The Pirates of Penzance

Gilbert and Sullivan's classic musical farce hits Lakewood Playhouse

By Rev. Adam McKinney on June 1, 2017

Sometimes the fates work against you. As I made my way to Lakewood Playhouse this past Sunday to see their new production of Gilbert and Sullivan's classic musical farce, The Pirates of Penzance, I was excited to get a jolt of color and timeless humor. Unfortunately, a power outage had hit the Lakewood area, rendering Lakewood Playhouse incapable of going on with the show. To their credit, after they sifted through every possible solution and came up empty-handed, the wonderful staff of the theater held strong in the face of catastrophe and offered to make good on the tickets already purchased, letting attendees reschedule for any of the next several weeks of shows.

I must also go on with the show. I can't give you my opinion, sight unseen, but I can give you a preview of what early reviews are saying is a worthy staging of the beloved play.

The Pirates of Penzance follows Fredric (Fune Tautala), a young man that becomes an apprentice to a band of pirates, where he finds love with Mabel (Allyson Jacobs-Lake), daughter of Major-General Stanley (Gary Chambers). Fredric's apprenticeship is set to end, once he turns 21. Trouble comes, though, when Fredric learns that due to his being born on Leap Day, he is thus bound to serve with the pirates for 63 more years. It's a profoundly silly premise that simultaneously comments on and exploits its ambition of operatic scope.

This is a show that's been put on its feet countless times, and even given the big screen treatment in 1983, starring greats like Kevin Kline, Angela Lansbury and Linda Ronstadt. It was even parodied in an extremely ill-advised scene on the extremely ill-advised show Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. Like many of Gilbert and Sullivan's most popular plays, its appeal is in its briskness and joyfully silly sense of humor. The dizzying tongue-twister of a tune, "Major-General's Song," remains an oft-copied song to this day, ripe with opportunities for parody in its litany of precise lyrics.

Lakewood Playhouse's staging of The Pirates of Penzance is directed by LP managing artistic director John Munn - Munn himself will also be taking the pivotal role of the Pirate King - with musical direction from Deborah Lynn Armstrong, choreography by Amanda Jackson, stage managing by Nena Curley and Anastazja Bury. The intimate confines of Lakewood Playhouse should likely provide an engaging vantage point from which to experience a musical as bursting-at-the-seams as The Pirates of Penzance.

Having not seen the production itself, I can't comment on how well Lakewood Playhouse pulled it off. I will say, though, that The Pirates of Penzance is a classic for a reason: material this goofy and quick-witted is bound to last for as least as long as it has. Based in ridiculousness, but containing a warm heart at its center, this is a play that can survive past the threshold where contemporaries might be seen as hokey. I'd be lying if I said I might not have missed out on something.

The Pirates of Penzance, 8 p.m., Thursday-Saturday; 2 p.m., Sunday, through June 25, Lakewood Playhouse, 5729 Lakewood Towne Center Blvd, Lakewood, $25-$30, 253.588.0042,