For 15 years, the Off Broadway Theatre has mostly been home to broad comedic genre parodies like this season’s Transmorfers. For the current production, however, the company has chosen to play it straight—or at least as straight as Gilbert and Sullivan gets. The 1879 light opera The Pirates of Penzance offers one of the team’s most purely entertaining creations, a trifle about an innocent young indentured servant named Frederic (David Peterson) who, upon turning 21, is to be freed from his service to the Pirate King (AJ Longhurst). This would allow him to marry the lovely Mabel (Rivkah Steele), daughter of Major General Stanley (Cody Carlson), and lead a police raid on those who once were his comrades. A shame, then, that a quirk of the calendar could thwart all of Frederic’s plans.
While director Shauna Brand works a few audience interactions into her staging—the aisle seats and front row definitely become part of the action—this is not a production aimed at riffing on Pirates. From stem to stern, it’s the real deal, with all the tuneful melodies and rat-a-tat singing exemplified by the best-known number, “I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major General.”
And Brand has also put together a lively and engaging cast, led by Carlson and Longhurst in terrifically satisfying comic performances.
Everyone involved seems to be having fun, while fundamentally respecting the source material. When the cast members line up at the exit to thank you for coming, you’ll probably feel like thanking them right back.