REVIEW: The Pirates of Penzance

Probably the funniest, most talented by many standards performance from SMTD that I’ve seen in my time here, The Pirates of Penzance was full of absurdity, puns, and laughter, just as Gilbert and Sullivan intended.

From the very first second once the curtain rose, the bright and defined set, with its water and moving pirate ship, set the expectations high. And right away, Commodore C. Primous III’s appearance as the Pirate King exceeded those expectations. His facial expressions, body language, grand movements, and flippant words all felt eccentrically alive on that stage, instantly captivating everyone’s attention and love. Jacob Ryan Smith was a handsomely ignorant yet loyal Frederic, his lack of knowledge for what he desperately desired driving the show forward. However, the female cast members arguably carried the show. Both Nina White’s performance as Ruth and Lauryn Hobbs’s performance as Mabel gave me chills. Their vocal prowess, humorous delivery, and enticing acting truly left me in awe.

Each group of performers were magnificently fabulous with their own defining characteristics. The tough (with a soft spot for orphan) pirates; the beautiful, curious daughters; the incompetent, bumbling, yet extremely talented tap dancing police officers—they all shined on the stage, each individual cast member contributing an extra flavor of personality to the stage.

It’s hard to highlight some favorite moments of the show because of the extraordinary energy that carried through every moment. However, certain instances do stand out due to the extreme talent and sheer joy that they brought. The Major General’s show-stopping number, “I Am The Very Model of a Modern Major-General,” elicited much delight from everyone. Wilson Plonk completely rocked that song, his precise and articulate rapid singing blowing everyone out of their seats. Once his daughters and the pirates joined in for some insanely fast and insanely in-sync choreography, I didn’t realize I was holding my breath through that entire sequence until there was a break in the dancing. Words can’t describe the admiration and amazement that grew in me during that number. The tap battle between the Pirate King and the Sergeant also deserves a notable mention. I felt so ridiculously giddy and happy watching their skills transform into our laughter, I truly felt all my troubles were washed away in those moments.

SMTD’s production of The Pirates of Penzance honestly blew me away, and I know that Gilbert and Sullivan would have been proud of each and every cast, crew, and orchestra member that made this performance beyond emotions and words.

PREVIEW: The Pirates of Penzance

The Department of Musical Theatre is performing Sir Arthur Sullivan and Sir William Gilbert’s quintessential comic opera for two more nights! The Broadway version of The Pirates of Penzance,  featuring visual gags, delightful dances, and enchanting melodies, is in its final weekend of performances at the Lydia Mendelssohn Theater. If you haven’t seen this hilarious farce yet, you can still catch it Saturday, October 19th at 8pm or Sunday, October 20th at 2pm for a delightful, silly musical!van

REVIEW: NT Live: Fleabag

Having never seen the show before, I walked into the Michigan Theater with only the high praise of my friends who have seen Fleabag. However, I liked what I’ve heard and NT Live never disappoints, and they certainly didn’t this time. 

Phoebe Waller-Bridge manages to insert her humor into the serious, her jokes masking her depression, her sex covering her deeper, underlying problems, seamlessly weaving all of these factors together in her one-woman play. The show starts with Fleabag going into a job interview. Waller-Bridge navigates time in a manner that may be confusing to begin with, especially with it being a one-person show, but she effectively uses flashbacks to provide context for why she did something or how she met someone or why she had a certain type of relationship with someone. In the end, the last scene is her back in the job interview, and Waller-Bridge does such an amazing job captivating the audience into her story and each scene that you forget the entire narrative was to explain why she needed a job so badly.  

She manages to jump from persona to persona with ease, each character with their own distinctive facial expressions, mannerisms, and voice. The guy with a small mouth, kindly referred to as Bus Rodent rodent, elicited much laughter every time she managed to transform her face. She also portrayed her relationship with her sister well, capturing the reserved and uptight personality that contrasts her own free spirit. 

The main tension in this show, aside from her own internal struggles and insecurities,  surrounds her best friend Boo, who recently passed away. Waller-Bridge balances the emotions Fleabag feels as she starts to spiral with humor and levity, much of which involves her sexual coping mechanisms. As she deals with her demons, Fleabag reveals much about human pain and how you can find light even in the darkest times.

If you missed NT Live: Fleabag last week, don’t worry—there’s a special encore performance at the Michigan Theater tonight! 

PREVIEW: NT Live: Fleabag

You may have heard of the BBC hit TV show “Fleabag”, which won big at the Emmys. Now’s your chance to see the inspiration for the show. NT Live: Fleabag is the original one-woman play written and performed by Phoebe Waller-Bridge. Showing at the Michigan Theater this Thursday, September 26 at 7:30 PM, you won’t regret these 67 minutes. Student tickets are $16 and can be purchased at

REVIEW: Urinetown

I never thought I’d watch a musical called “Urinetown”, but there I found myself, sitting in the Lydia Mendelssohn Theater on a Sunday afternoon with a playbill on my lap entitled “Urinetown.” However absurd the title is, and however absurd the characters and play is, the underlying message of it all makes you leave, thinking about what Urinetown really means.

In a town suffering from a water drought, the poor must pay Urine Good Company in order to urinate in public toilets. While such a society may seem ridiculous, the grim reality of the show proves that it’s not so crazy. Caldwell B. Cladwell and Penelope Pennywise keep the poor in order by demanding the fees with zero exceptions. Cladwell and Senator Fipp’s agreement also reflects the grim truth about how corporations influence politics.

Cladwell’s daughter, Hope, enters the company and sings an anthem about hope. While it may seem cheesy, the number was performed beautifully by Zoe Van Slooten and offered a naive optimism that was necessary. The numerous dance numbers throughout kept the musical light, which Little Sally noted should make it a happy musical. Bobby Strong’s hero persona was appealing, leading the revolution until he was forced to visit Urinetown. Even though Office Lockstock spoils what Urinetown is in a flippant manner since that’s not something he can casually mention in Act 1, Bobby’s death came as a surprise, and his drawn-out fall offers a stark reflection of the dramatic reality of possibility.

The dialogue between Little Sally and Officer Lockstock satirizes musicals in a wonderfully meta way, and Lily Gechter’s portrayal as an innocent and curious Little Sally was convincing. Kevin McDanglebunny was probably the real star of the show though. While the over-the-top “gasp”s and “whaaaat?!”s could’ve been cringey to watch, the cast pulled it off, fully buying into the absurdity of their lines and actions. You could tell the audience loved this show with the constant laughter and never-ending clapping. Robby the Stockfish, played by Rachel Francisco, was an absolute favorite on the stage, her stilted walking and movements eliciting much joy.

However, despite the laughter that the cast brings, the drastic ending is certainly not happy at all, emphasizing the balance between draconian rules and freedom. As the world is changing and affected by climate change, a future filled with drought that forces people to pay a megacorporation to pee—as absurd as it may sound—doesn’t seem too far away anymore.


PREVIEW: Urinetown

Have some particular thoughts about capitalism, the legal system, and bureaucracy? Well then this is the perfect show for you! Urinetown is a satirical comedy musical that takes place in a Gotham-like city, where there is a government-enforced ban on private toilets. Forced to pay for public amenities that profits a single company, the people fight back against the system and plan a revolution. Ann Arbor Civic Theatre’s bringing this unique musical to the Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre this weekend. Tickets are $15 for students, but with a Passport to the Arts, students can attend for free!