Park Square Theater’s The Pirates of Penzance is a fresh new take on Gilbert and Sullivan’s most popular work. Director Doug Scholz-Carlson and actor Bradley Greenwald have adapted the piece to create something that is both familiar and brand new. It mixes the history and creation of the work and its popular reception with the work itself. The result is a play within a play, as we the audience watch the final rehearsal process for the show as the ship that the troupe is on prepares to arrive in New York for its premiere. This new adaptation took a show that could be considered stodgy and overdone and made it brand new and very worth seeing. Gilbert and Sullivan were masters of social satire and this adaptation continues that traditional forward with very smart and comical nods to the #metoo movement, and a president that might be a little too close to Russia.
This adaptation’s inclusion of the show’s fascinating history did mean that some of the music had to be cut short but all of the favorites remain. Including a fantastic performance of “I Am the Very Model of a Model Major General” performed by Christina Baldwin as the major, complete with a brand new third verse written by Baldwin herself all about gender equality. I don’t know what was more impressive her performance of the performance of the sign language interpreter who drew my attention from the opposite side of the house.
The Pirates of Penzance is typically performed by a large cast but in this case Park Square’s Theater production pulls it off with just a cast of nine incredibly talented performers. Even more impressive when you take into consideration that this adaptation has added another layer of complexity by including the creators and original actors as characters along with characters they play. The stage never felt empty and sound never felt thin. The amount of energy needed by these nine characters to play all these different roles is truly impressive and that energy came across in the performance. The show is at its heart a comical and absurd one, the fact that nine actors created this entire comical and absurd world only made it that much more effective.
The Pirates of Penzance is a great classic of the musical theater and operatic world, and Park Square has made it something brilliant and brand new. It is smart, funny, relevant and full of beautiful music.
It is playing at Park Square Theater until March 25th. Click here to find out more information about how to get tickets.
*Photo by Petronella Ytsma