Roles a perfect match

2nd Star's `Pirates' cast is entertaining in tuneful Gilbert and Sullivan musical

November 30, 2007|By Mary Johnson | Mary Johnson,Special to The Sun

Gilbert and Sullivan fans - and those not yet in their ranks - will find 2nd Star Productions' The Pirates of Penzance at Bowie Playhouse a highly entertaining show.

Considered by many Gilbert and Sullivan devotees to be the best and funniest operetta ever penned by the British duo, Pirates is their only work to premiere in the United States, when in December 1879, Arthur Sullivan conducted the New York theater's orchestra.

2nd Star's current reincarnation succeeds on several levels - as a tuneful musical, a clever spoof and an old-fashioned romance that is well cast.

William S. Gilbert's witty lyrics are clearly enunciated by every cast member, so much so that listeners can fully appreciate the sparkling brilliance of each word. The 20-piece orchestra, under the direction of Donald K. Smith, supports the singers in perfect balance to bring the score to life.

The story centers on soon-to-be 21-year-old Frederic, an innocent man who, in a major instance of G&S wordplay, has become a "pirate in training" because his nursemaid, Ruth, misunderstood Frederic's father's wish to have his son apprenticed as a "pilot" of boats.

Although Frederic has a strong sense of duty, he is opposed to his fellow pirates' stealing lifestyle and vows to exterminate them when he reaches age 21. This birthday should be imminent, except that Frederic was born on Feb. 29, so he is told that he may not reach his 21st birthday for decades.

Led by a swashbuckling Pirate King, the pirates may seem threatening at first, but are soon revealed as rather good-natured rowdies, who are especially soft-hearted toward orphans.

The cast also features several inept police officers resembling Keystone Cops, a bumbling Major General and his many lonely young daughters. Among them is Mabel, who becomes Frederic's love.

In this production, 2nd Star president Jane Wingard does triple duty, serving as director, set designer and scenic artist. The cast she has assembled here ranks among the best I've seen at Bowie Playhouse in terms of being suited to their roles and the material.

After the performance, I suggested to Wingard that she should have submitted this show for consideration of a Ruby Griffith Award, a regional version of the Tony Awards.

Smith, the music director, deserves praise for his role at the helm of the excellent orchestra, as well as for his services as vocal coach. Also deserving praise are sound technicians Al Chopey and Pete Dursin, who handled all audio aspects professionally - a rare occurrence at most theaters.

Christine Asero contributed imaginative choreography that was well executed, and Mary Dodson designed an array of fetching costumes.

Heading the cast as the young pirate about to break free, Ron Giddings delivers another memorable performance. Having seen the 26-year-old actor in performances at Summer Garden's Urinetown and Sweeney Todd, which he also directed, and in Colonial Players' Jekyll and Hyde, I'm continuously impressed by his range, musicality and versatility.

He seems at home in Gilbert and Sullivan, adept at comedy, singing with perfect enunciation, and convincingly young and romantic.

Another standout is Adam Juran, cast as the Pirate King. He adds enormous energy to the ensemble and strong vocal gifts to his every musical number, while seeming to savor all his swashbuckling, comic moments onstage.

A veteran of more than 60 community theater productions, Ray Flynt is properly doddering as Major General Stanley and delivers an over-the-top "I am the Very Model of a Modern Major General." It is a show-stopper.

The role of his daughter, Mabel, is played by two alternating actresses - Ashley Bibby and Tania Rosa Bindhoff. When I saw the musical last weekend, Annapolis resident Bibby played Mabel charmingly and demonstrated her impressive vocal skills in lovely duets with Giddings' Frederic.

Area favorite Sue Centurelli delivered a solid performance as funny nursemaid, Ruth, shining vocally in "When Frederic Was a Little Lad" and in duet with Giddings in "Oh False One, You Have Deceived Me."

The Pirates of Penzance continues today and tomorrow at 8 p.m.; Sunday at 3 p.m., and through Dec. 8 at Bowie Playhouse.

Tickets are $18 for general admission and $15 for those ages 56 and up, and full time students. Call 410-757-5700 for reservations. For directions to Bowie Playhouse, visit www.2ndstarproductions.com.

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