Orange County Theatre Reviews

Written by Patrick Chavis

Pirates of Penzance, other wise known as The Slave of Duty is a classical comedic opera about the silliest Pirates placed in the funniest situations. Although the silliness does come through somewhat in the music, Mysterium Theatre’s rendition just doesn’t take it far enough to create a real connection with the audience – shiver me timbers, that’s unfortunate.

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photo by Robert Ladd (Brandon IBanez,Mariann Papadopolous, Amanda Riisager, Mary Frances Conover The story of is off-the-wall hilarious and it’s the kind of comedy that transcends the time it was penned. For younger viewers, some of Mel Brook’s films (Space Balls, Blazing Saddles etc.)

The story of Pirates of Penzance is off-the-wall hilarious and it’s the kind of comedy that transcends the time it was penned. For younger viewers, some of Mel Brook’s films (Space Balls, Blazing Saddles etc.) might be good examples of the kind of longevity Gilbert & Sullivan’s comedic operas have achieved in the theatre and art world–no matter how much time passes, it’s still very good.

Pirates of Penzance follows the story of our hero Frederic, an isolated man who is now officially twenty-one. Because of a mistake made in Frederic’s childhood, he is now dutifully bound to be a pirate apprentice until he is in his 80s. Frederic’s naiveté about the world, his discovery of girls, and the conflicts that arise between him, the pirates, and his love interests father (aptly named Major General), provide just enough conflict to leave anyone in stitches.

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photo by Robert Ladd (Mariann Papadopolous, Amanda Riisager)

The acting and singing are nowhere near suitable for the material, despite patches of good singing and good acting in various spots with various actors. This patchwork of skill is so apparent it’s distracting, and manages to take you right out of the illusion of the show.  When it comes to stand out performers the ladies ruled the stage. Mary Frances Conover plays Mabel the main love interest, and she not only acts but also sings the part in a way that overshadows the majority of the other actors. Marianna Papadoplous (Edith) and Amanda Riisager (Isabel) also have a natural chemistry and sing their parts wonderfully, especially in the song “What Ought We to Do?”. Normally a lot more people perform this piece but it doesn’t really feel like too much is missing from their toned down rendition of the song.

Undoubtedly the most interesting and exciting part of this show is the interactive feature added with the crowd being invited to chime in at certain times. The interaction doesn’t really change anything but we do get some interesting improvisation from some of the more active performers in the production. I would recommend this show for kids but it starts kind of late. I think a lot of kids might dig the interactive feature. 

6.5 /10

March 27th- April 19th 

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