‘Pirates of Penzance’ sails onto UNLV stage

Updated March 9, 2018 - 10:45 am

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Consider this lyric: “I always voted at my party’s call and I never thought of thinking for myself at all … ”

If that sounds like a quote from a contemporary politician, think again.

It’s from an 1878 lyric written for an operetta titled “H.M.S. Pinafore,” one of more than a dozen created by W.S. Gilbert in collaboration with Sir Arthur Sullivan that, in the words of composer and music critic Deems Taylor, rank as “small satiric masterpieces that have long outlived the objects of their satire.” (Or have they?)

If you’ve ever heard someone advocate “let the punishment fit the crime,” you’ve heard Gilbert and Sullivan. (That one’s from their ultimate masterpiece, “The Mikado.”)

Once upon a time, G&S works were a staple of every high school drama program and community theater.

“It’s part of our popular culture, whether people know it or not,” according to Albert Bergeret, artistic director of the New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players, who have been spreading the joyful G&S gospel for more than four decades.

The troupe makes its Las Vegas debut Friday at UNLV’s Artemus Ham Hall with “The Pirates of Penzance.”

With 23 singing (and dancing) cast members plus a 17-piece orchestra, this “Pirates” takes the Ham Hall stage under full sail.

Bergeret directs and conducts — and even drives the truck that transports the touring production.

It’s “my life’s work,” he acknowledges — a devotion that began in sixth grade when he sang “The Mikado’s” title role. Later, he shifted to the school orchestra, where he first discovered “the scores are so wonderful to work with.”

Bergeret continued performing G&S in college (where one of his colleagues, future “L.A. Law” star Jill Eikenberry, sang in “Iolanthe”) and, afterward, agreed to start a professional theater devoted to G&S.

The company’s longevity testifies to the enduring appeal of the team’s Victorian-era collaborations — especially “Mikado,” “Pinafore” and “Pirates.”

The latter (first performed on Dec. 31, 1879) leapt up the G&S popularity charts following the Tony-winning 1981 Broadway revival starring (among others) Linda Ronstadt and Kevin Kline, who won one of his three Tonys for his uproarious turn as “Penzance’s” Pirate King. (Their performances are preserved in the 1983 movie version, which also features — in the role of “piratical maid of all work” Ruth — the inimitable Angela Lansbury).

The action takes audiences to Cornwall’s rocky coast, where the rollicking title buccaneers (who may not be exactly what they seem) encounter, among others: a bevy of beauties; their father (who, “in matters vegetable, animal and mineral” is “the very model of a modern major general”); and a constabulary force whose sergeant laments that “a policeman’s lot is not a happy one.”

Part of “Pirates’ ” perennial appeal, Bergeret suggests, is that “everyone has played at being a pirate. It’s so easily accessible.”

That accessibility also applies to other G&S operettas, he adds, noting that “kids can understand it on one level,” adults another.

For music aficionados, Sullivan’s music “isn’t serious — it’s as comedic as (Gilbert’s) lyrics are,” Bergeret points out, noting that “Sullivan is at his best when parodying greats of the music world.” (Which is ironic, considering that, before G&S, Sullivan was regarded as Britain’s unofficial composer laureate, according to Taylor.)

As for Gilbert, Bergeret attributes his wizardly wit to the fact that he was writing “under the gun of censorship,” prompting him to satirize Victorian society — and its politicians — “without drawing blood” and “couched in such a way that you can laugh at yourself.”

Gilbert & Sullivan: A New York Story

Gilbert & Sullivan’s Victorian-era operettas rank as “the beginning of modern musical theater,” with their “meeting of classical and pop,” according to Albert Bergeret, artistic director of the New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players.

Although New York’s Broadway hadn’t yet emerged as America’s theatrical epicenter when “Penzance” debuted in December 1879, the operetta nevertheless premiered in New York rather than London.

That’s because G&S hoped to create (and profit from) their own production, thereby foiling numerous pirated stagings — a fate that had befallen their previous success, “H.M.S. Pinafore.”

As Sullivan wrote, “all we could do was … produce our piece in America first, and get our company well under way before others could bring out their imitations.”

Alas, “The Pirates of Penzance” failed to foil the “Pirates” pirates of New York.

Hired musical spies began haunting the authorized production, according to composer and critic Deems Taylor, “to take down the airs as they were sung or played. Not only did certain freebooters produce abbreviated and distorted versions of the piece, but publishers issued albums, described as ‘Recollections’ or ‘Impressions’ of ‘The Pirates of Penzance.’ ”

As a result, G&S put together touring “Pirates” companies in the U.S. and sent them on the road to protect their American profits; the operetta debuted in London in April 1880.

Although G&S were ultimately unsuccessful in protecting their right to profit from their creation with an international copyright, Bergeret notes, “they paved the way for the next generation.”

Preview

What: New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players’ “Pirates of Penzance”

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday

Where: Artemus Ham Hall, UNLV

Tickets: $20-$50 (unlv.edu/pac)

Contact Carol Cling at ccling@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0272. Follow @CarolSCling on Twitter.

ad-high_impact_4
Entertainment
CES final night showcases Drake at XS Nightclub
Drake performed for CES attendees and club-goers at XS Nightclub in Encore at Wynn Las Vegas in the early morning hours of Friday, Jan. 11, 2019. (John Katsilometes Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CES Happy Hour party at Hangover Suite at Caesars Palace
Conventioneers mingled during the Hardware Massive CES 2019 Happy Hour Bash at The Hangover Suite at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
CES 2019 Has A Cordless Hair Dryer
CES Has A Cordless Hair Dryer (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CES Opening Party in Omnia Nightclub at Caesars Palace
CES conventioneers packed Omnia Nightclub at Caesars Palace, and let loose as they danced to DJs into the night. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Print intricate designs, your pet or your face on your nails
Print intricate designs, your pet or your face on your nails (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CES 2019: Panel talks Impossible Burger 2.0
Panel talks Impossible Burger at CES during launch at Border Grill on Monday, Jan. 7. (Ben Hager/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Momofuku Makes A Cocktail With Bok Choy And Beets
Momofuku Makes A Cocktail With Bok Choy And Beets (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Dream of AJ Montgomery
AJ Montgomery lost part of his leg in a vehicle accident but found his dream as a performer in “Le Reve.” (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Kelly Clinton-Holmes of the Stirling Club
John Katsilometes chats with Kelly Clinton-Holmes, director of the Stirling Club's New Year's Eve entertainment.
Month-by-month entertainment coming in 2019
“True Detective” Season 3, HBO (Jan. 13) Travis Scott, T-Mobile Arena (Feb. 6) Robbie Williams, Encore Theatre at Wynn Las Vegas (March 6, 8, 9, 13, 15 and 16) “Game of Thrones” Season 8, HBO (April) Electric Daisy Carnival, Las Vegas Motor Speedway (May 17-19) “Fiddler on the Roof,” The Smith Center (June 4-9) “The Lion King” (July 19) Psycho Las Vegas, Mandalay Bay (Aug. 16-18) Life is Beautiful, downtown Las Vegas (Sept. 20-22) “Tim Burton @ the Neon Museum” (Oct. 15) “Frozen 2” (Nov. 22) “Star Wars: Episode IX” (Dec. 20)
Lacey Huszcza invites you to find something to love at the Las Vegas Philharmonic
Lacey Huszcza, executive director of the Las Vegas Philharmonic talks about the orchestra's wealth of programming. (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Gina Marinelli offers La Strega preview
Gina Marinelli used a pop-up New Year’s Eve dinner at Starboard Tack to preview items she’ll feature at her new Summerlin restaurant, La Strega. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
New Year’s Eve at Sparrow + Wolf
Sparrow + Wolf’s New Year’s Eve party was a sort of official unveiling of its newly renovated space. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas NYE Fireworks - VIDEO
The full show: A spectacular view from the rooftop of the Trump International Hotel as 80,000 pyrotechnics illuminated the Las Vegas Strip at the stroke of midnight. Fireworks by Grucci choreographed launches from the Stratosphere, the Venetian, Treasure Island, Caesars Palace, Planet Hollywood, Aria and MGM Grand.
Debra Kelleher Of The Stirling Club
Debra Kelleher, DK Hospitality President talks with Johnny Kats about the reopening of the Stirling Club.
Richard Ditton Of The Stirling Club
Richard Ditton, an investment partner of the Stirling Club talks with Johnny Kats about the reopening of the club.
NYE at the Stirling Club
John Katsilometes reports from the reopening of the Stirling Club on New Year's Eve 2018.
Michael Stapleton of the Stirling Club
Michael Stapleton, COO of the Stirling Club talks with Johnny Kats about the reopening of the club.
Recap the Countdown on Fremont Street — VIDEO
Nearly 40,000 people packed Fremont Street to enjoy America's Party Downtown. As the tradition stands, Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman counted down the clock on the 3rd Street Stage, alongside her husband and former mayor, Oscar Goodman.
New Year's Eve live from the Las Vegas Strip Bellagio Fountains - Video
Reporter Aaron Drawhorn near the Bellagio Fountains as hundreds of thousands gather to celebrate New Year's Eve in Las Vegas
Ryan Reaves describes the flavors in Training Day beer
Ryan Reaves talks about the flavor of Training Day, the new beer from 7Five Brewing that was launched at the PKWY Tavern on West Flamingo Road. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ryan Reaves describes his new beer
Golden Knights winger Ryan Reaves talks about his new beer from 7Five Brewing at a launch party at PKWY Tavern on West Flamingo Road. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vegas' five biggest NYE concerts
Imagine Dragons at The Chelsea at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, Lady Gaga at The Park Theater at Park MGM, Maroon 5 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center, Bruno Mars at T-Mobile Arena, and Tenacious D at The Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.
Celebrate New Years Day, Hangover Day and Bloody Mary Day at Cabo Wabo
Celebrate New Years Day, Hangover Day and Bloody Mary Day at Cabo Wabo (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Michael Symon, chef and owner of Mabel's BBQ, talks about his first Las Vegas restaurant
Michael Symon, chef and owner of Mabel's BBQ, talks about his first Las Vegas restaurant. Bizuayehu Tesfaye @bizutesfaye
New American Eagle flagship on the Las Vegas Strip lets you customize your clothing
American Eagle flagship on the Las Vegas Strip lets you customize your clothing
Bellagio Conservatory display is Majestic Holiday Magic
Majestic Holiday Magic at the Bellagio Conservatory
Las Vegas Ready for 2019 NYE Fireworks Show
The city of Las Vegas is ready to celebrate "America's Party" with a new and improved fireworks show that will pay tribute to the Golden Knights.
Sugar Factory makes a shareable Christmas cocktail
If you’re looking to share holiday cheer, this goblet is big enough to split among at least a few friends. The bubbly punch is made with cherry vodka, cranberry juice and a scoop of Christmas tree gummy candies — just in case it’s not sufficiently sweet.
New Year's Eve fireworks are ready to fly in Las Vegas
Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and Fireworks by Grucci unveil details of “America’s Party 2019” New Year's Eve fireworks and entertainment extravaganza during a news conference at the Fashion Show Mall in Las Vegas Thursday, Dec. 20, 2018. (K.M. Cannon Las Vegas Review-Journal)
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like