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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Swashbuckling Skylight

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The Skylight closes its 49th season with a production of Gilbert and Sullivan's swashbuckling musical comedy The Pirates of Penzance. This lighthearted show is one of Gilbert and Sullivan's most popular, having been performed on stages across the country almost continuously since it debuted nearly 130 years ago.

The story follows Frederic (Robert Boldin), a young man who has just turned 21 and finished his training as a pirate. The ship's maid (Diane Lane) reveals that Frederic is actually someone born to civilization-and not an orphan like the rest of the pirates. Frederic's inner struggle between piracy and legitimacy is complicated by a burgeoning romance with a woman named Mabel (Niffer Clarke).

Standing at opposite thematic ends are bass-baritone Peter Clark as the Pirate King and comic baritone Gary Briggle as Major-General Stanley, who has daughters the pirates would like to marry. Clark may be a newcomer to the Skylight stage, but Briggle is well known to audiences. In addition to appearing with the Skylight in past Gilbert and Sullivan productions (Patience, The Mikado), Briggle has played the role of Major-General Stanley elsewhere, most notably with the Virginia Opera in 2007. Given the character's charismatic arrogance, you can see why an actor would want to revisit this fun role. And, of course, he gets to sing one of the most beloved G&S songs ever: "I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General."

The Skylight will undoubtedly bring its characteristically impeccable production values to the stage. One highlight will be the scenic and lighting design by Peter Dean Beck, whose promising work for more serious, dramatic operas in places like Hawaii and Georgia should be interesting to see in light comedy.

The Pirates of Penzance runs through June 14 at the Broadway Theatre Center's Cabot Theatre.

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