The Pirates of Penzance On Stage at Roger Rocka’s in 2023

Sep 20, 2023 | 2023 Articles, Terrance V. Mc Arthur, Theatre

by Terrance Mc Arthur

William S. Gilbert wrote the words. Arthur Sullivan wrote the music. After 144 years, The Pirates of Penzance is still great theatre, good fun, and lots of laughs. Join the crew for the Good Company Players’ production now playing at Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater through November 5.

As a lad, Frederic (Peter Hartley) was taken to be apprenticed to a pilot, but Ruth (Emily Pessano, with Haleigh Cook filling in as understudy—a necessary theatrical precaution in the here-comes-that-pandemic-day-feeling-again era), a nursemaid with hearing problems, mistakenly apprenticed the boy to a pirate (Shawn Williams). Turning twenty-one, he leaves the ship, vowing to bring the crew to justice for their criminal ways. He meets a bevy of beautiful maidens, daughters of a Major-General (Mark Standriff), and falls for the high soprano, Mabel (Ariana Morris). When the pirates plan to attack, a group of policemen and their Sergeant (Michael Fidalgo, understudied by Nicholas Sterling) are called upon to repel the invaders. It’s a rollicking ride of white capped waves, with prevarication and paradoxes, bluster and bravado, and true identities thrown into the mix.

Cast of GCP’s production of “The Pirates of Penzance”

The classic Gilbert & Sullivan songs are all there—the lilting “Poor Wandering One,” the boisterous “I Am the Pirate King,” the cheeky “A Policeman’s Lot Is Not a Happy One,” the tongue-twisting “I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General,” and the bouncing “With Catlike Tread “ (Americans turned the tune’s chorus into “Hail, Hail, The Gang’s All Here.”). Vocal coach Judith Dickison had her work cut out for her to achieve clear lyrics with rapid-fire repartee, and to protect voices from vocal gymnastics that would bedevil an operatic prima donna.

Cast of GCP’s production of “The Pirates of Penzance”

Morris hits the high notes as Mabel, her breakthrough role for the GCP big leagues. She’s graceful, winsome, and projects that naïve shimmer the role demands. Hartley is stalwart and dutiful as the once-and-future pirate (the operetta’s subtitle is The Slave of Duty). Williams gets to throw a little goofiness into the Pirate King, deftly displaying feats of swordplay that echo Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride.

Cook was an admirable substitute for Pessano, capturing the humor and managing to swash a few buckles of her own. Sterling was a tall, pencil-thin Sergeant of Police, angular and flexible.

GCP’s production of “The Pirates of Penzance”

Standriff, who was recently serious as Thomas More in A Man for All Seasons, took over the stage as Major-General Stanley, flying through his songs with glee. On top of that, he choreographed the fight sequences.

Cast of GCP’s production of “The Pirates of Penzance”

Laurie Pessano’s directing and choreography had its expected polish (I don’t think I’ve ever seen a lackluster GCP production). Ginger Kay Lewis-Reed’s costumes brought us winsome women, brightly belted and buttoned buccaneers, and perky policemen. David Pierce takes us from shipboard to a rocky coast, to a borrowed castle with sets that capture the spirit of the scene.

The Junior Company pre-show features talented youngsters singing and dancing, with songs that match the theme of Treasure, Money, and Gold. “Money, Money, Money,” “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend,” and the Fosse-styled “Rich Man’s Frug” from Sweet Charity are featured.

It’s frivolous, fast, and fun. What more can you ask of Gilbert & Sullivan?

Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater is at 1226 N. Wishon Ave. at Olive Ave. For tickets and further information, go to, or call (559) 266-9494.

If you love local theatre, be sure to check out Mysteryrat’s Maze Podcast, which features mysteries read by local actors. You can find the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play, and also on podbean.

Check out more theatre reviews & other local entertainment articles in our Arts & Entertainment section. You can also find more theatre coming up on KRL’s Local Theatre event page.

Terrance V. Mc Arthur worked for the Fresno County Public Library for three decades. He is retired, but not retiring. A storyteller, puppeteer, writer, actor, magician, basketmaker, and all-around interesting person, his goal is to make life more unusual for everyone he meets.


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