Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe

The Pirates of Penzance

Landmark Musicals
Review by Dean Yannias

Also see Mark's review of The Ultimate Christmas Show (abridged) and Rob's review of Constellations

Trey Caperton, Sabina Lueras, J.J. Mancini, and
Warren Asa Wilgus

Photo by Max Woltman
I'm not sure if Gilbert and Sullivan invented the English-language musical comedy, but I can't think of anybody who has surpassed them in popularity over a long period of time. I don't know how much the fact that the G&S works have been in the public domain (thus no royalties) since 1960 has to do with it, but theater companies keep producing them, and the public never seems to tire of them. With good reason: They're still a lot of fun.

The Pirates of Penzance has never fallen out of favor, despite having premiered in 1879. It might in fact be the most produced musical ever. (You can quibble about whether it's an opera or an operetta or a musical; to me, it's a musical for operatic voices.) I continue to find new bits of cleverness in it that I somehow had missed before. My favorite new discovery is in the love duet between Frederic and Mabel, a parody of all those trite operatic stand-and-delivers: "Oh, here is love, and here is truth / And here is food for joyous laughter / He (she) will be faithful to his (her) sooth / Till we are wed, and even after." That one-letter change, from "ever" to "even"—that's the kind of wit that never gets old.

You might be wondering why Landmark Musicals is doing Pirates during the holiday season. It's probably for those of us who are Christmas Carol-ed and Nutcracker-ed out. Pirates has absolutely nothing to do with Christmas, but I doubt that you will find a merrier show this season or one that will lift your spirits like this one does.

Art Tedesco, the director, has a good eye for comedy, and he wrings a lot of laughs from the ridiculous plot. He is blessed with a terrific, energetic cast and a professional crew. The set by Dahl Delu is fine and accommodates a lot of people on stage at the same time. The costumes for all those people are beautifully done by Rosemary Gallegos, and the sound by Simon Welter is excellent, as is always the case with Landmark. The ten-piece band, conducted by Darby Fegan, sounds wonderful.

The standout in the cast is Trey Caperton (winner of Best Actor at the New Mexico High School Musical Theatre Awards this past May) as Frederic, the "slave of duty." Still a junior in high school, he is already professional caliber. He can sing and act with the best of them and has a flair for physical comedy. I look forward to seeing him in anything he has time to do on stage. Warren Asa Wilgus shuffles around like a doddering old fool as the Major-General, which is what the role calls for, and he pulls off his famous patter song with aplomb. J.J. Mancini bounds around the stage as the Pirate King, and once in a while gets to fully display his superb singing voice. Jack Litherland shows remarkable dexterity for a big guy as the police sergeant. Sabina Lueras, also a high school student, handles herself well on stage and has a lovely soprano voice, but as is often the case with sopranos, I had a hard time catching the lyrics to her songs. There are 21 other cast members, and all of them do fine work. Credit again to Art Tedesco, and to stage manager Mackenzee Donham.

If you're a long-time theatergoer, you've probably seen Pirates before, but don't let that deter you from seeing this show. With it, Landmark continues its streak of excellent productions of one of the best musicals of all time.

The Pirates of Penzance, by Landmark Musicals at the Rodey Theatre in the University of New Mexico Center for the Arts in Albuquerque. Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30, Sundays at 2:00. Through December 10, 2017. Tickets $20 to $26. Info at, tickets at