Whimsical love story charms audience in “Pirates of Penzance”

The whimsy of “Wizard of Oz,” the endearment of “The Fantasticks” and the fantasy of “Seussical” are combined in latest SHSU Musical Theatre production of “The Pirates of Penzance.” The show, which opened Wednesday in the Erica Starr Theatre, follows a band of credulously simple and fun pirates.

Pirate member Frederic is approaching the end of his service to the band and sets off on his own to explore the world and what it has to offer. He meets Mabel and her father, Major General. Through a myriad of song, dance and fun the show chronicles the tale of the two young lovers as they try to start a life together.

Don’t let the sentiment fool you though, the play has plenty of comedy to offer even the most stone-faced audience member. The show sets off with a fun and hilarious introduction to the group of sword-wielding pirates.

The upbeat music draws you into the world without even realizing it. The production pulls the comedy into modernity with references to today’s pop culture and even bringing the music director into the show, furthering the comedic and impromptu style.

This Gilbert and Sullivan operetta contains precise comedic moments that the cast executes excellently. The three standout performances in the show were Frederic, Mabel and Major General.

Senior musical theatre major James Smith, who plays Major General, made the most iconic song from the show, “I Am The Very Model of a Modern Major-General” come to life with brilliant poise and phenomenal dictation. Smith really captures the verbose structure of the quick-paced music.

Senior musical theatre major Julia Green, who portrays Mabel, really showcases her range by hitting the high notes with piercing clarity. From the moment she floated onto the stage, she kept the grace and elegance indicative of Mabel.

Sophomore musical theatre major Brandon Whitley, who plays Frederic, manages to wow the audience with the power and resonance in his voice. Much the way Frederic has a growing up a process, Whitley displays some growth in his acting since his performances in “bare: a pop opera” and “Spring Awakening.”

The fun of ‘Pirates’ goes beyond the acting, singing and dancing. The show enthralls the audience with a beguiling sense that a group of pirates got together and decided to just put on a musical as a way to pass time on a voyage.

The costumes and set played well with this idea. It looks as though the costumes were taken from each stop they made and spread out between the members, each one having their own bright and colorful pattern.

The set became another character, any chance the actors could use it was an opportunity to be drawn even deeper into the world, from rolling across the stage on gravestones to pushing the ship out to sea.<

Overall “The Pirates of Penzance” is a fantastic production. The show has been dedicated to late dance professor Jonathon ‘Johnny’ Charles. There is no doubt that the fun and exciting show would make the long-time Sam teacher proud.

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