The latest extravaganza to grace the stage at The Muny in Forest Park is a hilarious re-working of Gilbert and Sullivan's Pirates of the Penzance (although some of the tunes are lifted from other works by the pair). Pirates! (or Gilbert and Sullivan Plundr'd) is a spirited romp with a storyline more akin to Seven Brides for Seven Brothers than the original plot, and lyrics (revised book and lyrics by Nell Benjamin) and rearranged musical arrangements (courtesy of John McDaniel) that will amuse even the staunchest purists among us. This is just plain goofy, pirate-laden fare that owes as much to the recent Pirates of the Caribbean film series as to it does to Gilbert and Sullivan. And that's a good thing, at least it is in this case.
A Pirate King with a surprisingly sweet tempered crew lands on a Caribbean island along with the many daughters of a British Major General. Naturally, romance ensues, particularly between Mabel, who has a scientific bent, and, the squeaky clean pirate Frederic. Amidst much swashbuckling and merriment the expected clash becomes more a cause for celebration as the plot speedily lurches onward.
Hunter Foster delivers a fine performance as the Pirate King, and he's nicely offset by the blustery Ed Dixon as the very model of a modern Major General. Analisa Leaming (Mabel) and Jay Armstrong Johnson (Frederic) make an interesting romantic pair, and Kathy Fitzgerald generates her fair share of laughs as the Pirate's resident wench (Ruth). Alan Mingo Jr. leads the island's police in pure comic fashion, and the rest of the cast and crew do absolutely splendid work.
Gordon Greenberg's direction fills the proceedings with plenty of sight gags, and the action moves at a bristling pace. The first act could still use a little work, but this is still a work-in-progress, with this being only its fourth staging at this point. Denis Jones contributes the cheekily playful choreography and Ben Whiteley does a terrific job as musical director, making all these tunes seem new and fresh. Steve Gilliam neatly adapts Rob Bissinger's scenic design for The Muny stage, and Seth Jackson's lighting scheme keeps the goings on sharply in focus. David Woolard's costumes conjures up the 1700's (where this version is set) with colorful flair.
Pirates! is a real blast and continues at The Muny in Forest Park through August 5, 2012.