In need of some unalloyed entertainment with singing, dancing, bold costumes, and a happy ending? The Durham Savoyards are at your service. For the 50th year, this energetic group of Gilbert and Sullivan lovers is putting on one of G&S’s comic operettas–for their golden anniversary they chose the one they started with, The Pirates of Penzance. The performances running through March 24 at the Carolina Theatre of Durham comprise The Savoyards’ seventh production of Pirates since 1963. Two cast members from the first show, Carol and Jim Sackett, sing in this show’s Royal Chorus, and there are many other long-time Savoyards along with the fresh young ones. The audience on the 15th spanned an even wider age range, approximately 8 to 88, all of whom seemed to enjoy themselves mightily.
Directed clearly and deftly choreographed this year by Derrick Ivey, with Alan Riley Jones conducting a cogent, well-rehearsed orchestra, it’s a strong show. Diane Woodard’s costumes are varied and expressive, especially the pirate maid Ruth’s, and Richard Dideriksen’s set works very well, especially the chapel where everyone hides and chases each other leading to the climax.
On the 15th, the lead characters were all in good voice, with Kenny Cruz as Frederick and Mary Elisabeth Hirsch as Mabel singing particularly well. Jim Burnette, Jr., was rich as the Pirate King, and Stuart Albert as Major-General Stanley–well, he was the very model. Elizabeth Artemis Clark repeatedly threatened to run away with the show as Pirate Ruth. Her voice wasn’t very strong, but her slashing style made up for it. Ray Ubinger made a fine, morose, Sergeant of Police.
Several microphones hung over the stage helped the choruses to remain clear above the orchestra; generally the sound was well balanced. Since the silly lyrics provide much of the fun in Gilbert and Sullivan, I appreciated the care that had been taken to get good sound. In fact, I appreciate the whole preposterous enterprise, with its battalions of cheerful, talented men and women who spend untold hours playing hard so that we may laugh.
Tickets through the Carolina website or box office.