ROBERT LEVIN

MDI High Scores Hit With Twisted G & S Classic



ROBERT LEVIN

Catie Forthofer nails it as the Pirate Queen in the Mount Desert Island High School production of Gilbert & Sullivan’s “Pirates of Penzance,” playing through this weekend. See more photos in an online gallery at www.fenceviewer.com.

Sometimes everything comes together in the right place and the right time. The stars and planets line up, the earth is tilted just so. The muses, pleased with all this harmonic convergence, smile down from above, nod to each other and say, “it’s time, sisters.”

 

Now it’s time for everyone who has not already to see “Pirates of Penzance,” at Mount Desert Island High School in Bar Harbor. Director Frank Bachman’s “Pirates” is destined to join the school’s illustrious list of outstanding shows. Folks will be talking about it for decades

Even Mr. Bachman and vocal director Bronwyn Kortge, who shares much of the credit for the brilliant success of this show, must have been stunned when one kid after another showed up at casting call and discovered that every dang one of them could, sing, dance and act – and do it very well.

The fact that some 40 of them were females and a paltry seven were male, might have given them a momentary pause. But rather than being stymied a genius plan was hatched.

Instead of populating their Penzance with hairy pirates, bumptious British Bobbies and just a few pretty girls, in petticoats, Mr. Bachman completely reversed the gender roles.

So this past weekend the curtains on the Higgins Demas stage opened to the most gorgeously, colorful and raucous all-girl band of “Pirates” that has ever been seen on this, or perhaps, any stage.

The audience knew it was in for a rare treat when Rebecca Edmondson’s pit orchestra started playing their wonderful rendition of the Gilbert & Sullivan “Pirates” overture. The thrill continued with the first glimpse of those rainbow warriors of the sea in their striped and checkered tights, their billowing polka-dotted pantaloons, gilded vests, buckle boots and flowing head scarves. Costume designer Marilee Marchese and her crew have outdone themselves.

Anyone who saw Pirate Queen, Katie Forthofer about ten years ago in “Annie,” has been waiting for her to show up in a starring vehicle again. Miss Forthofer not only has an impressive vocal range – she’s especially strong in the mezzo register, but can still hit the stratosphere with some of her high notes.

She had enough swash and buckle to make Errol Flynn blush like, well, a teenage girl.

Listening to her sing “For I am a Pirate Queen,” with such joy and enthusiasm, anyone would have wanted to sign on to her jolly crew. Her chorus of some 35 able- bodied sea women danced, dueled and backed her up dutifully and beautifully with several outstanding soloists.

Stephanie Calas appears as Fredericka the hapless pirate apprentice on the eve of her 21st birthday. She brings not only a sweet, perfectly pitched soprano to her role, but also the requisite stiff upper lip and overweening sense of duty.

Enter the very model of a female Modern Major General, Axis Fuksman-Krumpa. She delivers the show’s iconic patter song without a hitch or a hiccup rolling out her rrrrrs as smoothly as a babbling brook tumbles over polished stones. She also provides one of the show’s sweetest moments singing in the moonlight about gentle breezes and softly sighing rivers.

Samantha Luck is the leader of the most adorable police squad you can imagine. She has the best projection of them all, delivering (in a very credible cockney accent) one of the biggest delights of the evening as she and her trepidatious swat team prepare to battle the pirates.

The dances choreographed by Don Grieco and David Lamon are superb. The masterful moves for these bustled Bobbies in “When the Foreman Bares his Steel,” are a perfectly executed combination of Charlie Chaplin, Keystone Kops and string puppets.

Tyler Wood as Mason, (the reversed Mabel) channels his inner ingénue so effectively with his gorgeous tenor and fancy falsetto trills and chirps he has to be added to the diva list — although he is also perfectly believable as Fredericka’s manly suitor. Their duet “And here is love” is the big “awww” moment of the show.

As Mason’s brothers Griffin Graves, Noah Davis, Clifton Jeffery, Nathan Vonder Haar, and Francis Snyder are absolutely hilarious.

Josh Logan, an attractive young man, is outstanding all snaggle-toothed and hunched over in his excellent portrayal of Igor.

Aside from a couple of startling foghorn feedback blasts, Saturday night, the sound system worked remarkably well. The cast, as soloists and in chorus, delivered the fast paced libretto with astonishingly good diction.

The lighting and sets were simple and effective. Especially admirable were the faux brass footlights, flickering gaslights and smoke coming out of a distant chimney: great details front to back.

Bravo, Bravo, Bravo!

Anyone who wants to see the final three performances Nov. 11 at 7 p.m. and Nov.17 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. better act fast. Tickets are available at the box office one hour before the show.

 

For more arts & entertainment news, pick up a copy of the Mount Desert Islander.

 

Nan Lincoln

Nan Lincoln

The former arts editor at the Bar Harbor Times writes reviews and feature stories for The Ellsworth American and Mount Desert Islander.