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A Gilbert and Sullivan show, when done right, is pure fluff — a delightfully absurd piece of entertainment that invites the audience to laugh without asking them to think too hard. Brown University Gilbert and Sullivan's production of "The Pirates of Penzance," running in Alumnae Hall through Sunday, is Gilbert and Sullivan done right.

The cast, directed by Alex Hills '11, never seems to take itself too seriously, and the production — while not always polished to perfection — is immensely fun to watch. For a show centered around a young man apprenticed to a band of pirates because his childhood nursemaid confused the word "pilot" for "pirate," this is an entirely fitting approach.

Frederick, the budding buccaneer in question, believes his term of indenture to the pirate king is over, until a surprise twist involving the complexities of being born on Feb. 29 — in a leap year — binds him once more to the life of the pirate. Frederick then finds himself torn between his "sense of duty" to the pirates, his moral objections to piracy and his growing love for a young maiden named Mabel.

The role of Frederick is played by Kaitlyn Scott '10, a casting decision that assistant director Eva Kurtz-Nelson '11 said reflects a lack of strong male tenors on campus. But Scott proves she can swashbuckle with the most masculine pirates, striding about the stage with her sword in hand. "She's done a really good job getting into manly character," Kurtz-Nelson said.

Scott's voice is both expressive and powerful, and she is strongest in the smaller, two-person scenes when her presence truly fills the stage. Many of these moments are shared with Gabriel Trilling '10 in the role of Mabel, a part that showcases Trilling's impressive range and vocal control. But Trilling's lovely voice is sometimes unfortunately lost beneath the music from the orchestra. Under the direction of Zach Wilson '12, the 20-person group sounds very professional, but at times overpowers the singers.

Trilling and Scott as Mabel and Frederick are caught between the feuding of three hilarious ensembles: Mabel's eight innocent sisters, the band of pirates and an easily frightened troop of policemen. The sisters, in pastel dresses with bustles and pinafores, titter and trill their way through the play, a perfect picture of affected naivete.

Matthew Jaroszewicz '12 leads his adorable band of bumbling, bashful policemen through several clever dance numbers that featuring night sticks and Oompa-Loompa-inspired bobbing.

But the singing and dancing pirates, in true pirate form, steal the show with nearly every song. Nate Stetson '11, sporting an impressive beard grown for the part, plays the pirate king. Stetson's king is an endearing blend of savage and sweet, a fearsome pirate who will always spare an orphan and still kneels at Queen Victoria's name.

Hills said Stetson, who has experience as a fencer, also choreographed many of the show's thrilling swordfights. Before the show's conclusion, a battle breaks out between sisters, policemen and pirates that has the young ladies fending off the pirates' swords with their parasols.

"The Pirates of Penzance" is not the type of show to provoke a lot of heavy reflection or debate. In the hands of Brown University Gilbert and Sullivan, the operetta is light and charming, a pleasant two-hour distraction. But no matter how comedic and creative the production is, the audience may never enjoy it as much as the cast members, who all seem to be having a ball hamming it up together.

"These guys are the best cast I've ever worked with," Hills said. "If I tell them a general thing I want, they will run with it — and by run, I mean fly."

"Pirates of Penzance" runs this weekend in Alumnae Hall with performances tonight at 8 p.m., tomorrow at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. Admission is free.

 



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