I am a HUGE theatre junkie. Whether its attending my local community theatre or making the trek out to Toronto, I will do anything it takes to catch the latest play or musical to hit the stage. During my time spent going to school in London, therefore, the one thing at the top of my to-do list was to go and visit the neighbouring Stratford Festival Theatre! After drooling over their production schedules for about a month, I finally made the decision to go and see a performance of The Pirates of Penzance. Now, I don’t typically review theatrical productions, but due to the fact that The Pirates of Penzance was beaten to a pulp by theatre critics from the Toronto Star and The London Free Press, I felt like I should come to its defence! Despite what these critics may have argued, I found Stratford’s production to be entertaining, comical, and absolutely enjoyable!
The Pirates of Penzance is a comic opera by Gilbert and Sullivan about a young man named Frederic who is an apprentice to a soft-hearted crew of pirates. Upon being released from his service to the pirates upon turning 21 years old, Frederic goes ashore and falls in love with Mabel, the daughter of a Major General. To his dismay, however, Frederic soon discovers that he still owes 63 years of service to the pirate crew, and is left to choose between his sense of duty to the pirates and his love of Mabel. Despite the fact that the comic opera was first preformed in 1880, the humour and jokes are easily transferable to this century, and I found myself laughing out loud throughout the entire production!
When it came to the actors, The Pirates of Penzance was brimming with stars. Both Sean Arbuckle as the Pirate King and KyleBlair as Frederic did stupendous jobs at bringing their quirky and slightly naive characters to life, well deserving the standing ovation that they received from the audience at the end of the show. It was Amy Wallis as Mabel, however, that blew me away during her performance of “Poor Wandering One!” I think my mouth literally dropped open at one point when I realized how many high notes she was able to hit during that one song alone!
The set and costumes of The Pirates of Penzance also didn’t go unnoticed. I absolutely adored designer Paul Tazewell’s use of the Steampunk aesthetic in his creation of the pirate’s costumes, which helped to give them a bit more character. My only wish is that the steampunk elements had been carried more consistently throughout the rest of the production, such as the set. While somewhat sparse, the set did its job of bringing the pirate’s ship and ruined chapel to life, but lacked any originality.
My only disappoint with this production was the second act, which didn’t seem to have as much energy and magic as act one. Having never seen The Pirates of Penzance before, I was also slightly confused about the sudden appearance of Queen Victoria at the end. Nevertheless, I personally enjoyed my time spent watching The Pirates of Penzance, and would definitely recommend it to theatre lovers looking for an entertaining musical. If you are unsure about whether or not the operatic style of The Pirates of Penzance would be for you, then check out a couple of my favourite songs from the production below. The first video is a brief snippet of Stratford’s Amy Wallis singing “Poor Wandering One” (mentioned previously), while the second is my favourite song from the comic opera called “I Am The Very Model of A Modern Major General.”
Rating: 4/5 Stars