Back in the day, operetta’s were a staple out at The Muny. And now, in this mildly revisionist season of 2012, The Muny has found a way to bring an operetta back into the mainstream, funnier and more imaginative than before with staging elements that are a blast…literally.
“Pirates! (or, Gilbert & Sullivan Plunder’d) is a take-off on “The Pirates of Penzance,” which was done at The Muny in 1921 and again in 1983.
This updated, enhanced version is the work of Gordon Greenberg, Nell Benjamin and John McDaniel. The scene is reset to the Caribbean, which allows a broader range musically and gives the storyline a potential for a lot more freewheeling comedy, which this production succeeds in doing most of the time.
There are two standout performances that carry the evening. Hunter Foster, who is making his Muny bow in the role of the Pirate King, has tremendous stage presence and the perfect performing chemistry for the part. His comedic abilities are consummate and fearless, as the audience quickly learns in Act I. Foster reminds me of Len Cariou in his prime.
Ed Dixon as General Stanley, the “modern major-general,” is a blustery hoot and another bit of ideal casting for this production.
“Pirates” takes present day pokes at government and contemporary topics. It has a scene having to do with the words “orphan” and “often” that is Abbott & Costello at it’s best. (This word play segment was in the original operetta too.) The ensemble is consistently energized and entertaining. Production design is expansive and fills The Muny’s stage with appealing color and scope.
“Pirates! (or, Gilbert & Sullivan Plunder’d) could use a more succinct title. Of all the shows at The Muny this season, this production is one that, on face value, may confuse audience members a little before they see it and understand what’s really happening. It is light-weight and light-hearted, not aimed at purists, but broadly designed for pure, unadulterated fun. Pirates rove the stage in search of humor and find a treasure jest. Certainly, it is still a work in progress. But it remains a worthy evening for the family, so ridiculously carefree you can’t help but smile.