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Seafaring singing scum

â€"The Pirates of Penzance” invades Lakewood

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Those dead British white guys can be so clever sometimes. Maybe they were funnier when they were actually alive, but that is a debate for another time.

The dashing, dandy duo of Gilbert and Sullivan certainly knew how to turn a phrase and get a laugh through their songs and stories. Their works remain a mainstay of English and American theater study, reflection and staging well passed when the works of their contemporaries have been long forgotten. Their scripts may be more than 100 years old, but they are just as fresh and fun and clever and witty for audiences now as it was for audiences back then.

They succeeded while others failed because their music was so signature then but still timeless and bendable to the whims of fashion and trends of whatever the era.

Such is the case with Lakewood’s production of “The Pirates of Penzance.”

The story is simple enough: a strapping young man is about to be set free from a life of servitude to a gathering of pirates. He had been indentured with the deal of being set free on his 21st birthday. The 20-year-old man then learns of a twist of fate since he was born on Feb. 29, a leap year day that appears on calendars only every four years. That means although he is 20 years old, his birthday has passed only five times. He would have to be an old man to be set free on his 21st birthday.

Add this moderately funny premise to a great score and clever lyrics and the musical comedy takes on a life of its own with larger-than-life characters and over-the-top situations. It’s a show that keeps you hopping and searching the lyrics for various levels of quick wit and sharp retorts.

The direction by Barry Johnson keeps the actors moving and the audiences watching. The music is quick and clever. While I have to be consistent and say an orchestra trumps an organ any day, but the clever placement of video monitors so the actors can see the organist was sort of fun to see. The staging is complete and effective as the parade of more than two dozen cast members flows on and off the rather small stage. The stage often looked full but never crowded.

The supporting cast of Olivia Seward, Raevynn Leach, Amilya Hill, Maya Fein, Michelle Robinson, Kendra Phillips, Julie Drummond, Lauren Wood, Cynthia Bettes, Christopher Cline, Jim Patrick, Steve Tarry, Galen Wicks, Kyle Johnson, Gary Lichty, Michael Dresdner, Josh Johnson, and Alexander Barnes hold up the leading roles of the Pirate King (played by Brett Youngquist); his number two man (Roger Iverson); the apprentice (Nathan Allen Barnes); and Ruth (Sibyl Adams).

They all carry their own weight — or notes in this case — with perfection and authority.

Ted Fredericks’ role as “the very model of a modern Major-General” is just plain fun, although his signature song didn’t dazzle me. And I wanted to be dazzled. But the carriers of the day were Youngquist and Adams, who have amazing voices that shivered the timbers of the stage every time they opened their pipes.

This is a show that rightly played to a full house. Get tickets whenever they are available.

“The Pirates of Penzance” runs at the Lakewood Playhouse through June 17 at 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and at 2 p.m. on Sunday. Call 253.588.0042 or www.lakewood The theater is located by the Pierce Transit Center in the Lakewood Towne Center complex.

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