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Stu­dents perform in “Pirates of Pen­zance.” Elena Creed | Courtesy

More than 600 people crammed into McNamara Rehearsal Hall Friday, Sat­urday, and Sunday to watch Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Pirates of Pen­zance.” Never in my four years here have I seen so many attend Opera Workshop’s annual per­for­mance. I would know — I was always per­forming.

The show attracted audi­ences in mass, because it’s a classic, but the audience’s uproarious laughter and undis­tracted attention didn’t hinge on nos­talgia. The 23-person cast radiated with energy, and it sang and danced with seem­ingly effortless pre­cision.

The operetta is wild. As a young pirate goes googly eyed for the daughter of a general, stars cross and hilarity ensues. The general’s nine other daughters squeal as their impas­sioned Mabel, freshman Julia Salloum, falls for free­booter Frederic, junior Miles Garn. The speed-singing Major General, sophomore Nick Uram, boasts of his gift for strategy in a near-rap. And the Pirate King, sophomore Isaac Johnson, spear­heads a deaf­ening sneak attack (“No sound at all,” the crew belted. “We never speak a word!”).

“It’s such a fun show to see — it works in so many dif­ferent ele­ments,” director Jonathan Hen­reckson, a senior, told me before “Pirates” opened Friday night. “It has the humor. It has some sadness, some dancing, some recita­tives.”

Jonathan didn’t mention the show would double as an ab workout. I started laughing as soon as the pirates took the stage in the first scene, and I rarely quieted to even a chuckle until the per­formers bent in a final bow. The cast enriched the show as each actor, even those in the chorus, brought a well-developed char­acter to the stage and every song, every scene coursed with a con­tinuous, tan­gible energy.

The Major General and the Pirate King had me doubled over in painful laughter with their feature numbers. Decked out in mil­itary garb, Nick adapted some sort of accent with a speech imped­iment that reminded me of Dick Van Dyke’s elder Mr. Dawes in “Mary Poppins.” Remember “Fidelity Fidu­ciary Bank”? Nick must. Even better, he could actually translate this affec­tation to his singing voice — an notable feat for a young singer.

As Isaac swag­gered across the stage, I couldn’t stop thinking about King George of “Hamilton.” The two kings exuded haugh­tiness and mis­chief, but where Jonathan Groff, of “Hamilton’s” original Broadway cast, opted for sub­tlety, Isaac sprung for exag­ger­ation. It worked, espe­cially in Isaac’s physical por­trayal of the brash leader.

“A lot of the energy I tried to put into the per­for­mance was more ath­letic, and I tried not to take the role too seri­ously,” Isaac told me after the show closed.

The Pirate King moved with the grace of a dancer (fit­tingly, since Isaac does dance) and the state­liness of royalty, but his agility enabled him to bumble and stumble like a drunken sailor.

Miles based much of Frederic on Isaac’s example in rehearsal, he explained to me afterward. Spring­boarding off Isaac’s natural exu­berance, he created the youthful, charming Frederic. The audience roared as bashful Frederic acci­den­tally stumbled upon the Major General’s daughters stripping (off their shoes and stockings) and taking (their toes for) a dip in the sea. Miles’ best moment in the show was with Ruth, freshman Sarah Nolting. Miles and Sarah sing with similar timbres, so their duet blended with a per­fection I don’t  often hear men and women achieve, espe­cially in college.

None of the leads stole the show, which tells me no one’s talent exceeded another’s by any star­tling measure. But I really want to know what the coming semesters hold for Julia, who sang opposite Miles for most of the show. As she lofted her voice into the stratos­phere, her high notes always sparkled and never stung. She gently ser­e­naded Frederic as she gazed at him with the widest, softest pup­pydog eyes.

And she hadn’t taken a single voice lesson before she started singing with voice pro­fessor Missy Osmond this semester.

“This show was just a com­pletely new expe­rience that helped me grow as a per­former and a singer,” Julia said. “Vocally, I’ve learned a lot more about breath support and some more tech­niques because singing oper­at­i­cally is a whole dif­ferent playing field than singing jazz or typical musical theater.”

With this much star talent so evident from the beginning of the show, I won­dered if the chorus would lack flair. I shouldn’t have worried.

The pirates stomped around in their boots and flexed their muscles as the sisters pranced in floor-length skirts and giggled in bell-like peals of  girlish laughter. When Frederic crooned to the sisters, freshman Abbey Bohrer swooned so con­vinc­ingly that I was ready to dash forward and catch her if she actually keeled over. The tow­ering Sergeant of Police and his short stooges marched like the world’s most clumsy, goose-stepping robots.

Most impor­tantly, the chorus pro­duced a warm and sup­ported sound that allowed the audience to under­stand the lyrics that often flew by at prestissimo. Save a few messy cutoffs, their work was clean and crisp.

The cast could never have show­cased any of this talent without tremendous energy. They unashamedly enjoyed them­selves (espe­cially in the more ridiculous moments), and I hon­estly don’t know how they main­tained char­acter through every joke. The pauses for audience response must have ago­nized them.

Here’s my only cri­tique: I wanted to see this show in the Markel Audi­torium. I wanted to see Isaac swing from the masts of a colossal ship as his crew crawled drunkenly out of the bellows. I wanted to see the sisters dance in ornate cos­tumes. But a per­for­mance as such is not the point of Opera Workshop. Opera Workshop allows singers and audi­ences to interact with opera. With a pro­duction of this caliber, I’d say we all walked away from the show happier, lighter, and maybe even a little more learned.