James’ Brand New Blog

The Pirates of Penzance @ 2012 Stratford Shakespeare Festival

- June 2nd, 2012

098_Pirates_On The Run

Kyle Blair as Frederic and Amy Wallis as Mabel in The Pirates of Penzance. Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann. Copyright (c) Stratford Shakespeare Festival.

With all the telescopes, police batons, women toting steampunk gunnery, cannons, steely blades & wooden swords, bombs, frilly & leggy bridal gowns & under kilt espionage, there is plenty of repressed/not-so-repressed Victoriansexiana in The Pirates of Penzance at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival this year.

The festival’s welcome return to Gilbert & Sullivan opened Friday at the Avon Theatre. This Pirates is a delightful excursion, with top-sail leadership by London’s Kyle Blair (Frederic) and Amy Wallis (Mabel, with some of the iron will of her Sally in You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown).

The pirate crew is led by Sean Arbuckle (hmm . . . he’s a pirate king & an impresario in 42nd Street in the same season, a message there?) and with foppishly sloppy costuming bids to bring piracy back from the Caribbean . . . the females on-shore are first seen in elaborate hiking and mountaineering gear but clearly want to bathe ankles-or-more exposed.

On a personal note, among the cast is Guthrie-award funded concertina ace George Meanwell. He was at Trent University when JBNBlog was there back in the early 1970s.  George, JBNBlog salutes you for your marvellous journey from Short Turn to Quartetto Gelato to Penzance & beyond. The 1978 Short Turn album, blue vinyl & all, still sounds terrific. Just finished listening to Side One.

Meanwhile, back to Cornwall at the Avon . . . Sullivan’s score with so many of his greatest hits & Gilbert’s topsy turviest words are celebrated vocally (to be expected) & in dance (mad, elegant, silly . . . all done well).

The production adds a merry Schwenckian jest about capitalism-purchasing ancestors to Gilbert’s jibes via the Major-General on the subject . . . but Gilbert’s orphan/often jokey dialogue defeated Arbuckle and the Major-General (C. David Johnson). Or maybe we just missed the joke on opening night. In contrast, Steve Ross’s kilted Sergeant of the Police singing “A Policeman’s lot . . . ” was spot-on.

Spoiler alert . .  . (jump to the next paragraph if you wish) . . . the Major-General has a tongue-twisting interlude on the festival’s history, leading to the unveiling of a big photo of the fest’s commander-in-chief & lots of applause. Something similar happened with Richard Monette as he was preparing to leave the fest helm. That was at the Avon, too.

End of spoiler alert.

Producing wonder is the extended stage conceit of seeing Pirates from a backstage view as does a steampunk bomb & the rope work in many scenes which is likely rigging in the staging & design.

With all that rope & melody & wit & movement (good, funny fight scene!) to grasp, a happy voyage to Penzance can be promised.

Inevitable #ldnont connection:

Kyle Blair is excellent, but JBNBlog has saluted his London-ness in earlier posts. Among the many London-tied musicians are Karen & Henry Zielinski, both playing violins & Henry’s mandolin. Their admirable endeavours have included London Arts Plus. That fine arts-sparking outfit brought in my parents as collaborators for a poetry, music & bouncing ball night at the McManus back in the day. Thank you, Karen & Henry, for such inspiring evenings.

Inevitable trivia question, also with a #ldnont connection:

Gilbert’s Pirates creation Major-General Stanley is based on a famous British officer. The original “modern major-general” spent some time around London during the 1860s, possibly spying for Britain during the American Civil War. His name is still associated with a London landmark. For the usual prizes, who is he?

Some background from the media release:

In creating their vision of the fanciful Victorian world in which the production is set, the design team drew inspiration from Steampunk, a genre of literature, art and fashion that incorporates elements of science fiction, fantasy and alternative history. “As we searched for something that spanned the Victorian while still retaining a contemporary edge, we stumbled upon the Steampunk movement,” says director Ethan McSweeny. “I was thrilled to learn more about these retro-futurists in our midst and to incorporate into the design parts of their glorious expression of neo-Victoriana through the lens of Jules Verne.”

The production’s artistic team also includes Musical Director Franklin Brasz, Choreographer Marcos Santana, Set Designer Anna Louizos, Costume Designer Paul Tazewell, Lighting Designer Howell Binkley, Sound Designer Jim Neil, Orchestrator Michael Starobin, and Arranger Mark Camilleri.

 

Cast (in alphabetical order)       

Ward…………………………………………………………………………… Sarah Afful

Thomas, The Pirate King………………………………………………….. Sean Arbuckle

Frederic……………………………………………………………………….. Kyle Blair

Pirate………………………………………………………………………….. Andrew Broderick

Edith……………………………………………………………………………. Naomi Costain

Pirate, Police…………………………………………………………………. Stephen Cota

Ward…………………………………………………………………………… Jacquelyn French

Pirate, Police…………………………………………………………………. Nicko Giannakos

Pirate………………………………………………………………………….. Kyle Golemba

Pirate, Police…………………………………………………………………. Larry Herbert

Ward…………………………………………………………………………… Julianne Hobby

Kate……………………………………………………………………………. Keely Hutton

Major-General Stanley……………………………………………………. C. David Johnson

Pirate, Police…………………………………………………………………. Galen Johnson

Ruth……………………………………………………………………………. Gabrielle Jones

Ward…………………………………………………………………………… Monique Lund

Ward…………………………………………………………………………… Ayrin Mackie

Sergeant of the Police…………………………………………………….. Steve Ross

Pirate, Police…………………………………………………………………. Jay T. Schramek

Pirate………………………………………………………………………….. Travis Seetoo

Pirate………………………………………………………………………….. David Silvestri

Ward…………………………………………………………………………… Jennifer Stewart

Samuel………………………………………………………………………… Jordan Till

Pirate, Police…………………………………………………………………. Geoffrey Tyler

Ward…………………………………………………………………………… Tahirih Vejdani

Mabel………………………………………………………………………….. Amy Wallis

Isabel………………………………………………………………………….. Abigail Winter-Culliford

Musician, violin……………………………………………………………… Anna Atkinson

Musician, guitar…………………………………………………………….. Terry McKenna

Musician, concertina………………………………………………………. George Meanwell

Swing………………………………………………………………………….. Matthew Armet

Swing ………………………………………………………………………….. Rachel Crowther

 

 

Artistic team

Director……………………………………………………………………….. Ethan McSweeny

Choreographer……………………………………………………………… Marcos Santana

Musical Director…………………………………………………………….. Franklin Brasz

Set Designer…………………………………………………………………. Anna Louizos

Costume Designer…………………………………………………………. Paul Tazewell

Lighting Designer…………………………………………………………… Howell Binkley

Sound Designer…………………………………………………………….. Jim Neil

Orchestrator…………………………………………………………………. Michael Starobin

Arrangements………………………………………………………………. Mark Camilleri

Fight Director………………………………………………………………… Daniel Levinson

Stunt Coordinator………………………………………………………….. Simon Fon

Associate Conductor………………………………………………………. Michael Barber

Assistant Director…………………………………………………………… Darcy Evans

Assistant Choreographer…………………………………………………. Tammy Nera

Assistant Set Designer…………………………………………………….. Brandon Kleiman

Assistant Costume Designer…………………………………………….. Laura Gardner

Assistant Lighting Designer………………………………………………. Kaileigh Krysztofiak

Assistant Fight Director…………………………………………………… Simon Fon

Dance Captain……………………………………………………………….. Matthew Armet

Fight Captain…………………………………………………………………. Stephen Cota

Fight Captain…………………………………………………………………. Galen Johnson

Stage Manager……………………………………………………………… Michael Hart

Assistant Stage Manager…………………………………………………. Melanie Klodt Wong

Assistant Stage Manager…………………………………………………. Holly Korhonen

Assistant Stage Manager…………………………………………………. Melissa Rood

Production Assistant………………………………………………………. Kenilee Kehler

Production Stage Manager………………………………………………. Julie Miles

Production Stage Manager………………………………………………. Maxwell T. Wilson

Technical Director………………………………………………………….. Elissa Horscroft

 

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