“Pirates of Penzance” was a swashbuckling good time!


Chris Reich/NSU Photography Services

“The Pirates of Penzance” marks the first of hopefully many successful collaborations between the NSU Theatre and Dance Department and the NSU Opera Theatre.

When most people think of pirates, they think of Patchy from the Nickelodeon series “SpongeBob Squarepants” or Captain Jack Sparrow from the “Pirates of the Caribbean” film franchise. However, pirates have captured the public imagination long before either series existed.

This is especially apparent in W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan’s comic operetta “The Pirates of Penzance,” presented by the Northwestern State University of Louisiana Theatre and Dance Department in cooperation with NSU Opera Theatre.

First presented in 1879, “The Pirates of Penzance” follows a pirates’ apprentice named Frederic (played by Douglas Flores). Frederic wants to be freed from his contract of servitude, but there is one small problem at play: his birthday falls on February 29th.

According to the terms of his contract, he cannot be released from his duties until his 21st birthday. However, since his birthday falls on a leap year, he is technically five years old.

Because Frederic is all grown up, he wants to find a woman and settle down. After getting off on the wrong foot with all but one of Major General Stanley’s daughters, he eventually catches the eye of the beautiful Mabel (Victoria Hickman).

Upset that Frederic has left the fold of the pirate crew, the Pirate King (Jeremiah Mitchell) and his nursemaid Ruth (Rebekah Hall) pay him a visit at Major General Stanley’s house. It’s there that they inform Frederic that he has a long way to go before he is actually free from his contract.

Frederic is distraught about his fate, but he accepts it out of a sense of duty to his master. Mabel agrees to wait for him for however long it might take.

Under the direction of Dr. Marcy McKee, who directed last semester’s Opera Theatre production of “The White Horse Inn,” each cast member is given an opportunity to shine.

Watching each ensemble member’s personality peek through was one of the most enjoyable parts of the production. Special mention goes to Elizabeth Cook as a bookish daughter of Major General Stanley and William Kielwasser as an incredibly inebriated pirate.

Douglas Flores stands out as Frederic, and he brings the energy of a naive young man with the desire to grow up to his performance. His chemistry with Victoria Hickman is palpable, and his duet with Rebekah Hall proved to be a standout performance.

Jeremiah Mitchell exudes Mick Jagger-like charm as the Pirate King, and he displayed excellent comic timing (especially in his scenes with Damari Padilla, who plays bumbling first mate Samuel). Mitchell did Tim Curry (one of his more famous predecessors in the role) proud through his performance.

Rebekah Hall was excellent as Ruth, and her performance was reminiscent of Mrs. Lovett from the musical “Sweeney Todd.” Any production of “Pirates of Penzance” requires artists to have excellent comic timing, and Hall certainly carried her weight in that regard.

Derek Walle pulled double duty as the Sergeant of Police and a member of the pirate ensemble. Walle’s performance in those roles was nothing short of brilliant.

Victoria Hickman brought a fabulous soprano voice and Disney Princess-esque beauty to her role as Mabel. Her performance of the aria “Poor Wandering One” was one of the many standouts in the production.

One of the most iconic roles in the operetta is that of Major General Stanley, who delivers the most iconic number in the show: “Modern Major General.” Jackson Holoubek brought a very dignified sensibility to his role and excellent comedic timing.

Everyone, from the ensemble to the leads, pitched in to make the show successful. Although Act One was bedeviled by microphone issues courtesy of a blown raspberry by Mitchell, the microphone issues were quickly resolved by the beginning of Act Two.

“The Pirates of Penzance” marks the first of hopefully many successful collaborations between the NSU Theatre and Dance Department and the NSU Opera Theatre.