The New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players brought "The Pirates of Penzance" to the Tawes Theatre last night for one performance only, directed and conducted by Albert Bergeret. His conducting was crisp and efficient, his direction much less so.
The orchestra was fine. Bergeret made the most of the battle between waltzing and square rhythms in the delicious "How beautifully blue the sky," even if the chorus insisted on slurring anything shorter than a half-note. The strings were bright and accurate, the beat was always bouncy. The singers were young and spirited but little else. Nearly none sounded comfortable singing or speaking in English, affecting various annoying versions of a British accent. As the young slave of duty, Frederic, tenor Paul Tomasko looked very nice and had all the notes. But his timbre was as thin as his phrasing was void of legato.
Stephen O'Brien was less than a model Major General, but at least his patter was clearly enunciated. Robin Hansen was charming as his daughter Mabel, although hers was a tired young voice at the close of the staccato runs in "Poor wandering one." As Ruth the Pirate Maid, Shaun Bushnell was best when she forgot her accent and just sang. The rest of the cast was not as good as one expects from local law school productions, with Major General's girls outshining the pirates. The stage business had naive echoes of the kind of crustiness that helped to kill the D'Oily Carte Company, exacerbated by bits of amateur posturing.
The New York City Opera staged "Pirates" with Gianna Rolandi as Mabel a few seasons ago, the D'Oily Carte brought it in its first visit to the Kennedy Center, Joseph Papp's brilliant adaptation is still running on Broadway and there have been several local stagings of the work. Most were better than this production, with Papp's original trio of male leads being the most satisfying we are likely to see for some time. It would have been easier to justify a New York G&S Players' production of, say, "Iolanthe" or "Patience." But this "Pirates" we didn't need.