Reviewed by Tony Annicone
Ocean State Lyric Opera's summer presentation of Gilbert and Sullivan's "Pirates of Penzance" is a delight to behold musically and visually. The cast of pirates, policemen, young lovers, dewy-eyed daughters and an eccentric Major-General are caught in a whirlwind of moral dilemmas and a sense of duty, lead the audience on a merry-go-round of hilarity. Kathryne Jennings directs the proceedings with a deft comic touch with great sthick and Paul Phillips makes the music and singers shine with perfect diction, showing the audience the proper way this show should be done.
The leading lady, Mabel, is played by the beautiful, Molly Jo Bessey. Her strong, magnificent, soprano voice soars during all her numbers especially "Poor Wandering One!". Molly keeps hitting people and stumbling during the song without missing a note, showing she is an excellent comedienne, too. She is a joy to watch and listen to all evening long and has wonderful chemistry with her leading man. Brava on a job well done.
The leading man, Frederic, is played by Brian Cheney. His majestic tenor voice reaches to the top of the scale with every note clear and strong especially in "Oh, Is there not one Maiden Breast" and in the two duets with Molly, "All is Prepared" and "Stay, Frederic, Stay". Brian also acts as well as he sings with his reactions to the other characters and his loving expressions to Mabel and her sisters. A Norwalk, CT native, he has a very promising career ahead of him.
Pamela Dellal plays the comic pirate maid, Ruth, who lusts after Frederic. She was his slightly deaf nursemaid who gave him to the pirates by mistake years ago. Pamela is a mezzo soprano who sings her numbers while taking a nip from her flask every chance she gets. She is hilarious as the man chasing pirate and gets to show off her voice in "When Frederic was a Lad" and other group numbers. The mighty Pirate king is played by baritone, Douglas Jabarra. He shows a commanding presence on the stage and makes the Pirate King stand out in all his scenes especially his title song. Douglas has a gorgeous voice and is splendid as the leader of these rogues.
The biggest scene stealer of this show is Kevin Valentine as the Major-General. His version of the "I am the very Model of a Modern Major-General" is perfect. Kevin annunicates every word clearly and you understand everything he sings in this number. The topical verse about Rhode Island politics written by music director, Paul Phillips is very funny. The comic gem of Kevin's performance comes in the second act when he sings "Sighing Softly to the River" while doing ballet movements while wearing a nightshirt. What a hoot! Kevin's strong baritone voice and comic timing also sparkle during his performance.
Ron Rathier as the pirate lieutenant and Michael Wrobleski as the sergeant of police are funny in their roles. Ron, a tenor, plays the pirate who loves stuffed bears and Michael, a bass-baritone, plays the head of the Keystone Cops police force. (They swing their police batons like Charlie Chaplin's cane in the silent movies.) Rounding out this cast with superior vocal talent are Thomas Desjarlais and Kevin Traver as pirates, Nicholas Laroche and Peter Thornton as both pirates and policemen, Robert Azar as a policeman and Kara Lund, Joyll Smith, Jennifer Feinstein, Susan Bernard and Yolande Muoio as the pretty but feisty daughters.
Added praise to fellow pianist Loren Mitchel. (he and Paul work wonders with just the two pianos) Also to the set designer, Cindy Guanci, lighting designer, Deb Sullivan and costumer, Deborah Newhall for providing the colorful additions making Kathryne's job a joy for the audience to see. Have a spectacular run.