Muhlenberg’s Pirates of Penzance Review – By: Dustin Lee Yenser

Photo Courtesy Muhlenberg College of Department of Theatre & Dance
Muhlenberg College’s energetic and eye-catching production of The Pirates of Penzance opened to a sold-out crowd Friday night. The classic Gilbert & Sullivan comedy tells the tale of Frederic, a young man from an honorable family mistakenly apprenticed to a pirate king. Having served out his indenture, Frederic is eager to rejoin respectable society. He immediately falls for Mabel, one of the many daughters of an old general, and finds himself torn between pursuing his love and honoring his obligations to his former crew.

Vocal performances are strong throughout, anchored by the powerful voice of Felice Amsellem as Mabel. The three ensembles, Pirates, Daughters, and Policemen, throw themselves fully into their roles, dancing and dodging and diving across the stage at the breakneck pace of controlled chaos. There is never a dull moment among the supporting actors. The Daughters in particular did a great job of establishing distinct characters among the crowd. Some of the most entertaining moments come in the interplay between charming Frederic (Kyle Watkins), his scheming maid (Kelly Shannon), and the dashing Pirate King (Alan Mendez).

The sets are beautiful and beautifully lit. The textures of the Cornish cliffs and chapel ruins feel alive onstage. Several hidden entrance and exit points allow the actors to fully occupy the space. A lively orchestra keeps the audience members emotionally engaged in the story while the excellent acoustics of the Empie Theatre allow them to enjoy the natural warmth and intensity of the singers’ voices without the flattening effect of artificial amplification.

The Pirates of Penzance runs until Sunday, November 6 at the Dorothy and Dexter Baker Center for the Arts on the campus of Muhlenberg College. Running time is approximately 2 hours with one intermission. Click here for more information!