note: entire contents copyright 2016 by Tony Annicone
Assumption College Department of Art, Music and Theatre's 2016 musical at the Hanover Theatre is the 1980 version of "The Pirates of Penzance" by Gilbert and Sullivan. The show first opened in New York on December 31, 1879 but this version is a fresh take on their most popular comic opera. The new version opened on January 8, 1981 and ran for 817 performances.
It tells the story of a young pirate apprentice named Frederic who has come to the end of his indentured period. As it turns out, he was indentured by mistake. His half-deaf nurse, Ruth, had been instructed to apprentice the boy to being a pilot not a pirate. Upon turning 21, Frederic now rejoices that he has fulfilled his duties with the band of tender-hearted pirates and now is free to return to respectable society. Alas, he was born on February 29 and remains apprenticed to the pirates. Frederic who has not seen any woman except his old nurse, stumbles upon a bevy of beautiful maidens. He casts his eye on the loveliest one of all, Mabel and falls immediately in love with her.
This updated show is an hilarious farce with the sentimental pirates, the bumbling policemen, dimwitted young lovers, dewy-eyed daughters and their eccentric Major-General father who are all morally bound to the often, ridiculous dictates of honor and duty. Director Richard Monroe who also is music director and choreographer Sheila Waters Fucci bring this nineteenth century show into the twenty first century with a group of talented college performers who handle the tongue twisting songs and dialogue with ease which earns them a standing ovation at the close of the show.
Richard blocks and directs this huge show wonderfully with a deft comic touch. He supplies many clever moments of shtick to the proceedings. Richard also taught the cast all the intricate numbers with excellent diction and conducts an excellent 12 piece orchestra while Sheila supplies the clever dance steps especially impressive is the maidens dance and the closing number. I first saw Richard in "Godspell" back in 1976 when he was at Forest Grove Junior High School.The two leads in this show are Brian Belleville as Frederic and Sarah Mombourquette as Mabel. He has an incredible tenor voice which soars in over 17 numbers including "Oh, Is there not one Maiden Breast?'' and the two duets with Mabel , "All is Prepared" and "Stay Frederic Stay." His interactions with the other cast members are wonderful to behold, too. has a phenomenal soprano voice which soars off the charts including the very impressive "Poor Wandering One", "Sorry Her Lot", the songs with her sisters and the duets with Frederic. She is a joy to watch all night long and has terrific chemistry with her leading man.
Marisa Halpin plays the comic pirate maid, Ruth who lusts after Frederic. She was his slightly deaf nursemaid who gave him to the pirates many years ago. Marisa is a mezzo-soprano who sings her numbers with many sexual innuendos thrown in. She is hilarious as this man chasing pirate and displays her voice in "When Frederic was a Lad", the Paradox song with Frederic and the Pirate King and other group numbers. The mighty Pirate King is played by baritone John Kelse Merrill. He commands all his scenes with comic touches including stabbing his foot with his sword. John sings "I am a Pirate King." He is marvelous as the leader of the pirates. The antics of the pirates and daughters are priceless, too.
The biggest scene stealer is Shant Eghian as the Major-General. His version of the "I am the very Model of a Modern Major-General" is perfect. He annunciates every word and you understand clearly the comedy in this patter song. Also hilarious is his second act number "Sighing Softly to the River" while wearing a nightshirt. Shant's strong baritone voice and comic timing sparkle during his performance. Other comic characters include Edward Ouano as the Pirate Lt with a tenor voice and Matthew Miller as the Keystone Cops Police Sergeant with a bass-baritone voice. The three sisters are played by Jacqueline Weiler, Elena Losquadro and Liv Foley. Kudos to all the cast and crew of Assumption College, my alma mater! So for a fun filled musical, be sure to catch "The Pirates of Penzance" at the historic and beautiful Hanover Theatre in Worcester, MA. Tell them Tony sent you. They do a splendid job with this intricate and complicated musical.