The Pirates of Penzance

Major Barbara

Rated 4.0

The pirates are peppy, the lovers are loopy, the police are Keystone, and the general is the model of a modern major goofball. Runaway Stage’s production of W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance is a rollicking funhouse presented by a cast and crew whose main goal is entertainment. As with most Runaway Stage productions, the sheer eagerness of the thrilled-to-be-onstage young cast (supporting seasoned veterans) makes up for the show’s limited production values. Yes, the backdrop is flimsy canvas sheeting, the sets and props are sparse, the sound system is wanting, and the enthusiastic eight-member live orchestra is on the small side. But, although it may not be a polished pirate production, the audience can’t help but be swept up with the can-do spirit and fun of this Penzance.

The story of a band of do-good pirates who meet up with a general and his bevy of beautiful daughters is told with a contagious comedic spirit. The story moves along through 30 clever Gilbert and Sullivan songs, mostly funny but some heartfelt.

The leads carry this production, supported by a backup cast of eager high-school- and college-aged dancers and singers with varying degrees of experience. With strong voice and stage presence, the four standouts are Rodger McDonald as the pirate king, Tevye Ditter as Frederic, Kelly Mustain as Mabel and Jes Gonzales as Maj. Gen. Stanley.

The staging, under the direction of Bob Baxter, and the choreography of Pamela Lourentzos literally fill the theater, with pirates invading from the aisles and policemen scurrying through audience rows. With its tongue-in-cheek humor and young cast members, this production makes a particularly appropriate introductory Pirates for teen theatergoers.Major Barbara is a force to be reckoned with in her army—the Salvation Army. As a street preacher, Major Barbara is armed with a good heart, but she rules with an iron hand, taking no prisoners in her battle for souls.This society gal turned society savior is steadfast in her resolve to save mankind; her morals are upright and solid. But when this religious dynamo faces a dynamite maker who wants to donate funds from what Barbara sees as ill-gotten gains, her inner moral war begins. And, to make matters more complicated, the arms dealer is her father.