Before there was a “Pirates of the Caribbean” ride at Disneyland or Captain Hook in “Peter Pan” or even Long John Silver in “Treasure Island,” there was “The Pirates of Penzance.”
Written by the renowned lyricist and composer duo of W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan, this Victorian-era opera not only became a forerunner for what are now referred to as musicals, but also helped romanticize the pirates’ lives as we know them today.
Last week, the Wichita State School of Performing Arts and School of Music presented their production of this famous Gilbert and Sullivan work, directed by Marie Allyn King and choreographed by Joshua Larson.
The Wichita State Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Mark Laycock, provided Sullivan’s delightful score.
Featured in the cast for the Friday performance was Joseph Consiglio IV as The Pirate King, who lived up to the title with his constant swagger and boastful singing voice.
The lead role of Fredrick, an apprentice pirate described as a “slave of duty,” was portrayed by Kevin Mitchell Jr., who possesses the stage presence needed for his role.
The performance of the opera’s most recognizable song, “I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General,” was beautifully handled by Chy F. Billings III, who relished in all of the physicality the role of the Major General and handled the tongue-twisting lyrics masterfully.
Rounding out the cast was the ensemble of the title characters from the first act and cowardly policemen from the second act.
The ensemble of the Major-General’s daughters, dressed in multi-colored Victorian dresses complete with umbrellas used to full effect, received huge laughs from the audience.
This, along with all the costumes, is a credit to costume designer Amber Creasser, who gave every character a distinctive look, including a memorable piece for the Pirate King.
Being one of the most popular of the Gilbert and Sullivan collaborations, WSU’s production of “The Pirates of Penzance” boasted a spirited cast with excellent direction and costumes to showcase, and it was a fun reminder of why the life of a pirate is one to romanticize.