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The Pirates of Penzance

At Winthrop House

By Robert H. Sand

There's some life in the old show yet, but it emerged with some difficulty and from time to time last night. Only a few of the nearly thirty musical numbers are really sparkling and only a few members of the cast can put the music or their own personalities across the footlights.

That the Pirates of Penzance still manages to be generally entertaining is a tribute to Gilbert and Sullivan and some enthusiastic cast members, prodded along by excellent music direction and choreography. The plot itself moves along pretty jauntily, becoming seat-squirmingly slow in a few patches when the dialogue or the sentiment gets to be too much.

The story revolves about the sad lot of Frederick--indentured to a pirate when his parents actually told a nurse to give him out to a pilot. Off on the pirate's island, Frederick believes the time has come for freedom, his nurse believes he should marry her, and a major general arrives with his seven wards which better fulfill Frederick's wishes and those of the sake of Queen Victoria's name and the revelation that the pirates are really noblemen who went wrong and will gladly go right.

The most engaging personality was George Brown's as Frederick. Along with his properly idealistic and star-struck look, he also has a good voice. As his misguided but well-intentioned nurse, Anne Hardwood behaved like a fugitive from Medea; a bit frantic but riproaring. The Major-General was played most modelly by Owen Jander; from his House of Lords gait to his Victorian disdain, Jander was excellent.

The other leading performers faired not quite so well. As the Major-General's daughter who loves Frederick, Linnet Houle was hindered by a rather unfortunate voice. The same difficulty hampered Richard Hamlen, Jr. (the pirate king) although not so much. Hamlen cut a fine figure of a pirate, but octaves cannot be pasted to a voice as easily as the moustache was stuck on his upper lip. Nancy Adam was a passable ward, but Anna Jeffrey was somewhat jittery and off-key.

The most enjoyable group in the show was the police who came tremulously to capture the pirates. When facing stage left, they each made a delightful figure S. As their sergeant, David Hayes was a fine caricature. The chorus' surprisingly good voices were well trained by Frank D'Accone, and while they were always lively, the never detracted from the stage. The few glittering moments of the Pirates took place when the singing and the dancing (choreographed by Adele Hugo) joined in a good musical number. The pirate band combined enough sneers, scars, and enthusiasm to prove a jolly good crew. The wards were sweet, but nothing marvelous.

Director Wayne Emery seemed to have had a difficult time getting enough talent to cover the weak parts of the book and music. He made good use of his few really good cast members, but there were always too many people involved on stage for the efforts of a few to keep the whole show bouncing. Nevertheless, those who delight in Gilbert and Sullivan will enjoy most of The Pirates of Penzance, while the less addicted will find it less than enjoyable.

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