Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Florida - Southern

The Pirates of Penzance
Wick Theatre
Review by Jeffrey Bruce

Also see Jeffrey's review of Admissions


Clay Cartland, Sean McDermott, and Krista Buccellatto
Photo by Rick Owen
If you're like me, you "took" Gilbert and Sullivan in junior high and then tucked it, if you cared to, into your memory bank and haven't thought about them for years. At the delicious production of Pirates of Penzance at the Wick in Boca, I felt I was welcoming an old friend back into my life.

One tends to forget just how brilliant the melodies and (especially) wordsmanship of the duo are. And this cast does the nigh impossible: every word is crystal clear, which adds laughs to the libretto that, in the past, I am sure many have missed.

The story is, well, you'll see. Its main concern is Frederic, who, over the 21 years of his life, has only seen one woman, Ruth, an older lady who is his guardian. He meets Mabel, the daughter of "the modern major-general," and falls instantly in love. The only problem is that he was born in a leap year, and she will have to wait 63 years for him to reach his age of consent, which she promises to do. In the interim he will be apprenticed to a band of soft-hearted pirates who all wind up with the other seven daughters of the Major-General. Curtain! It is idiotic, adorable and, yes, brilliant, thanks to the Messrs. G&S.

The third director to take over, the ever-reliable Norb Joerder, has staged the show within an inch of its life and it works admirably. I especially enjoyed all of the pirates and daughters who, when attention is not on them, have many bits to do that were funny and perfect for the era.

Krista Buccellato, a Phantom of the Opera Christine understudy, has a magnificent coloratura soprano, but her acting is too subtle to make a strong impression. Sean McDermott, with several Broadway credits, has the unenviable task of trying to eradicate the memory of Kevin Kline's iconic performance as the Pirate King in the Delacorte Theatre production that transferred to Broadway and was released on video. Kline was a riot ("would you like some salt and pepper with that scenery, Mr. Kline?") in a role that screams for overacting, mugging and general naughtiness. If anything, Mr. McDermott, who has a lovely singing voice, chose, or his director chose for him, to underplay the role. I hope McDermott starts to have some fun with the role. The audience wants him to! Both Ms. Buccellato and Mr. McDermott, both fine performers, over time, I am sure will relax into the party atmosphere that everyone else seems to be enjoying. In the other lead, Clay Cartland has just the right amount of cluelessness to make us believe he has never seen any other females except Ruth. He has a ball with the character of Frederic and he is missed when not onstage.

The sisters are all a hoot, but one must single out Kat Gold (she of the thunderous contralto) and Renee Elizabeth Turner (who, in addition to having a gorgeous soprano, has the biggest smile) for lighting up the stage with their abundance of charisma and scene-stealing. Michael Scott Ross, an elastic dancer and terrific singer, is act two's police sergeant, leading his merry quartet of high-stepping, vocally underpowered underlings.

There is an old adage, "you know who the pros are when they step onstage." To see its validity, wait until you see Patti Gardner and Michael L. Walters as Ruth and the Major-General. Miss Gardner, a staple in South Florida theatre, is a riot as the "older woman" who really does love Frederic (but not in "that" way) and she manages the near-impossible patter songs beautifully. Speaking of patter songs, Walters delivers the tongue-twisting, riotously difficult "I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General" at lightning speed. Looking very much like past Major-Generals, Walters makes the role his own with a tenderness and wily insight for not only his daughters but the pirates, as well.

I have been known to carp about "tracks" rather than live music, but in this instance, musical director Eric Alsford's superb talent made me overlook the lack of live music. His choral work, especially the a capella at the end of act one, is gorgeous and all 25 cast members have glorious voices. Michael McLain, as always, has created sets of charm and utility and Kirk Bookman's lighting is equally enchanting. But the costumes! Jim Buff, obviously, had the time of his life pulling together these garments. They are not only spot-on for the era, but several are downright hilarious.

This is a musical gift for children from 10 until, well, we are in South Florida. I promise that you will have a delightful time.

The Pirates of Penzance, through November 11th, 2018, at the Wick Theatre, 7901 No. Federal Highway, Boca Raton FL. You may call 561-995-2333 or visit www.thewick.org for tickets and information.


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