Open your mind about the theater experience and get your silly, zany, daffy and singalong spirit on!
By Carol Edger Germain
Pirates of Penzance, the classic Gilbert and Sullivan light opera first performed in New York City in 1879 (and first performed at the Pasadena Playhouse in 1922) has been reimagined into a beach party complete with coolers of beer, a tiki bar that is open during the performance for anyone who wants to wind their way through the action to get a drink, kiddie pools, dozens and dozens of beach balls available for the audience to bounce and throw at each other randomly (wisely, the tiki bar serves wine in cups with lids and straws). It has delighted audiences in Chicago, Berkeley, Olney, Maryland (Washington D.C.), Cambridge, Louisville, and New York, then set sail for Pasadena and has finally landed, and it was worth the wait. The Hypocrites, a Chicago troupe building a reputation for such antics (they have previously given this treatment to The Mikado and H.M.S. Pinafore), jumps in with current but appropriate tunes to get the audience going, and also assists those with general admission tickets in finding a semi-permanent seat on the edge of one of the stages, on random risers and seats here and there, on the bench around the “pool table” (i.e., the round table with a kiddie pool on top of it, which has a series of inhabitants, paid and non-paid, throughout the show). The GA seats are semi-permanent because the action moves continually all over the space, and if you are in those seats and get a nod indicating you’re in the set for the next bit, you need to scurry to another seat. I’m rather territorial and was a bit annoyed when I got to my seat to find that the 18-inch square space where my feet would need to be was already occupied by someone’s behind, leaving me awkwardly swinging my crossed legs to the music right next to her face, but we worked it out. So you gotta just go with the flow with this one and be relaxed, ready to share, ready to move if you are in GA seats.
So now you hopefully have a sense of the unusual atmosphere at the Playhouse for this show. As an aside, I was really excited to see that the new crew there is forging ahead with what I saw as the huge expansion of genres, innovations and crowd-appealing changes made while Sheldon Epps was artistic director. I’m also excited about the upcoming productions, especially “Bordertown Now,” by Los Angeles’ beloved Latino political comedy team, Culture Clash. Another exciting bit of news is that the Playhouse is inviting every 7th grader in Pasadena schools to a performance – a great way, and a perfect age, to introduce them to theater!
Back to those singing, dancing, joking, and loving pirates. Guitars, banjos, ukuleles, and even a kiddie piano (which an audience member was induced to play for a minute) provide the musical backup. I think it would be a good move to glance briefly at a synopsis of this show if you haven’t seen it before, although it’s not like you really can expect a straight story line, there are many squiggles off the sides, many jokes, many minor comedic intrusions on the audience, plenty of music and sass, and if you’re not tapping your feet, clapping and singing along, even if you haven’t heard the music before (I hadn’t), then you probably need a trip to the tiki bar to chillax, this is not “theatah” in the diamonds and pearls, best suit sense, It is fun, semi-interactive, joke-with-your-fellow-patrons merriment as you follow Freddy on his loosely coordinated journey to leave the pirates but try to avoid fully joining the other side, find love, and learn more about life as his apprenticeship to a pirate ends (oh whoops, nanny’s mistake, she thought that’s what Freddy’s father ordered, but he really said to a “pilot,” but if she had better hearing there would be no story.) It is fast-paced, nonstop upbeat silliness, only about 80 minutes long (and one 1-minute intermission), you really need to see it and check out the play as well as the construction and technology used by the creative minds behind this production.
Pirates of Penzance
• Adapted and directed by Sean Graney
Freddy – Doug Pawlik
Ruth/Mabel – Dana Omar
Pirate King – Shawn Pfautsch
Pirates – Mario Aivazian, Eduardo Xavier Curley-Carrillo, Lauren Vogel
Major-General – Matt Kahler
Daughters – Amanda Raquel Martinez, Eduardo Xavier Curley-Carrillo, Leslie Ann Sheppard
• Music director – Andra Velis Simon
Scenic designer – Tom Burch
Prop designer – Maria DeFabo Akin
Lighting design – Heather Gilbert
Sound design – Kevin O’Donnell
Costume design – Alison Siple
Choreography – Katie Spelman
39 S El Molino Ave, Pasadena, CA 91101
• The show has been so popular, it has been extended through February 25:
Tuesday – Friday evenings at 8:00 p.m.
Saturdays at 2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.
Sundays at 2:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m..
• Tickets start at $25 (some discount tickets available at Goldstar.com)
• Purchase tickets here.
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