The Pirates of Penzance drop anchor at Denison

TAYLOR KERN, Staff Writer — Who doesn’t love a splash of musical theater?

The Pirates of Penzance, a renowned operetta by Victorian-era theater duo W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan, made its way to Denison’s campus in the fall and premiered this past weekend. There were only two public performance dates and both rapidly sold out.

This show was unique in that it was the first mainstage show that was also a musical and it was one of the first performances to utilize the full resources of the new Michael D. Eisner Center for the Performing Arts.

These resources included, but are not limited to: advanced scene and set construction, lighting, projection, professional costuming, and makeup lessons. The show follows the story of a reluctant pirate (Sam Fujikawa ’22), accidentally apprenticed to a band of goofy pirates instead of a pilot, two words his caretaker (Lauren Kessler ’21) defends as similar to the hard of hearing such as herself. What follows is much confusion about what constitutes a beautiful woman, a virtuous line of work, and a commitment to duty, and much singing, dancing and sighing.

The pirates are ever more ridiculous because they are known to always spare orphans and as a result find themselves only capturing orphans. Each song contained a high percentage of the English dictionary and many swords were drawn in the making of this production. Adding a dash of humor such as that of the blundering, improv-dancing policemen resulted in a show with legit music and singing that still packs the entertainment value of a contemporary musical.

Performances by Will Knoop ’21 as the charming but gullible Pirate King and Ethan McAtee ’20 as the very model of a modern Major General (arguably one of the most well-known roles in theatre for its high-speed patter singing) also contributed what could only be every ounce of their passion and energy to the show.

Finally, the leading lady Mabel, portrayed by Lanie Rogers ’22, commanded her share of the spotlight with an especially challenging vocal part comprising soprano notes more often found in strictly classical music. Overall, the energy each member of the cast and crew brought to the production demonstrates the excitement being revived in the arts at Denison with the completion of the Eisner Center and Pirates’ foreshadows only a positive trajectory in the growth of these programs.

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