Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Pirates of Penzance

From left, Charlie Baad, Anthony Tavianini and Lisa Derthick perform in Light Opera Theatre of
Sacramento's production of “The Pirates of Penzance,”
running through Sunday, Oct. 23. Chris Baad/Courtesy photo

 Anyone who has attended the Citizens Who Care winter concerts may recognize Lisa Derthick, who has performed in them for several years, in the current production of “The Pirates of Penzance” at Light Opera Theatre of Sacramento. She plays Ruth, the nursemaid whose misunderstanding of her master’s request got her young charge Frederic (Anthony Tavianini) apprenticed to a pirate instead of a pilot.

This is a sparkling production, directed by Robert Vann, with an orchestra under the direction of Troy Turpen keeping a sprightly tempo that keeps the show moving at all times.

Though the sets are modest, the talent definitely is not. From the robust men’s chorus (unusual in a community theater) to the delightful women’s chorus (Rhonda L. Thomas also has performed in Citizens Who Care concerts). They skip onto the stage twirling pastel umbrellas and doing intricate choreography and never once got tangled up.

The first act finale, “Hail Poetry,” sung a cappella by the entire cast, sent a chill down the spine.
As Major General Stanley, Mike Baad (a Light Opera Theatre of Sacramento producer) displays the talent he has honed for more than 60 years of playing Gilbert & Sullivan patter roles, many with the Davis Comic Opera Company in the 1970s. Baad’s Major General is full of bluff and bluster and he sings his signature “Modern Major General” at a fast clip, and then the last verse in double time with crystal-clear diction.

Charlie Baad is the robust Pirate King, usually everyone’s favorite, the situation in this production as well. He was undeniably in charge of things, alternately stern and soft.

Derthick’s Ruth was a demure, middle-aged woman in Act 1 and by Act 2 was a brazen hussy resplendent in her leather pants, tight bodice and fly-away frizzy hair. The trio performance of “Away, away! My heart’s on fire!” with the Pirate King and Frederick was excellent.

Carley Neill’s Mabel was glorious, with a strong voice that fills the theater. Her interaction with Frederic was tender and loving.

Tavianini was a tall and stately Frederic, an innocent finally out of his indentures and able to take his revenge on the pirates who have been his “brothers” for most of his life, but whose profession he abhors.

The character of Samuel, second in command to the Pirate King, is usually an also-ran in most productions, but Kevin Branson makes the role his own and there is no ignoring him.

The only “off” part of this production was the addition of the character of the governess (Meredyth Rosenberg), who served no real purpose on the stage and stuck out like a sore thumb most of the time. If nothing else, she added to the richness of the chorus, but her dark costume clashed with the pastels of the girls and it just didn’t work.

This is an engaging production that belies its modest setting. It is sure to delight the most discerning of Gilbert & Sullivan aficionados.

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