AMERICAN FORK —  There are some Broadway musicals that I admit I appreciate for their contribution to the medium more than I outright love. The Pirates of Penzance by William S. Gilbert (libretto) and Arthur Sullivan (music) would be in that group. It is considered by some to be the first Broadway musical premiering in New York City in 1879 and then in London in 1880. Pirates marked a transition point between opera and light opera or what we now consider the Broadway musical. It’s been done hundreds or thousands of times for a century and a half. That said, occasionally a company can put on Pirates with such spirit and panache that I am reminded why it is a classic and am thoroughly entertained. Such was my experience at The Pirates of Penzance at Timpanogos Community Theatre in American Fork that opened this weekend. By leaning into the silliness of the story, they managed to take away some of the operatic stuffiness that can go along with this musical and deliver an engaging evening full of laughs.

At the time of its premiere Pirates was a farce or parody of the operas of the era and a take on some of the popular pirate stories of the age. Treasure Island for example was first published in 1883. Director Marlene Brinkerhoff Myers understands these roots and makes sure her large cast emphasizes the overt silliness of the story and characters. I was also impressed with how the actors used the large Valentine Theater stage to tell the story as expressively as possible. This is particularly true in the Policemen’s song and dance that felt was well coordinated with loads of slapstick antics.

Hurricane Theatrical ; 2024 Pirates of Penzance ; Washington County

Pirates of Penzance Plays at Timanogos Community Theatre through May 4 | Photo Credit: M. Ryan Taylor

Another well choreographed scene is the dance during “Poor Wandering Boy” as Frederic tries to hold Mabel’s hand he follows her in circles around the stage getting more and more desperate as the she obliviously sings the song. The harder he tries, the funnier the scene becomes for all of us watching. Marilyn Montgomery’s chorography was an asset to this production again and again.

One of the challenges with Pirates is making the light opera sound palatable to modern audiences Fortunately the entire cast at Timpanogos was up for the challenge. The standout is Adam Moore as Frederic. Even in his voice he captures the innocence and sweetness needed for the role. Kyra Fowler has a beautiful soprano voice as Mabel, again “Poor Wandering Boy” being the highlight.

The other key roles are also nailed by this talented non-professional cast. Brett Hansen has the hardest but most memorable role of the piece in the Modern Major General. Indeed, probably the most memorable song in the entire musical is “I am the Very Model of a Modern Major General” which he sings with a ton of energy even as it gets faster and faster.  Aaron Williams gets to ham it up as the Pirate King Bartholemew and Vivian Mathias is a hoot as the conniving Ruth.

Hurricane Theatrical ; 2024 Pirates of Penzance ; Washington County

Photo Credit: M. Ryan Taylor

One problem community theater can have in such large auditoriums as the Valentine Theater is getting the microphones and sound cues correct. Fortunately at Timpanogos sound engineer Jason Young had that all sorted out and there wasn’t a mic problem to be had all night. Also the sets by Larry Myers were large, immersive and impressive and it was very creative how they used both a large ship set-piece they could walk on and a toy ship that could show the pirates at sea easily.

The costumes by Nicole Madsen were period accurate without being too cumbersome. I particularly enjoyed the nightgowns the daughters wear in most of act 2 and the General has a long night cap and robe that must have been borrowed from the theater’s production of A Christmas Carol- it felt straight out of Dickens which would be appropriate for Pirates.

Projections brought modern technology to a classic work effectively here. Kudos to tech operator Nathan Martineau. It provided a background of blue or pink sky, the moon at night and clouds on the ocean which was just the right touch.

Hurricane Theatrical ; 2024 Pirates of Penzance ; Washington County

Photo Credit: M. Ryan Taylor

With the light opera style and the speed of some of the songs there are times when the lyrics can get away from the actors and they could work on enunciating more carefully. If I wasn’t so familiar with the story I might have been confused with what the characters are singing about in a few scenes.

Other than that The Pirates of Penzance at Timpanogos Community Theater is thoroughly entertaining with a large boisterous cast that are all clearly having a wonderful time (which is the most important part of community theater if you ask me.) This would be a great way to introduce kids to light opera and help them understand the history of the Broadway musical without it being too intimidating. The kids in my audience seemed to be having a great time with it. It was a fantastic night of theatre I highly recommend.

The Pirates of Penzance plays at Timpanogos Community Theatre’s Valentine Theatre through May 4. Tickets range from $10-20. For more information, go to