Aficionados of the Gilbert and Sullivan style might well go into coronary arrest while viewing the Annapolis Dinner Theater's current production of "The Pirates of Penzance."
What with vaudeville shtick superimposed everywhere, Broadway voices employed to the exclusion of more operatic ones and synthesized accompaniment droning throughout, the show's atmosphere is a far cry from that of the Victorian Age.
But most people aren't Gilbert and Sullivan purists, after all, and the theater-goer who isn't so doctrinaire should find plenty to enjoy in this fast-paced, exceedingly funny production.
The closest thing to a legitimate Gilbert and Sullivan performance in this version of "Pirates" comes from tenor Tom French, who plays Frederick, the earnest lad mistakenly apprenticed to the silliest band of buccaneers ever to hoist a Jolly Roger. His voice is clear and pure, and he over acts with an elan that befits a Gilbert and Sullivan romantic lead. Alas, most opportunities to demonstrate his lyric gifts are squandered by the hyperactive tempos of the tape recorded accompaniment.
Tina Maria Casamento plays Mabel, Frederick's adoring sweetheart. While her tight, fluttery soprano voice is capable, this Mabel scores most of her points as a comedian. As always in Gilbert and Sullivan, the true comic lead is the holder of the "patter part." In this case it's Robert Biederman as Maj. Gen. Stanley who is the model of a funny major general.
While the speed and volume of the tape reduce a fair amount of his patter to hash, Biederman is a scream as the dottering fool desperate to protect his five daughters from the gang of pirates. He projects a wonderful presence physically as he prospects for the laughs that came with real gusto last Saturday night.
Jason Fulmer as the Pirate King and Phyllis Goldblatt as Frederick's nursemaid Ruth are not opera singers either, but their performances are operatic and enjoyable. Fulmer's flair for slapstick is admirable. And kudos to Steven Wolf as a remarkably dextrous Sergeant of Police.
The choral numbers are delivered with verve and sparkle, even if at times the singers are gasping to keep up with the incessant synthesizer.
This dinner theater offering may smack more of a la carte than D'Oyly Carte, but there are many uproarious laughs to be had.