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Nov. 25, 2004
Behind the Stage Door

Photos from Pirates of Penzance

From left: Peter Wisan as Frederic, Jordan Matteoli, Ben Wisan, and Nathaniel Wisan as pirates. Bob Service as the
Major-General. Darcy Daughtry as Isabel, Essie Canty Bertain as Mabel, Joan Zellner as Edith.

It is a glorious thing -- to be a Pirate King!


THE PIRATES of Penzance was the second comic operetta written by Gilbert and Sullivan, masters of the form. Its premier in New York City in 1879 -- with Sullivan himself directing and changing the script up to the last second -- was an immediate hit, and it has remained incredibly popular up to the present day with many well known songs, characters and costumes that will carry local theatergoers back to Ruddigore and other local productions.

The story opens on a February 29th, as a group of rather tame swashbucklers (Anders Carlson, Vince Farrar, Matthew Wisan, Ben Wisan, Nathaniel Wisan, and Jonathan Wisan) are wishing their youngest member a happy 21st year with a round of sherry and a song. But young Frederic (Peter Wisan) is despondent -- he is about to leave the pirate band and turn them in for their roguery.

Mark Alan Johnston proves that it is indeed a glorious thing to be the Pirate King, while chameleon chanteuse Jolene Hayes portrays Ruth, the hard-of-hearing maid who got Frederic into this mess in the first place and is trying to get him to marry her.

In the nick of time, a group of young ladies appear (Joan Zoellner, Kim Haile, Darcy Daughtry, Wanda Stapp, Jennifer Radke, Theresa Ireland, Victoria Blasdell). None of them is interested in wooing Frederic, except the youngest, Mabel, played by an amazing colatura soprano, Essie Bertain. Their father, the (modern) Major General (Bob Service) arrives just in time to save them from the clutches of the pirate band. They escape because he lies, claiming to be an orphan to get the kind-hearted pirates' sympathy.

Being a man of honor, the Major General is despondent about deceiving the pirates -- even if it was to save his daughters. They try to console him while the policemen (Jordan Matteoli, Tyler Rich, Peter Burgess, Nathan Pierce and Brian Walker) dash to and fro trying to catch the pirates who are trying to break into their villa.

The North Coast Rep production is a gem, in part because, as director Dianne Zuleger, a Humboldt County native, explained, "We have some of the best voices on the North Coast. The cast is diverse, very talented, and very entertaining." She's right about the cast and their voices; in particular Mabel, Ruth and the Pirate King give very strong performances, and just watching the Major General's daughters' varying reactions to each new twist is a show unto itself. However, the show stealer for comic buffo goes to Policeman Brian Walker who will leave you limp with laughter with his Chaplinesque antics and rubber face.

A marathon dance hall piano accompaniment is provided by Eddie Wisan, hair and makeup by ReNey Smith, set and light design by Dan Mullins and costumes, including those reused wholesale from Ruddigore, by Marcia Hutson and Vicki Charlton with Jennifer Trustem stage managing.

The Pirates of Penzance runs Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays through Dec. 11 at 8 p.m. with one Sunday matinee at 2 p.m. Dec. 5, at North Coast Repertory Theatre, 300 Fifth Street, Eureka. Call 442-NCRT for open-seating tickets as soon as you can. My guess is the show will sell out -- it deserves a SRO audience for its entire run. Arrive early for the best seats and keep your feet and stuff out of the aisles -- you'll see why!



Dell'Arte's 23rd annual holiday show offers a Dell'Artian take on a classic children's story. Three Pigs: A Comic Tail with a Twist opens at the Carlo Theatre in Blue Lake at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 26 and Saturday, Nov. 27, then moves to Humboldt State University's Van Duzer Theatre Sunday, Nov. 28 before roving countywide with shows at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 3 at Fortuna River Lodge, Friday, Dec. 10 at McKinleyville High School, and Sunday, Dec. 12 at the Adorni Center in Eureka. Donations of non-perishable food items will be given to local food banks. Tickets can be picked up at Wildberries Marketplace and Coast Central Credit Union, who, along with Target Corporation, underwrite the free performances.

Paid performances of Three Pigs at the Carlo open at 7:30 p.m. from Thursday, Dec. 16 through Sunday, Dec. 19. Call Dell'Arte for reservations at 668-5663.


Ferndale Repertory Theatre's holiday production, The World of Willie Wonka, opens Nov. 26 at 8 p.m. following a gallery reception for the Empire Squared artists, which starts at 6 p.m. The show continues Thursdays through Sundays until Dec. 19. Call 786-LIVE for tickets and more information.



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