VALLEJO — When I heard that Bay Area Stage co-founder and director Stacey Loew decided to stage the company’s production of “The Pirates of Penzance” at the Vallejo Naval and Historical Museum, I admit that I thought it sounded kind of gimmicky.
After experiencing the show in the venue, I must say it’s another case of why contempt prior to investigation is such a stupid thing.
All the nautical relics in the museum, not the least of which is a breathtaking ship coming out of the wall at the landing of the staircase, made me want to make a return visit. The Heritage Room, where the play took place, is usually used for recitals and small concerts and is not an ideal place for a staged production, but actually that is part of the wonder of theater – to pull you in and make you forget for a while you are in a theater, or museum.
I must say, though, they could not make me forget how comfy the seats were.
“The Pirates of Penzance” is probably the best known comic opera by the music/libretto team of Gilbert and Sullivan. First performed in 1879, the story is basically about a pirate’s apprentice who falls in love and is about to leave his pirate band when he discovers his agreed-upon term of duty is unfortunately longer – much longer – than he originally thought due to a technicality.
There have been numerous productions and revivals of the show and it was adapted into a 1983 film starring singer Linda Ronstadt and former teen idol Rex Smith.
In Bay Area Stage’s production, Frederic, the apprentice pirate, was played by Miguel Evangelista with the same immersion into the character as when he delighted theater-goers last year in Missouri Street Theatre’s “Man of La Mancha” as Pancho. Evangelista has impeccable timing and delivery, has no wasted movements and his voice is pleasing, powerful and controlled.
The object of Frederic’s affection was Mabel, played by Tina-Maria Garcia, and the moment she opened her mouth and unleashed her heavenly operatic vocals that danced around the room, jaws dropped simultaneously. When she blended her vocals with Evangelista on such songs as “All is Prepared,” the magical melodic moments they created onstage together made me close my eyes and try to live in them for as long as possible.
The pirate king was played by rangy Jarrett Battenburg who I enjoyed in the Bay Area Stage production of “Oklahoma.” He was in fine voice in the latest production as well. Kate Kravets played Ruth, the scorned first love of Frederic who is replaced by the younger Mabel, with aplomb.
The comical police chorus (Madi Bohlken, Carlet Langford, Anders Blumst and Julio Lopez) was led by the police sergeant (Chris Raymond) and their choreography (April Gonzalez and Stacey Loew) and singing on songs like “No, I’m Brave” were first-rate.
Rounding out the cast were the pirates, Chadwick Chaderific, Cuauhtemoc Villa and Rob Kravets, and Mabel’s sisters played by Amber Marsh, Sydney Chowand Eboné Whitney. The former shone on songs like “Pour, O Pour the Pirate Sherry” and the latter on numbers like “How Beautiful Blue the Sky.”
Musical director Ben Malkevitch was excellent on the piano and many of the tunes were fast, furious and very funny.
The most famous song from “Pirates” has to be “I am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General.” The crowd-pleasing breakneck tongue twister was delivered flawlessly by Bay Area Stage co-founder Jeff Lowe in the titular role. He folded all of himself into the character and bestowed it on the audience just as I’ve seen him do in numerous other roles.
“The Pirates of Penzance” is the second time Stacey Loew has sat in the director’s chair after last year’s “Love Letters.” Pirate hats off to her for delivering an entertaining, well-done show in a venue that only adds some sparkle to the production.
Reach Fairfield writer Tony Wade at [email protected].
Bay Area Stage presents: “The Pirates of Penzance”
- 8 p.m. Jan 18- 19, 25- 26; 2 p.m. Jan. 20 and 27
- The Vallejo Naval and Historical Museum, 734 Marin Street, Vallejo
- three stars out of four