The Light Opera Theatre of Sacramento (LOTS) put on a fantastic showing of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Pirates of Penzance” on Friday at the quaint 24th Street Theatre. Quirky and fun, the company captures the seriously silly mayhem of paradoxical and conflicting nonsense that “Pirates of Penzance” is all about.
The goofy coming-of-age story follows Frederick, played by company debut Ian Cullity. As a boy, his nurse, Ruth (played by Debbie Baad), due to mishearing a command, mistakenly has him apprenticed to be a pirate instead of a ship’s pilot. Frederick fulfills his duties as an apprentice, but once his contract ends at age 21, Frederick follows his calling to end piracy altogether.
Since he’s come to love the odd band of pirates as family, he warns the pirate king (Chris Baad) of his intentions, but the pirates refuse to disband and join society. This conflict of interest leads to the hilarious havoc of the show as the pirates test young Frederick’s sense of duty.
As Frederick joins society and prepares to take down the pirates with love interest Mabel (Sara Haugland) at his side, the pirates discover a “most ingenious” paradox in his contract: Frederick was born Feb. 29th on a leap year, so counting by his birthdays, he is only five years old. Therefore, his contract (which only ends on his 21st birthday) is still active.
The pirate king and Ruth confront Frederick with this news and then use his sense of duty against him, trying to convince him to help them kill Mabel’s father, the major-general (Michael Baad,) who lied to the pirates about being an orphan so that they wouldn’t marry his daughters.
Ian Cullity does well for his first performance with LOTS, and the experienced Baad trio is, contrary to the name, quite good. Chris Baad shows an unmatched singing talent in the song “The Pirate King,” Debbie Baad is convincingly eccentric and desperate as Ruth and Michael Baad masterfully performs the tongue-twisting song “I Am The Very Model of a Modern Major-General.” Also playing her part amazingly is Sara Haugland, whose incredible voice and acting talent brighten the show the second she steps onstage.
Not only did the acting bring this show to life, but small inventive additions also helped build up the chaos. The music was well timed to help punctuate certain jokes and lines, as well as heighten the more dramatic moments.
There was also creative uses of a cat, swaying plants, and a light saber. At the end, all accepted forms of logic break down, leaving the audience laughing giddily at the ridiculous trains of thought the characters have.
The 24th Street Theatre venue was surprisingly small, with just under 300 seats available, and a little more than half these seats were filled on opening night. Some audience members were Gilbert and Sullivan fans, proudly wearing pirate hats for the occasion.
Others knew Sara Haugland from The Sacramento Master Singers, a choral group of musicians that she is also a part of. Whether they came for their friends or for simply being fans, the audience greatly enjoyed the play, judging from the sound of constant laughter.
Once the show was over, several spectators stayed to talk to the actors and actresses, who were friendly and inviting. The actors seemed to enjoy their time, both in their performance and with the audience later on.
Sara Haugland said that she enjoys receiving the mix of emotions from audience during her performances and afterward, and that the LOTS company also adds to the social side of her calling.
“If you don’t have a great company to work with,” Haugland said, “it’s just not worth it.”
You can still get tickets to see “Pirates of Penzance” through Feb. 26. Later performances will be held in the Davis Veterans Memorial Center Theatre.
Photos taken by Barry Wisdom.