Look out, Broadway. One of the best renderings of the “Pirates of Penzance” is on the boards right here in Lincoln.
The Nebraska Wesleyan University Department of Theatre Arts has produced a true “Pirates” crowd-pleaser, if Thursday night’s opener is any indication. The Gilbert and Sullivan comedy musical masterpiece has a honed cast that moved to the music, sang with gusto and exuded big dance gestures.
Director James Parkhurst has guided the 30 or so cast members to carefully observe other cast members’ stage places, movements and expressions. This guidance brought a confidence to the troupe that urged the best from each member.
This cast spans generations. The 120 audience members knew exactly the painful duress brought out in Dr. Jana Holzmeier’s concept of the aging Ruth, who was rejected at first by Frederick, portrayed by Adam Rice,
Rice’s Frederick was a playful whim, and he must be an athlete, for his stage bounds and leaps reflected gymnastic abilities as well-honed as his vocal presence.
Just as exciting was the bubbly stage work of the Major General, played by Dan P. Hays. Hays and other cast members were precise on reciting the rapid text of songs such as “I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major General” to the amusement of patrons.
Abbie Krentz is cast in the role of Mabel. Her voice can be sweet for one measure and dangerously coy in the next, a great display of technique. "Stay, Frederick, Stay!” her duet with Hays in second act, visibly grabbed patrons’ emotions.
If you are familiar with Lincoln artist Robert Donlan’s collage art, imagine it pasted across stage drops, and you have the classic scenery designed for Wesleyan’s “Pirates.” The striking backdrops are not meant so much to create scenery as to create a mood, a much higher aspiration for set designers.
Stage movement and choreography design is a classic effort from Dan P. Hays. Hays, who is also the show’s musical director, has developed a never-quiet stage floor where dance and motion weave an essential part of telling the musical story.
Well worth taking in, “Pirates of Penzance” never loses its moxie, and some of the best is on the boards this weekend at Nebraska Wesleyan.