Arts & Leisure

Getting carried away by “Pirates”

A SCENE from “The Prates of Penzance,” now on stage at the Mainstage Theater at Golden West College in Huntington Beach (Photos by Lara Farhadi).

By Thom deMartino

What makes a truly classic work of art is the ability to withstand the test of time. Yet, for something as revered, loved – and arguably, dated – as Gilbert and Sullivan’s comedic operetta “The Pirates of Penzance,” how can the players and artists keep such a work both vital and timely?

With exceptional direction, timing, choreography, and some of the best local actors that both Golden West College and Southern California has to offer.

In the new GWC production of “Pirates,” directed by Martie Ramm, it’s a bittersweet birthday for young Frederic (Marcus Veyette) -–the young man now free, having reached his twenty-first year of indentured servitude to the (not-quite) scourge of the 19th century seas, the dreaded “Pirates of Penzance,” led by their charismatic and flamboyant leader, the Pirate King (Matthew Cobb).

Though the tenderhearted scoundrels have raised him as one of their own – with the loving and doting assistance of Ruth, the pirate maid (Megan Cherry) – Frederic is a man of principles and duty: torn between his loyalty to his former comrades, and the greater morality that forbids the pillaging piratical way of life. Additionally, having been at sea most of his life, the only woman he’s ever seen is Ruth… who might be fudging the truth just a little bit, when the naive young man asks her if she’s an example of the most beauteous of womanhood (so she can get him to wed her – despite their 20-plus year age difference.)

And she would have gotten away with it too, if not for those meddling kids: in the form of a bevy of young beach-going beauties, their loveliness dazzling the reformed pirate. The youngest of the group of sisters, Mabel (Breea Hayes) has the young lad smitten – but they also happen to be the daughters of the law-and-order Major-General Stanley (Jay Harbison), further complicating the potential nuptials.

BREEA HAYES and Marcus Veyette in “Penzance” at Golden West College.

It’s morality and duty versus loyalty and mercy for the ex-pirate torn between two worlds, but surely life isn’t as black and white as all that – perhaps there might be some paradoxical solution to his dilemma, that will soon present itself?

As mentioned, it can be challenging to make a classic piece such as “Pirates of Penzance” seem relevant, and yet the Golden West players and crew do exactly that. With beautiful and vibrant costuming, stylish and toe-tapping choreography, sonorous musical numbers – and, of course, impeccable comedic timing – the show is everything a classic musical should be.

And that comic timing is front-and-center: from the devotion and mischievousness of Cherry’s Ruth, to the playful expressions and flirtations of the myriad sisters; the clever duplicity and woeful regret of Harbison’s Major-General Stanley, or the antics of the hook-wielding pirate lieutenant Samuel (played by Devon Suraco); the hysterical, marionette-like physicality of Daniel Geurkink as Police Sergeant Edward, or even the marvelous timing and delivery of Veyette’s conflicted and love-struck Frederic.

Cobb himself, who’s had a number of striking, often critically-acclaimed dramatic roles at Golden West, takes a swing at comedy with his over-the-top performance as the Pirate King — and knocks it out of the park.

The entire ensemble, too many players to name here, deserve much kudos for their energy and delivery: all the sisters, police and pirates. Special note should be made of the orchestra themselves, whose presence and performance adds such richness to the show: and of the stunning vocal range of Hayes as Mabel, peppy and precocious, as she walks the tightrope between her family and her conflicted beau.

It’s classical fun, for a limited run, at Golden West’s Mainstage Theater: and musical theater fans of all ages should catch “Pirates” while they can, before the show sails off into the sunset.

The Pirates of Penzance.” Marcus Veyette, Breea Hayes and Matthew Cobb star in this refreshing and fun take on the classic Gilbert and Sullivan operetta. Playing through Sunday, May 5 at the Golden West College Mainstage Theater, 15751 Gothard St, Huntington Beach, CA 92647. Tickets available through the box office at 714-895-8150, x1 or at


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