The Pirates of Penzance

By Rachel M.

If you are a Gilbert and Sullivan fan and live in NYC, you have surely enjoyed a performance of the New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players (NYGASP). If you aren’t a fan, you should be. The dramatist W. S. Gilbert (1836–1911) and the composer Arthur Sullivan (1842–1900) collaborated on fourteen comic operas between 1871 and 1896. Their operas have enjoyed wide and lasting international success and are still performed frequently throughout the English-speaking world. Their work directly influenced the development of musical theatre throughout the 20th century.

Known as America’s preeminent professional Gilbert & Sullivan repertory ensemble, NYGASP perform thirteen different complete G&S operettas and maintain a cast, orchestra and crew of 50-80 people. Under the dynamic leadership of Artistic Director Albert Bergeret, who has been hailed as “the leading custodian of the G&S classics,” the company gives vitality to the living legacy of Gilbert & Sullivan through performance and education. They are especially known for exceptional versions of the most popular operettas designed for children’s audiences.

NYGASP continues its 44th season this week with five performances of The Pirates of Penzance at the Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College. The story of The Pirates of Penzance is both witty and charming while the score includes such favorites as “I am the very model of a model Major-General”, “Poor Wand’ring One”, “When the Foeman Bares His Steel” and “Come friends who plough the sea” (the source for the tune of “Hail, hail the gang’s all here”). The cast, with both senior and novice members, does a stellar job of making the play exciting and pertinent to modern audiences. Embellishing the already humorous story with up-to-date references, wonderful comic choreography, and costume accessories add to this still relevant parody.

The performance included lovely soprano Sarah Caldwell Smith as Mabel, expert comedian James Mills as pattering Major-General Stanley, David Macaluso as pirate sidekick Samuel, Angela Christine Smith as ditsy nursemaid Ruth, Matthew Wages as the brash Pirate King, Carter Lynch as Frederic, Amy Maude Helfer, Abigail Benke, Emily Wright, Hannah Holmes and Merrill Grant as the Major-General’s daughters adventurous Kate, concerned Edith, and dancer Isabel. David Auxier as the Sergeant of Police carries the second act. To a tee, each cast member’s performance was entertaining and melodic.

I’ve been listening to G&S since I was a child, and I have now attended a NYGASP performance with my parents and children together. It’s wonderful to see how the librettos and music have stood the test of time.

Since it may be hard to get tickets for this week’s shows, check out NYGASP’s next performances: Ages Ago/Mr. Jericho on March 1-3, 2019. More information can be found at www.nygasp.org.

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