Review: 'The Pirates of Penzance' at Barrington Stage Company

Angelica Potter

  • OnStage Massachusetts Critic

Pittsfield MA - A New Version of Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance has come to the Berkshires and is delighting audiences both young and old. The incredible scenic design by Beowolf Borritt includes a stage extension into the middle of the orchestra that serves as part of the ship and additional performance space throughout the production. The design is further accentuated with wonderful lighting by Jason Lyons. The beautiful costumes from designer Jess Goldstein stood out perfectly against the set. Creative direction by John Rando had the cast using not only the stage and extension, but the aisles as well to further engage and interact with the audience. 

 Will Swenson & the pirates ensemble. Photo credit Kevin Sprague.

Will Swenson & the pirates ensemble. Photo credit Kevin Sprague.

This cast features Broadway, West End, and National Tour veterans from around the world and some of the most incredibly well trained voices I’ve heard so far this summer season. Under the music direction of Darren R. Cohen, who also served as conductor, this cast shines as they excitedly bring this classic musical to life. Precise fight choreography by Ryan Winkles allowed for exciting and excellently executed sword play mere inches from the audience without too much fear of injury. 

The Pirates and Police featured the male ensemble lively doubling both roles. They were fully engaged in their two characters showcasing different personality quirks and physical attributes for each. Energetically performing exhilarating choreography from Joshua Bergasse, their dancing and acrobatic skills were fully utilized. 

Alex Gibson was fantastic as the Sergeant and led the Police in “No, I am Brave!” with Mabel and “When a Felon’s Not Engaged in His Employment”.  The many daughters of Major-General were altogether lovely with terrific voices and unique characterizations. David Garrison as Major-General was superb. His performance of “I Am The Very model of a Modern Major-General” was highly entertaining. Scarlett Strallen, as his daughter Mabel, was stunning with superior vocal tone and power. Her duets with Frederic (Kyle Dean Massey) were gorgeous. Massey, as Frederic, was charming and strong. Frederic’s naiveté was only apparent when he interacted with the Pirate King, superbly played by Will Swenson, who was fiercely commanding. Jane Carr amusingly played Ruth, the woman who raised Frederic on the pirate ship, and was a joy to watch. 

With so many lyrics so quickly sung, this fast paced, musically driven show was impeccably well done and was an extremely enjoyable theatrical experience. It is certainly a highlight of my summer theatre experience and is sure to be one of yours as well!

It was clear to the audience the entire cast had fun in their roles and enjoyed performing this show, which made the viewer enjoy it as well. I overheard many say afterwards “that was delightful”, “fantastic”, “lots of fun” and other variations of high praise. This family friendly production runs just over 2 hours including intermission. The Pirates of Penzance plays on Boyd-Quinson Mainstage until August 13th. For tickets call the box office at 413-236-8888 or visit 

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