Pirates Roar Ashore at Valley Christian

Dillon Mena as The Pirate King
The true test of any musical in its quest for popularity is staying-power. Can it remain relevant enough through the years that people will want to produce it, view it, and will still enjoy it? Unfortunately, some shows fall out of grace for one reason or another and begin to fade away from the stage. Shows like South Pacific and even Chess have seen a decline in productions, even with memorable songs and great casting possibilities. With that in mind, it is incredible to see a theatrical piece from 1879 which still manages to connect to an audience and remain fresh and humorous.

Digging into the tomes of W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan, Valley Christian has unearthed sunken treasure with their production of The Pirates Of Penzance. Director Matthew DeMeritt is no stranger to the show, having mounted it before with a group of 8-15 year olds, “co-directing it with a certain young lady who would later become my wife”. DeMeritt’s familiarity with the piece showed with confident and fun staging, well developed characters, and fine-tuned comedic direction and execution by a dynamic and animated cast.

Leading the charge onto the beach from the first moment of the show is young Frederick (Eddie Barsoumian), a boy apprenticed to a band of pirates until his twenty-first birthday. Barsoumian’s voice is wonderful to be sure, but it was his patient and natural delivery of the stylized dialogue which really stood out. His words have meaning and were never idly thrown away, and the audience was with him in every beat. Moments between Barsoumian and past-her-prime ship-maid Ruth (Melina Rapazzini) were sheer delight with both actors showing mature patience in the midst of quick paced comedic moments. In fact, one of the greatest assets this production has is its mindful approach to comedy.

Comedy cannot be over thought, over prepared, or over emphasized, or else you will be left with self-insisting delivery which will just fall flat. The cast of Pirates is incredibly natural with its humor, letting the joke be what it will be and not pushing it too far. In the role of The Pirate King, Dillon Mena shows incredible chops for comedy, hitting the bulls-eye repeatedly with his timing and incredible range of facial takes. His character is delightfully cartoonish, but never strays past the fine line between entertaining and overdone. Matching him beat for beat is Daniel Krum as Major General Stanley, who aged exceptionally well into the role. Krum’s “orphan boy” delivery had the audience rolling in the aisles (in one case almost literally as I would swear I saw someone fall out of their seat in laughter). The dynamic between Mena and Krum is not to be missed.

Petersen and  Barsoumian
Aside from comedic prowess, the entire cast shows phenomenal vocal skill, showcasing the voices of Michael White as Samuel, Abby McLachlan as Edith and Alexis Garrett as Kate. White stands out for his lilting lyric baritone (hope to see more of him in larger roles), while McLachlan and Garrett are simply hilarious as the de-facto leaders of Major General Stanley’s daughters. But the true showcase vocal role of the show is that of Mabel, played by Danielle Petersen. There are very few words which can properly illustrate the talent of this performer. Pitch perfect, flawless tone, and the kind of power that does not need a microphone. I even mentioned to DeMeritt at intermission that if I wasn’t sure she was a high school student, he could have easily convinced me that she was on loan from a major opera house. And yet again, the vocal prowess was tied together with a strong sense of comic timing, not to mention impressive physical character work.

What really seals the deal for this production is the energy investment across the entire cast. It does not matter how much the entire company of actors is giving if one person is falling short. That does not happen here. From curtain up to curtain down, the entire cast is on full-blast, filling the house to the brim with everything they have. It is an incredible sight to see the audience latch on to their energy. Particularly noteworthy was the Monty Python-esque work of Sean Leone as the Sergeant of Police and his entire band of Policemen with their intensely physical staging which surely must be an endurance trial throughout the show.

The cast, crew, production team and faculty should be very proud of the work they have done. It is an ambitious show choice, but the talent, passion and energy is there to back it up. The sets, lighting and costumes were beautifully done, and two-man pit was tight and effective (if not a bit sterile being only a two-man pit). In the end, my only real gripe about what I saw in the Valley Christian theatre last night was the numerous cell-phone and camera incidents during the performance. When will people learn?! Thankfully, the spirit coming from the stage easily overshadowed any audience misbehavior which made for a fantastic performance, and a wonderful evening. Be sure to head over and see it sooner rather than later as seats will be hard to come by now that the word is out.

Valley Christian High School – The Pirate Of Penzance
October 13, 14, 15, 20, 22 @ 7:30PM
October 22 @ 2:00PM
Tickets - $15 adult/general. $13 students/seniors. $11 children
Tickets at the door, or at http://www.vctheatre.net/box_office/

1 Response
  1. Anonymous Says:

    Wow... Thanks! It's nice to know that our hard work is so greatly appreciated.

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