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A CurtainUp Review
The Pirates of Penzance or The Slave of Duty

Marc Kudisch  as the Pirate King
Marc Kudisch as the Pirate King (Photo: Jean-Marie Guyaux)
Gilbert & Sullivan's masterful musical parodies of grand opera are not be quite the cat's meow they once were. Kevin Kline, the Pirate King of the last major production of The Pirates of Penzance in New York has aged sufficiently to play King Lear (review or that production now at the Public Theater). Yet the beautiful music and the catchy patter songs will draw audiences to any new productions. If the rush of folks from seven to seventy-plus at Saturday's matinee of the New York City Opera-Glimmerglass co-production of Pirates is any indication, it's a good thing the swashbuckling crew has landed at the huge New York State Theater which can accommodate all the past and future Gilbert and Sullivan enthusiasts.

Marc Kudisch and Mark Jacoby bring Broadway pizazz to this production, Kudisch as a dashing and devilishly funny Pirate King, Jacoby as a delightfully pompous patter singing Major-General Stanley (his rendition of the operetta's signature "I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General" couldn't be better). The rest of the cast is from the opera world and, like Kudisch and Jacoby, they seem to be having a grand time, especially Sarah Jane McMahon who plays the romantic lead. She not only brings a rich soprano, pretty face and good figure to the role of Mabel but at one point exits the stage with a double somersault. Matt Morgan as Frederic, the young indentured pirate and object of Mabel's affection, is not as uninhibited and relaxed, but he's got the right hero looks and has a wonderful tenor voice. Overall, the Broadway plus opera world casting mix is definitely cause for rephrasing Rudyard Kipling's famous "never the twain shall meet" line to "ever the twain shall meet."

Perhaps to add enough fun to keep the many grade school aged kids in the audience from being disappointed that they'll be watching less swordplay than romantic wooing, director Lillian Groag and set designer John Conklin, have married Gilbert & Sullivan to over-sized satirical Victorian cutouts that channel the humor of Lewis Caroll and the Monty Python group. These cardboard images include the Titanic and among other literary and historical figures, an eye-patch sporting Alice and Queen Victoria. The Queen also appears several times as a real character (Fran Barnes).

Ms. Groag may also have felt, as so many directors of the Shakespeare canon do, that a new production needs a a new twist. In any event, though her anachronistic add-ons didn't keep the age six to ten kids around me from being restless and (dare I say it? — a bit bored), most of the adults, including me, bought into her comic vision since the concept did not diddle with the basic plot and, most importantly, the libretto and music.

While the Victorian themes can't be said to have cutting edge relevancy, the brilliant operatic parodies are indeed timeless. A big round of applause is also warranted for the chorus and orchestra (led by Gerald Steichen); also for Jess Goldstein's costumes and Lynne Hockney's choreography which make this Pirates a feast for the eyes as well as the ears.

For a really different Pirates, you might want to check yout the return engagment of Al Grand's Yiddish version. For details see our Off- Broadway Listings.

The Pirates of Penzance or the Slave of Duty
Book and lyrics by William S. Gilbert
Music by Arthur Sullivan
Directed by Lillian Groag
Choreography by Lynn Hockney
Cast: Marc Kudisch as the Pirate King and Mark Jacoby as Major-General Stanley; also Sarah Jane McMahon as Mabel, Myrna Paris as Ruth, Matt Morgan as Frederic, Kevin Burdette as the Sergeant of Police, Scott Guinn as Samuel, Erin Elizabeth Smith as Edith, Heather Johnson as Kate and Shannon Carson as Isabel.
Sets: John Conklin
Costumes: Jess Goldstein
Lights: Pat Collins
Sound: Abe Jacob
Orchestra Conductor: Gerald Steichen
Running Time: Running Time: 2 hours 45 minutes with intermission
The New York State Theate at Lincoln Center (63rd Street and Columbus Avenue) (212) 721-6500 ,
From 3/03/07 to 3/31/07; opening 3/07/07
March 3 at 1:30 and 8 PM, March 4 at 1:30 PM, March 7 and 8 at 7:30 PM, March 10 at 1:30 and 8 PM, March 15 at 6:30 PM, March 16 and 17 at 8 PM, March 20 and 21 at 7:30 PM, March 24 at 8 PM, March 29 at 7:30 PM and March 31 at 1:30 PM.
Tickets: $16 to $125
Reviewed by Elyse Sommer based on March 10th matinee
broadway musicals: the 101 greatest shows of all time
Easy-on-the budget super gift for yourself and your musical loving friends. Tons of gorgeous pictures.

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