Although the music is old fashioned to rock-trained ears, Sullivan knew how to write catchy tunes and toe-tapping "patter songs" (you know, "I am the very model of a modern major-general. . . ."). And because he wrote for nonvirtuoso voices, his scores have remained accessible to amateur troupes. UMGASS performers have occasional difficulty with the small-ensemble numbers, where the harmony is tight and they must pronounce the lyrics clearly in order to convey the story. But when the whole cast is onstage singing a multilayered chorus, the power and beauty of the moment puts more recent musicals to shame.
Then just as the score reaches a climax, the conductor's tuxedo sprouts fairy wings, and you're reminded how silly it all can be.
UMGASS performs The Pirates of Penzance Thursday through Sunday, April 3-6, at Lydia Mendelssohn.
[Originally published in April, 2003.]