Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Las Vegas

The Pirates of Penzance
Sin City Opera / Super Summer Theatre
Review by Mary LaFrance

Karsten Pudwill and
Kayla Wilkens

Photo by Richard Brusky
Beautiful voices and colorful costumes under starry skies make The Pirates of Penzance a perfect summer closer for the Super Summer Theatre's outdoor season, and a perfect opener for the Sin City Opera's 2018-19 season. With performances likely to sell out quickly, it's best to book your tickets soon.

In Gilbert and Sullivan's unabashedly silly comic operetta, gallant young Frederic has been apprenticed since childhood to a band of pirates due to a mistake by his hard-of-hearing nursemaid Ruth. When his indentures expire on his twenty-first birthday, he ventures forth in Penzance to find love and do honorable battle against his former comrades, only to find that it is not so easy to escape the clutches of the Pirate King.

In his pursuit of love and moral redemption, Frederic falls head over heels for the lovely Mabel, and also makes the acquaintance of her bevy of sisters and their esteemed father, the "modern" Major-General Stanley. As the pirates threaten to wreak havoc, Frederic mobilizes the local constabulary, whose aspirations far exceed their abilities. Just as chaos erupts, a simple device brings everyone together for a happy ending.

Pirates is chock full of terrific melodies and clever lyrics. With orchestrations by Steven Dziekonski, musical direction by Dean Balan, and a 13-person onstage orchestra, both the featured players and the ensemble deliver impressive vocals with beautiful diction. Most of the featured players have true opera voices. Perhaps the most spectacular is the over-the-top coloratura of Kayla Wilkens as Mabel; in addition to her vocal skills, Wilkens has a nice comic touch. Other standouts include Rebecca Morris, who brings a great voice and strong physicality to the role of Ruth, and Stephen Rinck, all impish charm and natural stage presence as Major-General Stanley. If the acting skills of some of the other performers don't quite match their vocals, it's a reasonable trade-off to experience voices of this caliber. The singing/dancing ensemble of pirates, police, and sisters are dynamic and well-focused; they bring unflagging energy to every scene.

Choreographer Anastasia Weiss does nice work throughout, especially with the camped-up sisters in "Poor Wandering One" and with the bumbling constables, who morph from Keystone Cops to Chaplinesque tramps to Radio City Rockettes to a corps de ballet. Only one number—"I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major General"—feels too static.

The show moves briskly under Skip Balla Katipunan's direction. Katipunan makes good use of the large stage, creating lovely stage pictures and keeping the copious ensemble in near-constant motion. Elizabeth Kline's lighting design is stunningly good. Steve Paladie's set design is simple but effective, especially the rear projection of an impossibly blue sky punctuated by impossibly white clouds, with the moon making a guest appearance in act two (a delightfully atmospheric effect in this outdoor space). The sound design (uncredited) conquers the venue's acoustic challenges, and finds the right balance between orchestra and ensemble. While there is no designer credit for the costumes, Stephanie Priola is listed as costume mistress. The costumes are beautiful, although Priola needs to fix the Pirate King's scabbard before he does harm to himself or others.

Pirates is a wonderfully goofy show, and Sin City Opera delivers it up with style in the Super Summer Theatre's idyllic setting.

The Pirates of Penzance, through September 22, 2018, at the Super Summer Theatre, Spring Mountain Ranch State Park, 6375 NV Rte. 159, Las Vegas NV. Thursday-Saturday at 7:05 pm. For tickets ($15 general admission) and further information, go to For more information on Sin City Opera, visit

Mabel: Kayla Wilkens
Frederic: Karsten Pudwill
Pirate King: James McGoff
Major-General Stanley: Stephen Rinck
Ruth: Rebecca Morris
Police Chief: Susan Easter
Samuel: Keith Dotson
Edith: Bonita Bunt
Kate: Kim Glover
Isabel: Kristina Wells
Pirates: Miguel Alasco, Napoleon Buenrostro, David Casey, Jeff Doty, Chase Gutierrez, Michael McKenna, Meric Pittman, Jeff Vegas, Jacob Weiss, John Wennstrom, Mike Winget
Police: Miguel Alasco, Katherina Candelaria, Edith Ellithorpe, Keely Frederickson, Terri Gandy, Chase Gutierrez, Moe Meyer, Meric Pittman, John Wennstrom, Mike Winget
Sisters: Rabuel Aviles, Devon Burke, Emily Clements, Nicole Harris, Jenelle Catherina Magbutay, Stephanie Redman, Emily Kurcan Stephenson