno), with a bar along the back side, one of the hotel’s guest rooms toward the front, and an alley with an important ice machine along one side.

Dentist Bill Perch (Kurt Johnson) has moved into the hotel after having been thrown out by his wife Susan (Jamie Jones). He sees it as a trial separation. She holds him responsible for a hysterectomy he agreed to while she was under anesthesia. Daughter Rosy (Gina Hughes) is made the go-between, carrying messages back and forth to each of her parents.

As Dr. Bill plunges deeper into depression, he takes to sniffing nitrous oxide with the same sadistic glee as Orin Scrivello in “Little Shop of Horrors.”

The hotel bartender, Fred Weber (Jason Kuykendall) ,seems cheery and affable until he becomes weird and one wonders what he is hiding.

Housemaid Eva White (Tara Sissom) is voluptuous and sensual and desperately looking for a man, upset that she has been dumped by Fred and setting her sights on Bill, whose idea of “penetration” seems to be sticking his finger in her mouth. (Ironic that her name is “White,” as she is the most racist of the group).

One of these characters will die before the play ends, and another of the characters will be the murderer … and ultimately do we really care?

Disappointment with the script aside, the actors were fine. Johnson is pleasant and affable to begin with, hopeful for a reunion with his wife and a loving father to daughter Rosy. and then slowly deteriorates as periodic meetings with Susan go from bad to worse.

Jones is always fun to watch and she does “anger” wonderfully. I never figured out what she was wearing to the hotel, under her fur coat — a long flimsy formal gown, or her nightgown. In either event, it was perhaps a strange costume choice by designer Shelley Russell-Riley.

Hughes, as Rosy, seems to change in age from younger to older, depending on her hope for her parents to reunite, and her desire to flirt with Fred. She is plagued by a bad case of acne (another appropriate character name, perhaps), which doesn’t really seem to serve much purpose to advance the plot, other than to point out that she has been ostracized by peers for it. Until “acne” was mentioned, I thought she had a horrible make-up accident.

Kuykendall seems the most likable of the bunch until he shows his true colors as he leers at Rosy and begins to creep her out.

Sissom’s character delivers perhaps the most memorable line of the night, referring to her relationship with God, “Every Sunday I get His forgiveness. Regular, like a bowel movement.” Now there’s a conversation stopper!

The scenes are presented out of sequence, which adds to the confusion and leaves one feeling, at the end, that this is a muddled melodrama without much point.


Monday, April 27, 2015

Pirates of Penzance

Photo by Barry Wisdom
Saving the best for last, the Sacramento Theater Company closed out its current season with a sparkling new production of Gilbert & Sullivan’s “The Pirates of Penzance,” directed by Michael Laun and choreographed by Ryan Blanning, with musical direction by Samuel Clein.

I was somewhat concerned, checking the program and seeing that there did not appear to be a women’s chorus, other than the principal women and how were they going to get both a band of pirates and a bunch of policemen with only five non-principal men?

Silly me.  This show is so tightly directed and so exquisitely choreographed that the small cast was more than adequate.  The whole show moved with the precision of the Rockettes. Every move was sharp and crisp with wonderful little bits added, such as the Pirate King’s interaction with the small band, and in one spot the spectators, in unison, following an exchange between two characters with the head turns of an audience at a tennis match.

It was a dream cast.  Michael RJ Campbell was outstanding as the Pirate King, with eyes that flashed, and body language that left no doubt whatsoever that he was In Charge of things. 

Gary S. Martinez was beautifully befuddled as Major General Stanley, plagued with agony over his lie to the Pirate King to save his daughters from being carried off to the nearest Doctor of Divinity to be married.  Stanley’s “Modern Major General” may be the most famous of Gilbert & Sullivan’s patter songs and Martinez delivered it flawlessly, with impeccable diction.  And just when you are left breathless at the speed with which he spews out these lines, he speeds it up.

Zak Edwards is making his STC debut in one of his dream roles, Frederic, the apprentice pirate celebrating his 21st birthday and finally out of his indentures and able to live a blameless life.  And he is a dream in the role, with a full steady tenor and wonderful actor to boot.

Aviva Pressman is likewise making her STC debut in the role of Mabel, who captures Frederic’s heart.  Whether not so coyly enticing Frederic or militantly leading the band of policemen to attack the pirates, she is a powerhouse.

Ruth, the piratical maid of all work, is deliciously portrayed by Martha Omiyo Kight.  She is the only female face young Frederic has seen in his life and tries to convince him that she has won her way into his boyish heart (though, as she was his nursemaid when he was a baby, this has always struck me as somewhat creepy!)

The second act trio of Ruth, Frederic, and the Pirate King was great fun and, as did Joseph Papp in his modernized version of this operetta, STC opted to include the “Matter Matter” trio from “Ruddygore,” in addition to the song “Paradox” because it just fits so well.

Mabel’s sisters, Edith (Miranda D. Lawson), Kate (Katherine Cooper) and Isabel (Abbey Williams Cambell) were fun, but it is the youngest, Lucy (Courtney Shannon) who stands out by blending in so beautifully that you just want to watch her the whole time.  This role is double cast and Shannon will share the role with Meghan Greene.

Jeffrey Lloyd Heatherly is the Sergeant of Police, big and blustery and not at all enthused about going off “to glory and the grave.”

I must also give kudos to whichever of the scenic designers (Jarrod Bodensteiner, Renne Degarmo or Brian Watson) was responsible for the ever changing (but very subtly) sky.

If I have any criticism at all, and it is a very slight one, it is that I wonder if body mics were necessary.  Everyone had a big voice that easily filled the small theater, one mic malfunctioned all night long and a couple of other performers had such strong voices that the amplification was almost overpowering.

On the whole, however, this is just a superlative production.  I’ve been following Gilbert & Sullivan around the world for some 50 years and I think this ranks up there as one of the best productions of “Pirates of Penzance” that I have seen.