Pirates of Penzance 1983
Chicago Sun Times
Life and Joy Fill Light Opera's Traditional 'Pirates of Penzance'
Buoyantly joyful and crammed with traditional Gilbert and Sullivan silliness. "The Pirates of Penzance" sailed into Evanston's Cahn Auditorium Thursday night, courtesy of Light Opera Works.
This production which runs through Sunday, is not the very model of a modern approach to Gilbert and Sullivan. Lyric Opera audiences witnessed that last month when director Peter Sellars transplanted "The Mikado" to a corporate boardroom in a skyscrapered Japan.
Light Opera Works artistic director Philip A. Kraus has taken a much less radical approach in "The Pirates of Penzance." But traditionalists take note. There is life in old Gilbert and Sulliivan yet, and Kraus made it vibrantly evident with a minimum of directorial license-taking.
When Kraus did elect to exercise his prerogatives as director, however, the results were inspired.
Outstanding performances included William T. Wronski as Major General Stanley. He had a rollicking time with tongue-tying rhrmes in the Major-General song. Never losing his impeccable enunciation and projection, he dropped in a witty reference to Ald. Edward Vrdolyak and played with the tempo, twice daring conductor Barney Jones to keep up, or slow down, with him.
Bradley Nystrom as the Pirate King towered over everyone with bemused benevolence and managed to mix a strong baritone with very fleet footwork in the paradox song. Donna J. Rollene, the image of sweet determination as Mabel who loses the apprentice pirate Frederic, was comically self-indulgent in her coloratura turns. For the most part, her voice was clear and sweet.
Another standout among the principals was Donald Kasch, who brought a fresh voice and hearty personality to the role of Frederic.
The red of the singers were similarly good and the orchestra played with wit and verve. Special mention must be made, however, of the female chorus. Not only did the 12 women sing with clarity and precision, they also were remarkably decorative, wafting about the stage like so many boudoir lampshades in their pastel, ruffled gowns. Their movements, choreographed down to the last girlish swoon. added to the show's comic aura of shrewdly calculated spontaneity.
'Pirates of Penzance' is treasure trove of fun
"Are they going to play it straight?" a middle aged theatergoer asked his companion as he walked through the doors of Cahn Auditorium in Evanston last Thursday for the opening of Light Opera Works' production of "The Pirates of Penzance."
Whether he was referring to Joseph Papp's irreverant comedy treatment of the same Gilbert and Sullivan operetta a few years back, or the more recent offbeat Lyric Opera update of "The Mikado" this spring is not known.
What is known is that the latest production by Light Opera Works played very straight with this convoluted British classic of soft hearted pirates and fair young maidens with jolly results.
Best of the generally worthy principals was Donald Kasch, whose boyish, ever-so-slightly beefy Frederic was more hugable than heroic, and unfailingly easy on the ear.....Kasch made the plaintive "Oh Is There Not One Maiden Breast" a thing of beauty. And he did a grand Act 1 duet of "Oh, False One, You Have Deceived Me!" with his nurse, Ruth, ably played by Ann G. Hoselitz. Hoselitz had herself had just done quite well in explaining the topsy-turvy pre-curtain events (When Frederic Was a Little Lad?')
Pirate King, Bradley Nystrom towered over the rest, both in booming baritone and
size. From an 8th row theater seat, he seems to approach nine feet; his voice could doubtless resound in the last row of a fourth balcony. Vocally and physically, he is something to be reckoned with.
So is William T. Wronski, the wonderful Pangloss of Light Opera Works' "Candide," doing the "modern" Major General's difficult patter songs with relish. Unfailingly graceful and giddy, he would have been even better, however, with one or two more reprises.
Philip A. Kraus and Music Director Barney Jones assembled a strong chorus that set
things off swimmingly and didn't slacken the pace until the final note.
An inventive set, by Linda Buchanan, included a pirate ship that sailed smoothly
across the Cahn stage, while an equally resourceful, uncredited someone produced a
genuine mist to open Act 2.
Possible the best Light Opera Works production to date, this "Pirates" proved to be the very model of a modern Gilbert and Sullivan.
Howard Reich's review in the Tribune demonstrated a continual problem at Light Opera Works. His review was fundamentally the exact opposite of the above complaining of NO stage direction and under powered singing. What was one to make of one contrary review that seemed at odds with what the other two had experienced? Reich was a one note curmudgeon who either had a bad day or simply didn't understand the genre.