Theatre ReviewsTom Williams

The Pirates of Penzance

The Pirates of Penzance at Light Opera works
The Pirates of Penzance

Or, The Slave of Duty

Book & Lyrics by W. S. Gilbert

Music by Arthur Sullivan

Directed & Choreographed by Rudy Hogenmiller

Conductor Roger L. Bingaman

Produced by Light Opera Works

At Cahn Auditorium

Sweet, funny and deftly sung operetta captures Gilbert & Sullivan’s genius

From the toe-tapping overture, you know you’re in for a comic operetta and Roger L. Bingaman’s 26 member orchestra delivers Arthur Sullivan’s score in a delightful turn. The Gilbert & Sullivan 1879 operetta The Pirates of Penzance still resonates with audiences in the 21st Century. I’m a true Gilbert & Sullivan fan since my grandfather played their shows often for me during my youth. I have seen many wonderful productions of this classic. Rudy Hogenmiller’s Light Opera Works’ production is rich in humor, cute choreography and strong vocals.

The Pirates of Penzance at Light Opera works

This popular whimsical spoof of duty, honor and the stiff British sense of breeding is cute, wacky, irreverent and thoroughly entertaining. The fabulous word play, bouncy score featuring rich harmonies, operatic tones and clever singing retorts is the G & S style that agelessly appeals to audiences.

We meet a fumbling group of lovable, sentimental pirates, bumbling policeman, dim-witted young lovers, dewy-eyed daughters and an eccentric Major-General (James Harms at his best) all morally bound to the rules of honor and duty.

Frederic (Matthew Giebel sporting terrific tenor voice with expert acting chops) is leaving the pirates since his apprenticeship is over. The only woman he ever knew, Ruth (Barbara Landis) deceives him to believe that her 47 year old wrinkled face is the standard of beauty. Frederic meets a group of pretty sisters and discovers that youth and beauty are inseparable. He quickly falls for Mabel (Alicia Berneche singing  a powerful soprano).

The Major-General  makes a splash in his funny and entrance in his terrific “I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General” quick-paced song rich in rhyme and satirical wit. Harms is a hoot as the goofy soldier.

Frederic sense of duty makes him rejoin the pirates who have captured the sisters. The bumbling policemen, led by their Sergeant (Frank M. DeVincentis in a rich bass baritone) are summoned to arrest the pirates. When honor, duty and excellent English manners are practiced, each group succeeds with their etiquette. The hilarity and cute plot twists are sung and played richly in this light-hearted frolic that aims and delivers the toe-tapping rhymes and rhythms of Sullivan’s memorable score.

Michael Cavalieri’s Pirate king, Robert J. Brady’s Samuel led the harmless pirates. Matthew Giebel Frederic carried the show as the charming young lover.  Rudy Hogenmiller’s choreography, especially with the cop’s dancing was cute and creative. The humor and biting anti-British satire makes for a funny, yet high quality production of a classic.

Light Opera Works’ production of The Prates of Penzance is gem that effectively lands the magic, the humor and the genius of G &S.  It renders the laughs, lands the songs, and pleases. It is a family friendly treat.

Highly Recommended

Tom Williams

“Pirates” only runs through January 3, 2010 at The Cahn Auditorium, located at 800 Emerson (at Sheridan Rd) in Evanston.  Performances are Sunday, December 27 at 2 p.m., Monday, December 28 at 2 p.m., Wednesday, December 30 at 2 p.m., Thursday New Years Eve at 8 p.m., Saturday, January 2 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, January 3 at 2 p.m.  Tickets range from $30- $88 and are available by calling 847-869-6300 or online at


I am the very model of a modern Major-General,

I’ve information vegetable, animal, and mineral,

I know the kings of England, and I quote the fights historical

From Marathon to Waterloo, in order categorical;

I’m very well acquainted, too, with matters mathematical,

I understand equations, both the simple and quadratical,

About binomial theorem I’m teeming with a lot o’ news,

With many cheerful facts about the square of the hypotenuse.

I’m very good at integral and differential calculus;

I know the scientific names of beings animalculous:

In short, in matters vegetable, animal, and mineral,

I am the very model of a modern Major-General.

I know our mythic history, King Arthur’s and Sir Caradoc’s;

I answer hard acrostics, I’ve a pretty taste for paradox,

I quote in elegiacs all the crimes of Heliogabalus,

In conics I can floor peculiarities parabolous;

I can tell undoubted Raphaels from Gerard Dows and Zoffanies,

I know the croaking chorus from The Frogs of Aristophanes!

Then I can hum a fugue of which I’ve heard the music’s din afore,

And whistle all the airs from that infernal nonsense Pinafore.

Then I can write a washing bill in Babylonic cuneiform,

And tell you ev’ry detail of Caractacus’s uniform:

In short, in matters vegetable, animal, and mineral,

I am the very model of a modern Major-General.

In fact, when I know what is meant by “mamelon” and “ravelin”,

When I can tell at sight a Mauser rifle from a javelin,

When such affairs as sorties and surprises I’m more wary at,

And when I know precisely what is meant by “commissariat”,

When I have learnt what progress has been made in modern gunnery,

When I know more of tactics than a novice in a nunnery—

In short, when I’ve a smattering of elemental strategy—

You’ll say a better Major-General has never sat a gee.

For my military knowledge, though I’m plucky and adventury,

Has only been brought down to the beginning of the century;

But still, in matters vegetable, animal, and mineral,

I am the very model of a modern Major-General.

(below is a sing-along–if you dare!)

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