Volume 95, Issue 60

Friday, January 18, 2002
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Pirates hoist the flag of enjoyable theatre

Fresh new eatery sits well

Who's really in Remote Control

Finding life after death

Shits and Giggles

Pirates hoist the flag of enjoyable theatre

Dave Van Dyck/Gazette
The Pirates of Penzance

Chris Wood, Hannah Shelton, Jeff Culbert, Wendy Ewart, Serge Saika-Vovoid.

Directed by: Kevin Bice

Three 1/2 stars (out of five)

By Alena Papayanis
Gazette Staff

The instrumental opening of The Pirates of Penzance acts as a promise to the audience – a promise the cast dutifully fulfill and even surpass.

Before the curtain rises, the audience gets a taste of what is to come. The orchestral melodies hint at a cheerful and funny tale of drama, excitement and lots of goofy fun.

The first scene should be familiar to many Western students – a mighty keg is hoisted onto the stage where fraternity-like antics are running rampant. A tribute is made to Frederic (Chris Wood), the lead character who ties the pirates, young maidens and police together.

Frederic is the centre of the celebration because, at age 21, he has fulfilled his duty as a pirate and now – free from obligation – he is, instead, committed to their extermination.

The Pirates of Penzance is full of clever humour, as it's soon revealed Ruth (Wendy Ewart), Frederic's nursemaid who's secretly in love with him, confesses her fault in apprenticing him to a "pirate" instead of a "pilot."

Frederic's sense of duty drives him to remain in the hands of the Pirate King (Jeff Culbert), drawing him back to pirate life when it's discovered his leap-year birthday threatens his independence.

What's most unique about this performance is the characterization. The cast do an impressive job of bringing their particular roles to life and responding to other characters in a variety of ways, almost to the point of improvisation.

This is clearly evident in the varied responses to Mabel (Hannah Shelton), Frederic's extravagant love interest and Major-General Stanley's vain and boastful daughter.

Serge Saika-Vovoid puts on a colourful performance as Major-General Stanley, a larger-than-life character who lies to the pirates in order to stop them from marrying his daughters.

Antonio Tan plays the Sergeant of Police, employed to guide his squad of reluctant heroes into battle with the pirates. He dances circles around his bumbling squad in their shaking boots until the maidens must pull them by the ears into battle. The actors in the police squad work extremely well together and their scenes are among the play's best.

Bill Kamerman gives a subtle, yet notable, performance, playing both a pirate and a police squad member. Despite his limited lines, he makes his presence felt with his expressive, physical humour.

The lively and energetic music fuels the cast and adds power to the resounding chorus. Most impressive is Mabel's vocal performance, which fills the stage and complements Frederic's powerful voice stunningly.

The second act is filled with a noticeable increase in energy, as the characters and songs have not only sucked the audience in, but have pulled them under as well.

The Pirates of Penzance takes the audience on a lively theatrical journey and, in the end, keeps everyone afloat.

The Pirates of Penzance plays until Jan. 26 at the Talbot Theatre. Call the box office at 672-8800 for ticket info.

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Copyright The Gazette 2001