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The very model of a modern musical

‘The Pirates of Penzance’ is a quick-witted musical that boldly defies convention

Dan Church (from left), Jefferson Davis, Marsi Smith, Stephen Webb, Rueben Carrioin, Kiegan Otterson and Gary Leavitt perform a pirate’s dance. Jack Grace photo

STAGE REVIEW

From the moment the first notes float out of the orchestra pit, it’s abundantly clear Maui OnStage’s production of “The Pirates of Penzance” is not your run-of-the-mill operatic experience.

Directed by Michael Pulliam, this revision of Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic opera subverts expectations from the very start. While it remains faithful to the original plot and score, the Maui OnStage production puts a contemporary spin on the 140-year-old musical and evokes the farcical, fourth-wall-breaking styles of Mel Brooks and Monty Python.

Kiegan Otterson shines as Frederic, the dashing young pirate on the verge of ending his apprenticeship–or so he thinks–to the Pirate King. Leighanna Locke is pitch perfect as Mabel, Frederic’s love interest. Apart from showcasing her sublime voice (be forewarned, her rendition of “Poor Wandering One” may give you the chills), Locke also shows off her comedy chops. Dale Button puts his talents on full display as Mabel’s father, the fast-talking Major-General Stanley. In a scene-stealing (and arguably awe-inspiring) moment, Button masterfully delivers the tongue-twisting lyrics to “I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General.”

Gary Leavitt is perfectly cast as the larger-than-life Pirate King and churns out some of the biggest belly laughs of the night. Stephen Webb, Jefferson Davis, Dan Church and Rueben Carrion deftly flex their physical comedy muscles as the Pirate King’s motley crew of swashbucklers. The same goes for Marsi Smith, who is irresistibly funny as Ruth, the pirates’ maid of all work and Frederic’s nursery maid. Chloe Chin, Bailey Miller, Stefani Peterson, Laura Vo and Jamie Wilcox are delightful as the Major-General’s bevy of beautiful daughters, and Joseph Schumacher, Mike Burnett Jr., Cameron Keys and John Galvan score their share of laughs as a bumbling bunch of British Bobbies.

Jefferson Davis (from left), Dan Church, Rueben Carrion and Stephen Webb set sail. Jack Grace photo

Under the direction of Bob Wills, the six-member pit orchestra captures the whimsy of Gilbert and Sullivan’s musical score. And with choreography by Katie Higuchi, costumes by Vicki and Jessi Nelson, an eye-catching set design by Caro Walker, and some technological “extras,” the production serves up plenty of visual treats.

From its toe-tapping musical numbers to its laugh-out-loud sight gags, Maui OnStage’s engagingly silly adaptation of “The Pirates of Penzance” will appeal to anyone looking for a quick-witted musical that defies convention in the funniest way possible.

* “The Pirates of Penzance” continues through March 17 at the Historic Iao Theater.

Performances are at 7:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, 3 p.m. on Sundays. Tickets are $20 to $40. To purchase tickets for any Iao Theater event, call 242-6969 or order online at www.mauionstage.com.