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Pirates of Penzance

Pirates of Penzance
Peoria Players Theatre
March 13-15 & 19-22
By Stan Strickler

Do you remember when Victoria was Queen and the sun never set on the British Empire and all was right with the world? Neither do I. But Peoria Players has recreated that world for us with its latest production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance, a frothy light hearted romp that is as sparkling as champagne and as sweet as marshmallow fudge.

No need to fear these pirates for they are not the same as Blackbeard nor as modern as the Somalis in Captain Phillips. No, these pirates have never one a battle because they are too soft hearted always giving up the fight should anyone declare themselves an orphan. The story revolves around Frederic an apprentice to the Pirate King and his band of fellow pirates. It seems his nursemaid Ruth apprenticed him to the pirates as a young lad because she though she was apprenticing him to be a pilot. Naturally in any comic operetta Frederic falls in love with the lovely Mabel and wants to marry her immediately. However since he is a pirate and must stay a pirate even after his apprenticeship is supposedly over. But never fear all is right in the end and relationships untangle themselves and everyone ends up happily ever after.

Because this is a light hearted comedy all of the characters are stock characters who must be played a little over the top, but also seriously or the comedy is ruined. Brining just he right note to his role as the Pirate King, Lee Wenger struts about on stage looking menacing, but all the while never too threatening especially in his song, “I am the Pirate King.” Also adding to the humor is Stephen Post as the modern major general who knows a lot about everything except how to be a great military commander. His song, “I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major General” is a standout performance that closes act one.

Also outstanding in the cast are Shirley Salazar as Ruth the maid of all work, and Seth Katz as the Sergeant of Police. They both have powerful voices and bring a great comic touch to their parts. I especially liked Salazar’s interpretation of the song “ When Fred’ric was a Little Lad” as she tries to explain why he is a pirate. And Katz struts around the stage looking as if he knows what is going on all the while seeming very bumbling. Mina Vogel as Mabel has a very powerful voice and a sweet stage presence needed for her role as the ingĂ©nue, the object of Frederic’s attention. I only wish that Ross Thorpe were as equal to the task of comic timing and singing ability at the rest of the cast. While he is adequate for the part, he does not seem to portray the strong handsome hero with as much swagger as necessary for the part, and his voice is not as powerful as Mina’s so that sometimes he is drowned out by her marvelous singing during their lovely duets.

All in all though the cast is quite capable and the evening was very enjoyable. Laura Garfinkel, the director is to be commended in staging this lively romp. Also Denise Adams’s experience with Gilbert and Sullivan over the years shows as she led the cast in a lively production with a small orchestra. The music is truly fun and lively. The set design by Julie Wasson was functional and quite lovely with the bow of a ship in the first act followed by an outdoor scene in the second. The small orchestra was quite good as well but since it had so many high pitched instruments it did get a little shrill for these old ears during the rather long overture.

All in all this production of Pirates of Penzance was delightful. It was light hearted and comically fun and should not be missed. 
Pirates of Penzance continues at Peoria Players  Thursday through Saturday (March 19 - 21) at 7:30 pm and Sunday (March 22) at 2 pm.  Tickets are $18 for adults, $12 for students aged 18 & under and are available at the Peoria Players box office, by calling 309-688-4473 or online at

Posted March 15, 2015