Abby Luddy-Dunn, Contributor
Pirates of Penzance, directed by Roger Andrews and run by the McGill Savoy Society, is a Broadway-quality piece of university theatre. Never having seen a Savoy show before, I was unsure of what to expect, but I was drawn in by its spectacle. The pit orchestra kicked it off with a musical intro of motifs that appeared throughout the show. Pirates of Penzance follows the story of Frederic, an apprentice to a band of pirates. He’s about to find freedom, as his indentures will expire on his 21st birthday at noon. Ruth, Frederic’s old nursemaid laments Frederic’s pending departure from their isolated island. As she is the only woman Frederic has ever known, the pirate band encourage him to marry Ruth. Frederic, unwilling, decides to wait for a younger woman, just as a bevy of beautiful maidens arrive on the island. The story is both fantastical and quintessentially British, and an excellent introduction to the world of Gilbert and Sullivan.
Sevan Kochkarian as Mabel had a stunning voice and character on stage, sometimes showing up Sebastien Comtois as Frederic. Their dynamic was typically restored during their duets. Comtois’ vocal performance was excellent, but it seemed like his stage presence was a bit lacking, although it perhaps fit the character of Frederic. Aaron Meredith as the Pirate King, and Scott Cope as Major General were dynamic, funny, and had excellent stage presences, especially evident in their enthusiasm and quick paced movements and speech. Scott Cope in particular seemed perfect for his role, both physically, and in the joy he showed while acting.
One of the most impressive pieces of this show is the set, designed by Jean-Claude Olivier. The painted backdrops are beautiful, and the utilization of the fly system for the sets gives the show a professional feeling. In addition, the myriad colorful costumes created by Coralie and Nicole Heiler suited the actors well, and were consciously costumes without being overkill. The pirates were outfitted in typical pirate garb, but the bright colors and flowing shirts work with the self aware kitsch of Gilbert and Sullivan. In particular, Scott Cope’s Major General costumes were skillfully created—especially the yellow smoking jacket— and fit the character with precision. A number of the costumes were created from scratch (notice the dresses that the chorus of sisters wears), an impressive feat considering the complexity and cohesion visible on stage.
In both the technical and non-technical aspects of the show, The Savoy Societies’ resources help out—and the result is professional and impressive. The directing choices of Roger Andrews create both a visually interesting show, and one of beauty. The transitions between musical numbers are seamless, one notable one between “A Rollicking Band of Pirates” and “With Cat-Like Tread.”
Numbers to notice include: Act 1 – the well known (if you know Gilbert and Sullivan) “Climbing Over Rocky Mountain,” the interplay between the vocal parts and actors in “Stay, We Must Not Lose,” and “Here’s a First Rate Opportunity,” and the skilled choreography in the finale of Act 1. In “Stay, Frederic, Stay” the dynamic between Sevan Kochkarian and Sebastien Comtois shines, and in “Hush not a word!”, the recurrence of different musical motifs and the relationship between the choruses leads into the humorous finale.
Pirates of Penzance will be playing at Moyse Hall in the McGill Arts building on Friday February 17, 2017 at 7:30pm, and Saturday February 18, 2017 at 2:00pm and 7:30pm.