Lazy Susan Dinner Theatre reprises Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance, a two-act operetta that was first produced in December of 1879, and still proudly remains in production to this day, beautifully directed by Kevin D. McCormack.
This production is a particularly good fit for Lazy Susan, as its rustic atmosphere and unique collection of vintage pieces harkens back to an older time, and is very enjoyable to visit. Dinner is provided before the show, and as the servers (who, incidentally, are also cast and crew members) bring around coffee, it is poured from dainty, spouted tin jugs that you would most definitely not find at a chain location. The warm ambiance found at The Lazy Susan is indeed half of the fun of going.
A pirate map covers the back wall in a set constructed by Eric Redmond, Philip Viar, and George Rouse. The hull of a rowboat and grey “boulders” make up a rocky English seashore, and as the set swivels around, the elegant interior of a castle is shown, complete with a framed portrait of Queen Victoria. Lighting Designer Jeanne Forbes sets a playful mood with a spotlight, which at one point has to be waved off by a character that has walked in the wrong direction, who snips, “how embarrassing!” Costume Designers Reggie M. Eusebio, Jennifer M. Pelath, and Kay Cogswell dress the characters in stereotypical pirate attire, but with a twist: they use bold colors such as neon yellow and bright green to make these particular pirates outlandish and silly. The swords are garnished with embellishments such as glittery ribbons and stars, and indeed, one pirate wields a rubber chicken as his weapon of choice. The cast of women wears era-appropriate lace ruffled gowns, and poufy, frilled nightgowns with bonnets and tight, face-framing curls to match. Music Director John Edward Niles makes sure that every cue is on-point.
A young man named Frederick, played by a bright Timothy Adams, is all too ready to leave his band of inept pirates, to whom he was apprenticed until his 21st birthday. He assures them that, while he loves them individually, he abhors them as a whole, shouting, “you are too tender-hearted!” After he leaves them, he meets a group of sisters and grabs their attention (as well as the audience’s) with his aria, “Stop, Ladies, Pray!” He falls in love with one of the sisters, named Mabel, a role shared by Elizabeth Gillespie and Christine Lacey. Elizabeth Gillespie portrayed Mabel on the night of my attendance, and hit (and held!) a scale of impressive high notes in her aria to Frederic, “Poor Wandering One!” Frederic finds his new life complicated when the pirates reappear and claim Mabel’s sisters as their unwilling brides.
Katherine Lipovsky particularly stood out from the rest of the sisters, with a booming voice and friendly smile. The girls’ father, Major-General Stanley, played by Lyle Blake Smythers, takes advantage of the pirate’s known compassion for orphans and tells them that he is one; a lie that frees his daughters in the fast-paced, energetic song titled “I Am The Very Model of A Modern Major General.” However, just when things seem comfortably settled for Frederic, major plot twists threaten to unravel his life.
The gem of this production was the downright silly dance moves created by choreographer Elizabeth Gillespie. From impressive jumps and slapstick leaps to a precise chorus line, the dancing was a pleasure to watch. I especially loved when the pirates formed themselves into a ‘ship,’ and proceeded to ‘sail’ across the stage during the entertaining “Oh, Better For to Live and Die.” The acting was also wonderful, with a special nod to Terry Barr whose lively portrayal of the wimpy-but-proud Pirate King riveted the audience’s attention, specifically in the number, “With Cat-Like Tread, Upon Our Prey We Steal.” Never have I seen such enthusiastic facial expressions!
Barr also took special care to interact with the audience, which, during my performance, was made up mostly of a large youth group. For example, during one particularly hairy plot twist, a young man in the front row quipped, “Oh, he’s dead!” to which Terry turned to and exclaimed, without missing a beat, “Dead! Quite right, he is!”
The cast immediately lined themselves along the wall after the show, and thanked the audience members personally for coming as we filed out of the theatre. They are a playful, friendly bunch, and it is obvious that they had just as much fun putting on the show as we had watching it! From the welcoming environment and good food to the thrilling entertainment, you’ll have a wonderful time when you visit Lazy Susan Dinner Theatre to see The Pirates of Penzance.
The Pirates of Penzance runs through July 8, 2012 at Lazy Susan Dinner Theatre – 10712 Richmond Highway, in Lorton, VA. For a reservation, call (703) 550-7384.