Sassy Savoyards: UTOPIA, LIMITED, This Weekend Only

Durham’s venerable Gilbert and Sullivan group, The Durham Savoyards, Ltd., presents its annual show this weekend only at the Carolina Theatre. This year’s romp is the timely UTOPIA, LIMITED, directed by Derrick Ivey. I saw it on the 27th: read my CVNC.org review, titled “Durham Savoyards’ Sparkling Utopia, Limited.” Or just get tickets for this happy entertainment. I enjoyed it enormously.

Jim Burnette as King Paramount, and Alana Sealy as The Lady Sophy, in the Durham Savoyards production of UTOPIA, LIMITED. Photo courtesy of The Durham Savoyards, Ltd.

Jim Burnette as King Paramount, and Alana Sealy as The Lady Sophy, in the Durham Savoyards 2015 production,  UTOPIA, LIMITED. Photo: Joe Cohn.

THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE, swashbuckling and singing once again as The Durham Savoyards celebrate 50 years of frolicking fun at the Carolina

The lead characters in Durham Savoyards' 50th anniversary production of THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE. Photo: Joe Cohn.

The lead characters in Durham Savoyards’ 50th anniversary production of THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE. Photo: Joe Cohn.

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.

as Ruth and as Frederick in Gilbert and Sullivan's THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE. The Durham Savoyards production runs at the Carolina Theatre through March 24.

Elizabeth Artemis Clark as Ruth, and Kenny Cruz as Frederick, in Gilbert and Sullivan’s THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE. The Durham Savoyards production runs at the Carolina Theatre through March 24. Photo: Joe Cohn.

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