Pirates of Penzance is a Kick in the Pants!

Theatre review

PHOTO: Jenny Graham | SouthPasadenan.com | The cast of Pirates of Penzance on stage at Pasadena Playhouse

Fasten your seatbelts for the beach blanket bingo extravaganza that is Pirates of Penzance at Pasadena Playhouse! Completely unrecognizable when you walk in, the inside of the Playhouse has been virtually transformed into a beach party on the stage and out over the usual seating, complete with decks, lifeguard tower, baby pools and a tiki bar! And yes, it’s a real bar serving drinks!

PHOTO: Jenny Graham | SouthPasadenan.com | Matt Kahler as the Major General and the cast of Pirates of Penzance at Pasadena Playhouse

Listen, what I’m saying is, come to this show ready to party. It is literally a party on stage and you, the audience, are active participants with the choice to sit in the assigned seating that surrounds the action or you may sit on benches and decks or in empty kiddie pools right in the action with the actors and for real, you are in the show!

PHOTO: Jenny Graham | SouthPasadenan.com | Dana Omar as Ruth with the cast of Pirates of Penzance at Pasadena Playhouse

The Hypocrites are a theatre troupe from Chicago who have been doing this show in various incarnations for a couple of decades. Known for re-imagining classics in bold fashion, they come to Pasadena after a successful run in New York City. And what a breath of fresh air they are. Bold yes, and zany and delirious almost to the edge of disaster. It’s such a roller-coaster ride that you sometimes feel as if the whole thing will careen out of control. But the magic is in how it doesn’t but rather engages you from start to finish, building to a mad crescendo of brilliance.

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The actors bring their A game, each playing one or more instruments to accompany themselves throughout the entire show; from the charismatic Doug Pawlik, playing multiple instruments as young Freddy, to the deliciously delightful performance of Dana Omar as the accordion and flute playing Mabel/Ruth and the finely tuned, comedic turns of both Shawn Pfautsch as the Pirate King and Matt Kahler as the Major General, this cast leaves it all on the stage.

PHOTO: Jenny Graham | SouthPasadenan.com | (L-R): Tina Muñoz Pandya, Amanda Raquel Martinez and Leslie Ann Sheppard in Pirates of Penzance at Pasadena Playhouse

The direction by Hypocrites artistic director Sean Graney is deceptive in its insanity. Just when you think the whole thing is going to go off the rails, Graney beautifully reels it back to its core elements allowing the precision and beauty of the score to stand alone as in the stunning duet by Pawlik and Omar….dimly lit with tiki torches…in a kiddie pool. It’s a moment of pure, unadulterated love and devotion. In fact, one begins to realize that as chaotic as it feels, it is actually expertly specific in every moment and by the end of it you may find yourself saying, “what did I just see?”

PHOTO: SouthPasadenan.com | The audience perspective of being on stage for the zany world of Pirates of Penzance now playing Pasadena Playhouse

The entire ensemble is fantastic with hilarious and charming turns by Leslie Ann Sheppard, Amanda Raquel Martinez and Tina Munoz-Pandya as the general’s daughters and equally mad performances by the pirates, Mario Aivazian, Eduardo Xavier Curley-Carrillo and Lauren Vogel. Unhinged and enchanting, all! This wild romp of a party has something for everyone, providing a totally re-imagined way to enjoy this theatre classic.


Pirates of Penzance has just been extended through February 25 due to popular demand!

The Pasadena Playhouse is located at 39 South El Molino Ave. in Pasadena.Tickets at the theatre box office or online at www.pasadenaplayhouse.org or call (626) 356-7529. Tickets start at $25. Tues-Fridays at 8pm. Saturdays 2pm & 8pm, Sundays 2pm & 7pm.