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EMAV Review: Sin City Opera's 'Penzance' is a rollicking romp ★★★★★

★★★★★ - Irresistible

Get your Pirate on, matey, and join the band of swashbuckling buccaneers, bumbling British Bobbies, frolicsome Victorian maidens, and the delightfully dotty “model of a modern Major-General” for a rollicking irresistible 5 star romp over the rocky coast of Cornwall. Beloved since its premiere in 1879, The Pirates of Penzance (or The Slave of Duty) is a delightful farce of a classic that is fun for all ages, which wraps up the 2018 Super Summer Season at Spring Mountain Ranch through September 22nd.

Sin City Opera presents this carefree, delightfully charming story of a young pirate-in-training, Frederic, who can’t wait for his 21st birthday, the day his accidental pirate apprenticeship ends….or does it? Born in a leap year, Frederic discovers he must remain with the raucous band of buccaneers and delay his future with the lovely Mabel who promises to wait, much to the chagrin of her father, the Major General. Bound by his own sense of duty and loyalty to the Pirate King, will Frederic be forced to sail away into the sunset alone or run off to fly high on the seas of love?

Producer Ginger Land-van Buuren and Artistic Director Skip Galla Katipunan have assembled an extremely talented cast of performers that are all “triple threats” – having the ability to sing, dance and act -- and having far too much fun onstage bringing this “ingenious, clever, wonderfully funny” piece of musical theatre to local audiences. Foremost among this gifted ensemble, in leading roles, are: Rebecca Morris (Ruth), Kayla Wilkens (Mabel), Karsten Pudwill (Frederic), and James McGoff (Pirate King). Notable in supporting roles are: Susan Easter (Police Chief),Kim Glover (Kate), Bonita Hunt (Edith), Kristina Wells (Isabel), Keith Dotson (Samuel), and Stephen Rinck (Major-General Stanley).

To that solid corps are added twenty-eight very capable chorus members – 11 swashbuckling buccaneers, 10 bumbling British Bobbies, and 7 frolicsome Victorian maidens. Under the guidance of musical director Dean Balan and choreographer Anastasia Weiss, they navigate this most riotous of comic operettas with ease, filling the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area with their joyous harmonies and rhythmically complex dance routines, accomplished with well-clipped military precision.

The design team has found a perfect balance in support of the overall artistic goals of the production: a simple yet flexible set (Steve Paladie); lighting which is almost imperceptible (Liz Kline), costumes (Ginger Land-van Buuren) that delightfully contrast pirates (swarthy nautical dress), police (ill-fitting, unkempt uniforms akin to Keystone Cops) with the more flamboyant and brightly colored pantaloons, petticoats and bobby socks of the Sisters.

The Pirates of Penzance is a comic operetta in two acts, with libretto by Sir W.S. Gilbert (1836-1911), playwright and humorist, and music by Arthur Sullivan (1842-1900). Sullivan was unofficial composer laureate of England and favorite of Queen Victoria. Gilbert and Sullivan (G&S) wrote a series of fourteen comic operettas which were wildly popular in their own time and are still widely performed by amateur and professional groups today, over a hundred years after their creation.

The operetta premiered on December 31, 1879 at the Fifth Avenue Theater in New York with Sullivan conducting -- though a single performance had been given on the previous day at the Royal Bijou Theatre, Paignton, England, to secure the British copyright. Finally, the operetta opened on April 30, 1880, at the Opéra Comique in London, where it ran for 363 performances, having already been playing successfully for over three months in New York.

It’s hard to find fault with Sullivan’s own appraisal about the operetta upon which he was hard at work in New York on December 10, 1879. He penned in a letter to his mother: "I think it will be a great success, for it is exquisitely funny, and the music is strikingly tuneful and catching."

True enough! The Pirates of Penzance was an immediate hit and takes its place today as one of the most popular and enduring works of musical theatre thanks to the efforts of Richard D'Oyly Carte, the impresario who turned Gilbert & Sullivan into big business, along with building the opera company and the Savoy Theatre which he built to produce them.

Sin City Opera “Is Las Vegas' premier contemporary opera company, dedicated to bringing affordable opera and classical music to our community in fresh and exciting new ways”. It is certainly our good fortune that they have brought Gilbert and Sullivan back to town! Let’s have more of it, please.

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