PENINSULA SPOTLIGHT: Yo, ho, me hearties, ‘Pirates of Penzance’ invading Port Angeles

PORT ANGELES — The leading lady and man have already been through some travails.

Yet Ayla Iliff, 18, and Mark Lorentzen, 25, despite some roughing up on roads around Port Angeles, are ready to leap onto the wide stage, ready to swoon, sing and let love conquer all.

That’s the saga of “The Pirates of Penzance,” the Gilbert and Sullivan romp opening tonight at the Port Angeles High School auditorium, 304 E. Park Ave.

This summer love story comes courtesy of the Port Angeles Light Opera Association: Frederic (Lorentzen), the pirate apprentice, goes walking in the coastal town of Penzance, where he meets Mabel (Iliff), who becomes his fiancee.

Around the pair is a cast of some 30 pirates, daughters, wards and constables, cavorting to the music of a 20-member orchestra.

It’s a grand production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s most popular opera, and it ranges from topsy-turvy comedy to a tender duet between Frederic and Mabel to a rousing choral turn titled “Hail Poetry.” The last song is the peak moment for Kristin Quigley Brye, “Pirates’” director and orchestral conductor.

Among the challenges she’s confronted: making an 1879 opera resonate with a 2011 audience, and seeing both Lorentzen and Iliff injured in vehicular accidents.

Lorentzen crashed on his bicycle on Old Mill Road about a month ago; he says a car came down the hill, got too close and ran him off the road. He had a black eye plus 14 stitches put in his forehead.

So how did that affect his ability to rehearse?

“It really didn’t other than being ugly,” quipped Lorentzen, who also works at Wells Fargo in Sequim.

The stitches didn’t hinder him from enjoying his favorite moment as Frederic, the pirate apprentice: his duet with Mabel in “Penzance’s” second act. It’s one of the few serious moments in the show, when Frederic tells Mabel he must leave her.

But fret not. This tale has a happy ending, “absolutely,” Lorentzen adds. “It’s a great opera.”

Iliff, for her part, was in a car accident July 3. Her injuries were minor, she reports thankfully — and the singer missed no rehearsals.

Preparations for opening night have been sailing forth with great humor, and run-throughs are “hysterical to watch,” she says. For those who have never tried Gilbert and Sullivan, “you don’t know what you’re missing: the excitement, the drama.”

Quigley Brye adds that her performers are doing “Pirates” proud. Having done this opera twice before, “I know the ins and outs,” she says.

“The cast has a lot of fun; they get along really well. There are no problem children,” she says. As for Iliff, regardless of her recent accident, “she certainly can sing.”

The show’s sets and costumes were designed by Richard Stephens, a Peninsula Daily News advertising account executive and a pillar of the theater community. He’s given “a steam punk vibe” to the pirates’ getups, Quigley Brye notes. To her, that twist is just enough to update the look of the production.

The director and conductor believes “Pirates’” music and drama stand tall 132 years after the opera debut, thanks to Sir Arthur Sullivan’s music and William S. Gilbert’s lyrics.

The pair were also pioneers when it came to comedy, Quigley Brye adds.

“Gilbert and Sullivan were really the basis for Monty Python,” with their silly-deadpan mockeries.

“This is a very specific kind of opera,” Quigley Brye adds. “Come for the visuals — and stay for the music.”

Stephens, for his part, hopes the people of Port Angeles will enjoy this story set in a small coastal community like theirs. “By all means, come dressed as pirates,” he adds.

Performances of “Pirates” are at 7:30 tonight, Saturday, Tuesday and next Thursday and Friday, July 21 and 22. Matinees are slated for 2 p.m. this Sunday and next Saturday, July 23. All seats tonight are $12, then tickets range from $12 to $20 for the rest of the run. Outlets include Sequim Gym in Sequim, Northwest Fudge and

Confections in downtown Port Angeles and www.PALOA.org. Tickets will also be sold at the door starting an hour before curtain time. For information, phone 360-452-8299 during business hours.

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