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Theater Review (NYC): The Pirates of Penzance

The Pirates of Penzance, one of Gilbert & Sullivan's most popular light operas, has just a couple more performances this go-round at City Center, and you ought to catch it if you can. Dazzling staging and choreography, superb singing, and an emphasis on rich, zany humor add up to an exhilarating evening for all ages. If you're like me you won't want it to end.

Purists might find a little too much stage business – mugging, gesturing and the like – for their tastes, but if you're a Gilbert & Sullivan "purist" you should probably be going back to chill school anyway. This New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players production is a sheer delight.

The soprano Laurelyn Watson Chase, a NYGASP veteran, brings her fluid coloratura voice and a bright-eyed but knowing wink to the role of Mabel. She's matched in vocal skill and acting warmth by newcomer Colm Fitzmaurice, an operatic tenor who turns out to be a natural for the demanding but relatively "straight" role of Frederic, the "poor wand'ring one" whose devotion to "duty" will lead him anywhere – for or against his own principles.

The cast also includes the very droll Stephen Quint as Major-General Stanley, a Howard Stern-bewigged David Wannen as the boastful but too soft-hearted Pirate King, and the ball-of-fire alto Angela Smith as Ruth, the Pirate Maid-of-all-work. From these leads, down through the featured performers (like the delightful David Macaluso as the Pirate King's right hand man), all the way to the least-featured company members, the entire cast flounces and leaps about Lou Anne Gilleland's imaginative set, in Gail J. Wofford's fanciful costumes, with what seems the greatest of ease. In fact the whole production is made to look easy, which it assuredly is not.

This is no doubt due in part to the company's long experience. Some of these performers have been with NYGASP for a quarter of a century. Almost all have considerable Gilbert & Sullivan experience. And it shows.

There are just two more performances of NYGASP's Pirates of Penzance at City Center this winter season. (It is playing in repertory through January 13.) For tickets visit the City Center website or call (212) 581-1212.

About Jon Sobel

Jon Sobel is an Executive Editor of Blogcritics as well as lead editor of the Culture & Society section. As a writer he contributes most often to Culture, where he reviews NYC theater; he also covers interesting music releases. He writes the blog Park Odyssey, for which he is visiting and blogging every park in New York City—over a thousand of them. Through Oren Hope Marketing and Copywriting you can hire him to write or edit whatever marketing or journalistic materials your heart desires. By night he's a working musician: lead singer, songwriter, and bass player for Whisperado, a member of other bands as well, and a sideman.