The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, November 6, 2009


Savoyards give swash-buckling performance in Pirates

Hitting the high notes, the chorus includes (from left) Sally Harris, Susan Craft, Fran Hunt, Harriet Ketchen, Ben Collison and Will Parra. (Photo by Jane Hamilton)

Next, debark the roller coaster of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and jump on another for the fast-paced, uproarious lunacy of the Savoyard Light Opera Company’s (SLOC) production of the Gilbert and Sullivan classic, The Pirates of Penzance, opening November 13 at Corey Auditorium in the Carlisle Public School. This is also big entertainment, but of a completely different kind. Come prepared to belly laugh, tap your toes and be carried away by one of the most famous musical scores in theater history.

Carlisle talent is well represented in this production, too. SLOC publicity manager Larry Millner of Arlington reports, “This year we have an especially large number of Carlisle folks involved, with at least a dozen in the cast and crew. We are especially pleased to have four Carlisle students appearing in the show: Emilie Carr and Harriet Ketchen play the youngest daughters of Major General Stanley and Ben Collison and William Parra play young pirate apprentices.


Policeman Larry Millner (also publicity manager) and pirate Phil Drew (also producer) prepare for a lighthearted duel. (Photo by Jane Hamilton)

At a rehearsal last week, Collison and Parra provided some of the more athletic movement in With Cat-Like Tread, the famous basis for Hail, Hail the Gang’s All Here. They tackled the hilarious and anything-but-catlike choreography by dance teacher Jay Newlon of Westford and brandished their swords with impressive control. All the men have a great deal of fun wielding swords and nightsticks.

The policemen’s chorus is comprised of veteran SLOC performers who exaggerate their real ages and move in Chaplinesque steps as the funniest, most doddering crew of policemen imaginable. Newlon’s choreography and SLOC veteran Donna DeWitt’s direction take every advantage of Gilbert and Sullivan (G&S) traditions to bring the piece to life. Original ensembles used to stand in the demi-lune or half-circle formation to sing the chorus numbers and leading cast members would strike poses to sing their arias. All of that is preserved here with tongues firmly in cheeks, but more modern conventions, such as the double-take, the kick line and more athletic movement are added to punctuate the lyrics and libretto.

Carlisle students Harriet Ketchen,daughter of Major General Stanley,and Ben Collison, young pirate
apprentice, focus on the beat. (Photo by Jane Hamilton)

The male and female ensembles boast eight Carlisle performers. In addition to the two young daughters, the women’s ensemble includes Emilie Carr, Jill Henderson and Linda St. Francis. Jim Miller and SLOC veteran, producer and board member Phil Drew appear with the two young pirates in the men’s ensembles. The production crew is anchored by Carlisle residents as well, with Bill Cooney of Concord Street serving as ticket manager, Scott Henderson of Brook Street as rigger and Susie Schmidt of Rutland Street who is once again the costume designer.

Ethan Butler, who plays the hero Frederic with a clear and magical tenor, is new to SLOC this year. His lady-love, Mabel, is Donna Doyle, who lends her voice not only to SLOC, but to the Boston Archdiocese where she is a soloist. Major-General Stanley, who sings the famous patter song, “I Am the Very Model of the Modern Major-General,” is played by Tom Frates, dubbed “a patter baritone” by the British Gilbert and Sullivan director Roberta Morrell at her master class here in Carlisle two years ago. G&S light operas are not just musicals; they demand classically trained singers who can handle the range, trills, runs and arpeggios of legitimate opera. SLOC music director Steve Malionek and the complete cast of vocalists are well able to sing and interpret these timeless songs for modern audiences.

About the play

Pirates premiered in New York in 1879 and in London in 1880 to rave reviews in both cities. Its ridiculous plot centers on Frederic, a young man who is released from his apprenticeship to a band of kindly pirates at the age of 21. One can see the oxymoron here and these “kindly” pirates drink sherry, not rum. Frederic falls in love with Mabel, the daughter of Major-General Stanley, but before he can marry her, he discovers that his birthday is on Leap Year. Because he has a birthday only once every four years, he will have to serve the pirates for another 63 years to earn his release. Incredibly, Mabel agrees to wait for him and the antics begin.

Needless to say, after absolutely no violence with those swords and nightsticks, and after the pun-ridden and clever witticisms of the Pirate King (Lonnie Powell) and female pirate Ruth (Laura Gouillard), the main plot and a few subplots as well, twist, turn, rise and fall until the pirates, who are really “noblemen gone wrong,” turn themselves in “because we love our Queen” and become ex-pirates. Frederic is then free to marry his Mabel and all ends well.

Your evening or afternoon will also end well if you attend this year’s delightful rendition of The Pirates of Penzance in Carlisle’s Corey Auditorium. ∆

Savoyards tickets and other information

Information: or 1-978-371-SLOC (7562)

Play run: November 13, 14 and 21 at 7:30 p.m.; November 15 and 22 at 2 p.m. Performances are in Corey Auditorium, Carlisle Public School.

Tickets: $24/adult; $22/students and seniors; $16/children 12 and under. Matinees feature a special invitation for the children in the audience to join the cast and crew onstage for a special close-up view of how the magic of live theater is made. Tickets are available from:; by mail using the ticket mail order form available on the website; by phone at 1-978-371-SLOC (7562); directly from any cast member; and at the door. The box office opens one hour before curtain time.

Additional information: For an online libretto of The Pirates of Penzance, visit

For an online vocal or orchestral/vocal score and other information, visit and type Pirates of Penzance in the search window.

For information on Gilbert and Sullivan visit: www.


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