Ahoy there, Mateys – the gang’s all here: Pirates, lovely ladies, bumbling policemen, and a stammering Major General. Yes, my landlubbing and seafaring friends, I am speaking of Gilbert and Sullivan’s eternal classic, “The Pirates of Penzance”, which was given a delightful, fresh, and faithful take by the acclaimed New York Gilbert and Sullivan Players at College of DuPage. Founded in 1974, the group seeks to faithfully render Gilbert and Sullivan’s beloved musical comedies while tastefully updating humor without extreme, distasteful modernization. Having experienced confusion and disappointment result from such modernization at my first Gilbert and Sullivan production, I was optimistic that this would be a more faithful to the masters’ intents while equally skeptic that faithfulness to the original intent would result in a static production derived of any humor.

Thankfully, my fears were dispelled when the curtain opened to reveal a cheery, elaborate seaside with elaborately and authentically-clad pirates. Though the entire story had merely two sets, both were realistically and ingeniously constructed, with the authentic period costumes rendering the final touches. Despite that the company’s small-scale orchestra was much weaker with less sonic impact than a full-blown orchestra, its delicate, reserved sounds proved most suitable for accompanying the singers, all veteran actors and singers. Director Albert Bergeret directed both the cast and orchestra with a titanic amount of energy and gusto, enthusiastically gesturing with a perpetual and mischievous sparkle in his lively eyes. To my utmost surprise, all the cast members simultaneously sang, danced, and acted during their numbers – totally amazing. Elements of operatic parody (e.g. Mabel’s coloratura arias and cadenzas) were so masterfully executed that they immediately conjured up flashbacks of serious opera performances at the Lyric Opera of Chicago and hence evoked giddy responses from me.

With regards to individual cast members, each one was masterfully matched to his corresponding role and personality. David Wannen proved the most stalwart, oily, and cunning Pirate King, with a booming voice worthy for any veteran seaman. Clad in Captain Hook-like attire, Wannen boldly strutted across the stage, frequently exhibiting his dominance over the pure and good-natured protagonist Frederick, played by lyric tenor David Greenwood. Greenwood’s Frederick – with his youthful, floating voice – accurately captured the gentle and affable essence of his character, becoming firm only at the advances of his pushy, manipulative, and selfish nurse Ruth – accurately portrayed by Angela Smith. As a refreshing contrast, Sarah Caldwell Smith proved the most charming, lively, and lovely Mabel, highly contemplative and loyal with a floating coloratura voice that would impress the Queen of the Night. Finally, Stephen Quint proved the most lovable yet clumsy Major General Stanley, while David Auxier’s growling bass voice and tall, strong character flawlessly lent itself to the semi-serious role of the Sergeant of the Police.

In line with Gilbert and Sullivan’s original intent, humor was omnipresent at this “Pirates” production, abounding with frequent verbal and sight gags. The company made very carefully-planned efforts to emphasize the giddy humor of the production. Despite their mission to remain faithful to Gilbert and Sullivan’s original intentions, the company managed to tastefully modernize obsolete gags and restore the original “bite” to the operetta’s humor. For example, a reference to the homeland security in one of the police scenes and a desperate Tarzan yell by a most clumsy policemen during the pirates’ defeat of their wimpy band drew a chorus of laughter from the audience. The equally frequent sight gags were no less ingenious, reinforcing the humor and individual character traits, most notably clumsiness. For example, characters often tripped, staggered, and stumbled when performing their dance numbers, triggering giggles from the audience at the slightest waver. Similarly, Major General Stanley’s final appearance in enormous, plush puppy dog slippers and corny yet appropriate London Jack socks immediately drew laughter from my already giddy body. Cast members often interacted with the director and orchestra members, adding yet more ingenious and humorous touches to this fun-filled “Pirates” production. By the time the production was complete, I walked away completely satisfied by this Gilbert and Sullivan experience. So, landlubber and seafarers alike, set sail and give your evening to the New York Gilbert and Sullivan Players!