The London Times opened its review of the first performance of Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance on April 5 1880 with the following observation:
“Mr. Gilbert has a vein of quaint and spontaneous humour as peculiarly his own as any gift ever possessed by the most individual of artists and poets. This humour has charmed us all in the inimitable Babs Ballads and it has lost nothing of its raciness by being embodied in whimsical, dramatic creations and presented on the stage in conjunction with Mr. Sullivan’s pretty music.”
The more than seven hundred members of the public who were fortunate enough to attend one of the three performances of Pirates staged by the Don Bosco Drama Club of Our Lady Seat of Wisdom College (SWC) can attest to how well the students captured its quintessence as described by The Times 139 years ago.
The standing-room-only performance on Sunday afternoon impressed this reviewer because of its calibre and the infectious joie de vivre on display from all involved in the production. The principal actors handled their demanding roles with aplomb and the quality of singing, both solo and ensemble, inspired the audience to burst into spontaneous applause after each number. Pirates is very challenging from a musical standpoint, requiring the performers to sing demanding lyrics at times at breakneck speed. The audience was helped by the thoughtful projection of the libretto on a screen set off to one side of the stage. This was so effective that it prompted a young spectator to audibly join in at one point much to the audience’s additional amusement.
From left top: Bridget MacMillan as Mabel; Geneva Ulmer as Ruth with Anthony Hamon as Frederick; Daniel Schramm as the Pirate King with Geneva Ulmer as Ruth; John Paul Meenan as Major-General Stanley with his Daughters Photos: Timothy Baklinski
Feedback during the intermission and afterwards focused on how fortunate Valley residents (as well as the audience members who had travelled from Western Canada and across the United States) are to have access to live theatre and operetta of the standard provided by the SWC students. In addition to the acting and singing skills, the choreography which included dancing and sword fights added to the overall enjoyment of the colourful presentation. Superb piano accompaniment from Music Director Schroeder Nordholt underpinned the entire performance.
Pirate Chorus Photo: Timothy Baklinski
In fact the production was a technical triumph in every way – sets, props, costumes, makeup, projection, lighting – for which each member of the crew is to be complimented. Bouquets to co-directors Maria and Marissa Henry, stage manager Brenna Wehrle, musical director Schroeder Nordholt, producer (and surprise regal guest) Dr. Christine Schintgen, and to all members of the cast and crew. This production resulted from countless hours of concentrated work by very many students, staff and community members, the evidence of which was plain to see. Click HERE to see the full list of Cast and Crew.
From left: Co-director Maria Henry welcomes audience; Bows from stage manager Brenna Wehrle and producer Dr. Christine Schintgen; Musical Director Schroeder Nordholt with Schintgen; standing-room-only matinee audience
Featured image at top: entire cast of Pirates performing finale Photo: Timothy Baklinski