May 21, 2009

Pirates! A letter from Michael Maso

Those of you who were among this past week's cheering and deeply appreciative audiences for Pirates!— including many families with young children — will be stunned to read Louise Kennedy's aggressively negative review, which was posted Thursday afternoon on the Globe website but will be more readily accessible Friday on line and in print. Here is the link:

http://www.boston.com/ae/theater_arts/articles/2009/05/22/sunken_treasure/

In over three decades of producing plays, I have never felt such a disconnect between the experience in the theatre and the reflection of a critic. Louise's first line displays her anger at the fact that the audience was responding with cheers and laughter throughout the evening, and her condescension to the audience and artists alike is breathtaking.

So if you have seen our production, I would appreciate it if you do two things. First, please post a comment about her review. Posting now will have the greatest impact.

Comment to the Boston Globe and/or post your own review of Pirates! right here on our blog

Second, please share this post and your views with your friends. If you agree with Louise, say so, though I admit that I think you will not. If you disagree, please let her — and everyone who may read her piece in the coming days — know that as well. The direct link is http://blog.huntingtontheatre.org/2009/05/pirates-letter-from-michael-maso.html

I have no theory about what is behind this review. I only know that the destructive power of one person, when that person is given the imprimatur of the region's largest newspaper, needs to be balanced by the voices of the thousands who have already let us know about the joy they have found in the laughter, the music, the wit, and the sheer artistry displayed by those involved in this production.

Please — let your voice be heard.

My thanks, and very best wishes.

Michael Maso,
Managing Director - Huntington Theatre Company

Again - the links are: Comment on boston.com and Comment on our blog

53 comments:

Jenny Bean said...

I haven't read the review, and I don't plan to. But I am planning to see Pirate! It sounds like lots of fun.

denise said...

If only for the hilarious and athletic choreography of Denis Jones, go see Pirates.

Bill said...

I am so glad to see that the Huntington is not taking this outrage lying down. Normally, the classy thing to do is ignore a negative review. In this instance, however, I think it is absolutely appropriate to entreat others to voice their opinions so that Louise Kennedy does not have the last word on this glorious production.

I have never been a fan of Ms. Kennedy’s reviews, but this is the first time that I have witnessed such a disconnect between the show she saw and the show that most of us in the audience saw. I have always suspected her of some sort of irrational bias against the Huntington. Now with this review of PIRATES!, this seems to be the only explanation.

I was stunned by Ms. Kennedy's review. I found it mean-spirited and insulting to those of us who fell in love with this production and the many more who have yet to discover its charms. If the Globe's critic didn't enjoy the show because it wasn't her cup of tea, that's fair. It is not the role of the critic, however, to denigrate those of us who laughed out loud, applauded enthusiastically, and enjoyed a wonderful night at the theater.

What a shame that one misguided reviewer should have been so reckless with the power with which she is endowed. I certainly hope that potential ticket-buyers rely on word of mouth instead of the scathing words of Louise Kennedy. This production deserves to be a big, fat hit. And THE BOSTON GLOBE deserves a better theater critic.

horrifying said...

Wow. I was one of the people hooting and hollering at every ribald joke and bawdy gesture, and I didn't feel nearly as condescended to there as I do reading this review. It would seem that her contempt for the audience is rivaled only by her contempt for the piece. I haven't laughed so hard in the theater in a long, long time. I hope people aren't dissuaded from seeing it because of this agressively negative review. It will be their loss.

ThomDunn said...

Your opening comments make the blatant disconnect between your opinions and those of the general public painfully obvious. Since when is it a crime to enjoy one's self at the theatre, or anywhere else? If I were analyzing this show from a critical structural standpoint, sure, I could point some problems out. But did I spent two hours with a big goofy grin on my face regardless? Absolutely.
I'm not sure what theatre did you as a child to make you hate it so much and yet, still pursue its review as a profession, but your aggression is really quite tragic. Did you see the promotional art for the show? It's BOOBS! I'm don't know what kind of Beckett-esque thinkpiece you thought you were getting yourself into, but I got exactly what I expected, and, like the rest of the audience, left the theatre feeling great. And isn't that what we all want after all?

Sidney_Carton said...

I should preface this by mentioning that I am not a Huntington subscriber. In fact, I entered the theatre to see "Pirates!" with more than a little trepidation, after sitting through the mindless tedium of "The Corn is Green" and the boorishly un-funny mania of "Miracle of Naples". "Pirates!" redeemed the Huntington for me in one fell swoop.

I am actually shocked to see such a negative review that is so clearly at odds with the experience of the audience on Wednesday evening. We hooted and hollered and laughed, frequently making the actors hold for long moments after songs so that we could recover. The cast is wonderful, the design superb, the choreography wonderful.

I second the sentiment in the previous comment - please don't let this review dissuade you from enjoying what is perhaps one of the most vibrant and delightful productions to grace a Boston stage this season.

blueline-bluebird said...

Wow, after reading that review I am not sure we were at the same show. Those people "hooting and hollering" as you call it were enjoying some great entertainment!! It is a story about pirates, lighten up!! It was funny... the Pirate King was very Johnny Depp a la Pirates of the Caribbean and that was part of what made him so great. But mostly it was his comedic sense and delivery. In fact all the actors was very good in this regard. I recommended this show to all my friends. Its too bad you don't know how to have a good time. Aaaarrgh!!

Donnape said...

Wow. I cannot believe this review. I was so impressed with last night's performance. It was fun (yes, fun, is that a sin) and there was not one weak link among the actors. It's so rare to be able to say that. Besides being condescended to by this reviewer as essentially a dupe, I think she misses the point. She may not like the concept, but to trash the play as a result is plain unfair. I hope people WILL go. I've rarely been roused to give a standing ovation and I was here--along with virtually the entire audience. Have fun. Support local theater. Ignore pompous reviewers.

Baseball_Junkie said...

Ms. Kennedy, the question that must always be asked is; to what audience is the production/performance aimed? Clearly, it wasn't aimed at you. Therefore, you do a disservice both to the Huntington and to the large audience which did enjoy the performance by your negative attitude. If the majority of the audience enjoyed the play and you did not, please don't condescend to the audience and tell them that they are fools. They won't appreciate and will never again pay attention to your review of a show they haven't seen. And that same condescencion makes it unlikely that I will listen to any of your reviews in the future. Which means you have also done a disservice to your employers since, in this era of readily available information, any action which drives people away is , to put it bluntly, a bad idea. To say, in your review, that you did not enjoy the performance and an explanation of why is reasonable. To attack the production and its audience is not.

lglancy said...

I agree with Sidney Carton and everyone who had a wonderful time at Pirates! I had the most enjoyable evening i have had at the theatre in years. My two friends who accompanied me to the this production felt the same way. We enjoyed every minute. The night we were in attendance the audience thoroghly enjoyed themselves. Did Louise Kennedy actually look at the title of the play? It's called Pirates! (Or, Gilbert & Sullivan Plunder'd) Does she get it???

Dodie Catlett said...

I saw the show on Monday, May 18. Costumes, choreography, sets were well done!!! The acting and some voices were, on the whole, excellent, and the entire cast is hard-working! I didn't, however, care for the plot changes. I thought it strained too hard to be clever and cute and naughty. (Altho some might say that so does the original.)

Ms. Kenndy sounds like a G&S purist. I am not entirely. I can appreciate wanting to "update" G&S, but then just really change it! This production is too close to the original to seem new. And the plot changes, such as they are, made me wonder why bother--when the original is hilarious and we see so little G&S in Boston.

I've seen two other G&S operettas--Trial by Jury and HMS Pinafore--done in the present. And they were fresh & different.

I just read the review in question a second time, and I see that Ms. Kennedy sums it up in her final paragraph quite well. Of course, if I were connected to the show, I would no doubt be as sensitive to a bad review. All bad reviews seem "mean-spirited and insulting" to those who enjoyed whatever the entertainment. But that doesn't make them necessarily wrong. By all means, fight this one if you wish. Time will tell who is the better judge.

zarkesfam said...

My husband are lovers of Gilbert and Sullivan and performed the "real" Pirates of Penzance with our community theatre company years ago (how many I'll not mention). We loved, yes loved this new production of PIrates! - loved the exclamation points, loved the out-loud laughs, loved the voices and the harmonies and "Hail, Poetry" and the wondrously energized choreography. There was no need to judge in any way - only to sit on the edge of my seat, enjoying every single moment of this production. And with that, I bid you, "Away, away!"... Lorel Z-K

Rod Hoel said...

I loved the show! I see a lot of both NYC and Boston theatre and this is one of the best I have seen the past 12 months! Ms. Kennedy it's time you moved on to other pastures! You are so off the mark in most of your reviews it's almost as if you are trying to go out of your way just to be different!

Tricia said...

My 84-year-old mother and I went to see "Pirates" on Monday night. We both enjoyed it so much that today I bought tickets to see it again on Sunday with my 20-year-old neice. I attend the theatre three to five times a month and cannot remember the last time I enjoyed a production more.

Todd Williams said...

From my email:

Dear Mr. Williams,

Your Huntington Theater Company colleague, Michael Maso, in his rallying cry to the blogging troops, speculates on Louise Kennedy's motives for writing an "aggressively negative" review.

However, I am grateful to Louise Kennedy for warning me away from this production. She mentioned that part of the Pirate King's shtick was to "torment" a "front row patron." If that tormented front row patron had been me, I would have been annoyed at this violation of my personal space, and I probably would have started yelling obscene expletives at the actor playing the Pirate King and told him to leave me alone. At that point I would have been ejected from the theater by Huntington security and turned over to Boston police, who would have arrested me on a charge of disorderly conduct, and denied bail and sent to jail, where it would not have been pleasant for me.

So although I have enjoyed many Huntington productions in the past, I am planning to avoid the Huntington in the future, since I imagine that warning prospective patrons about the danger of violation of their personal space would be an infringement on your artistic freedom of expression.

The American Reportory Theater has told me, in response to my query several years ago, that the reason that they had actors in drag interact with individual audience members in some 18th century French comedy was to push the audience's boundaries. (I was warned away from that production--for which I had a season subscription ticket which I decided not to use-- by a review from former Globe critic Ed Siegel.) However, I believe that any theater company, whether the ART or the Huntington, should warn its public in advance when it plans to treat its patrons like Dame Edna Everidge's "possums" and single them out for mockery.

Sincerely yours,

Mr. Risman

P.S. I am reminded of the member of the Chorus Line who explained in song that since she had "Dance Ten, Looks Four", she decided to increase her show biz employability by getting some "tits and ass." Apparently in this adaptation of The Pirates of Penzance, the Huntington has made a similar move, and Louise Kennedy is just a killjoy and party pooper to question this decision.

Todd Williams said...

Dear Mr. Risman,

Thank you for your email. The audience member is chosen before the show begins, and is given the option to not participate. The pearl necklace that is "taken" from them is a prop - and they wear it with the full knowledge they are in for some "trouble". A plant - if you will.

There are two other plants - a woman seated in the front row is "abducted" as well as an usher from the lobby. Boths of these are cast members. If these types of nearby interactions make you uncomfortable I would suggest a seat in our Mezz where the sightlines are excellent to the stage, or an orchestra seat that is not in the first two rows or right on the center aisles.

I encourage you not base your decision to attend the Huntington based on Ms. Kennedy's judgement alone in this case. We are most concerned, as Mr. Maso stated in his letter, about this disconnect between what our audiences have been experiencing and what the Boston Globe put out there in front of millions of readers. Performance after performance we have witnessed our audiences truly enjoying this production.

I encourage you to read the many comments to her review at http://www.boston.com/ae/theater_arts/articles/2009/05/22/sunken_treasure/?comments=all&csort=desc, or take a look at the Boston Herald review at http://bostonherald.com/entertainment/arts_culture/view/2009_05_22_%E2%80%98Pirates!__a_treasure_to_behold/ or the Patriot Ledger at http://www.patriotledger.com/entertainment/x124595806/THEATER-REVIEW-Pirates-is-a-jolly-voyage. Artsboston.org also has a few patron reviews at http://www.artsboston.org/event/detail/40939

Most of all - we hope that you take the opportunity to come see the show and make your own judgement. If you do come - please write back and let me know if you enjoyed yourself (or not).

Sincerely,

Todd Williams

Todd Williams said...

Mr. Risman replies:

Dear Mr. Williams,

Thank you for your kind and prompt reply to my letter.

I am reassured by your explanation that all the interaction with audience members is with "plants", and encouraged by the two positive reviews (in the Herald and Patriot Ledger).

After I see the play, which I now intend to do, I shall contact you again.

Mr. Risman

Anonymous said...

It was great fun. That's why we went - to enjoy a day out together. My husband and I really enjoyed it. If you get the chance GO!

Thomas Garvey said...

I'm just curious, Mr. Maso - do you have any substantive response to Ms. Kennedy, other than "the crowd liked it, so you must be a condescending snob"? You don't seem to offer any counter argument to her critical claims; in fact, I could assume from your comments that you actually agree with her analysis of the show. The difference is that you and the crowd liked what she disliked. But she's quite open about the fact that she was in the minority in her opinion - all, I think, that professional honesty requires of her. To be honest, I worry that your exhortation here amounts to a kind of harassment - without much (or really any) intellectual back-up so far. The problem is that you could have staged topless jello wrestling at the Huntington, and found an audience which would have whooped and hollered at that, too; surely many of those commenting here would have looked down on THAT audience. Would they therefore be guilty of "breath-taking condescension" as well? If not, why not? I agree that Ms. Kennedy has seemed particularly barbed in her reviews of the Huntington lately (I'm barbed, too, but then I'm barbed toward everybody). But perhaps publicly exploring the critical basis of her seeming bias would be more productive than a campaign of intimidation.

Maria Olia said...

I saw Pirates! Friday night with some trepidation after reading Louise Kennedy's review in the Globe.

I am stunned.Pirates! was a wonderful show. Kennedy's review is harsh.Burlesque humor? Hardly. The cast was superb-energetic,funny and a joy to watch. The update of Gilbert and Sullivan's satire is totally relevant and resetting Pirates! to the Caribbean is just plain fun.

Also,it was absolutely refreshing to see a younger crowd at the Huntington. I am an avid theater- goer and it distresses me that I am often one of the youngest members of the audience! I've already bought tickets for my 20-year-old to see the show next week. Go see Pirates! at the Huntington and enjoy!

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure what performance the Globe reviewer saw, but it certainly was not the same one that I did. The one I saw--and the rest of the audience saw last Fri evening--was just wonderful. We saw a show that was full of terrific voices and performances, a show that was willing to go beyond the original Pirates to have fun with Gilbert and Sullivan and even willing to kid itself. To have the policemen become a regae-singing rag-tag band was an inspired take on the original--and even though I liked the classic Tarantara better, I give the production so much credit for taking license and taking chances. In short, it was a great, fun night in the theatre, one of my most enjoyable in a long time! Anyone who stays away from the performance because of the Globe review would be making a serious mistake.

SaraO said...

I've seen the show twice - I was there opening night and purchased a set of tickets for Friday night's show as well because I felt one of my theater-loving friends simply HAD to see this show!

A negative review? Are you kidding me? This show is a delight

Michael Maso said...

Dear Thomas,

I hope that you'll drop the "Mr. Maso" — as you know there are few formal salutations in the theatre, unless you're Miss Julie Harris.

You are very correct in that I didn't debate the Globe review point-by-point, nor have I ever done so with a critic of any show. Nor will I. But if that causes anyone to assume, as you point out, that I actually agree with the review then let me correct that assumption here — I don't.

The problem with your analogy of the jello wresting crowd is that it simply isn't true. I could not, in fact, present topless jello-wresting to a theatre-going audience in Boston and have them "hoot and holler," not that the audience at our opening actually did either, since that description makes them sound like they were watching . . . well, a topless jello-wresting match.

What the audience did was laugh and applaud constantly, as happy theatre audiences will do, and give several numbers, including that famous redneck anthem "I am the very model of a modern major general," sustained and cheering ovations (as they continue to do each night). The whole point of characterizing their response in that way in the Globe review was to portray them as sexed-crazed yahoos. Only by trying to make us condemn the audience could the critic justify her reaction. That is condescension.

And while the eight reviews, all extremely positive, that have come out since the Globe review may not prove anything, they do support my claim that this negative review is as aberrant as any I have seen in 30-plus years.

As for your charge of intimidation, I don't think that publicly disagreeing with one review from the most powerful critic in New England, or inviting others to share their opinions of her review, is intimidation. Or if it is, so is every grass-roots campaign ever imagined. I have no power in this argument; they own the press, after all. But I do have my voice, and this once it felt right to use it.

Thanks for writing.

Best regards,
Michael

Thomas Garvey said...

Sorry, Mike (you don't mind if I call you Mike, do you?) but I'm afraid that as a fan of topless jello-wrestling matches, you have deeply offended me. You seem to imply that I am a "sexed-crazed yahoo," (sic) which is certainly far more insulting than anything Louise Kennedy said, and to which I take extreme umbrage, by the way. How dare you be so breath-takingly condescending? Why, topless jello-wrestling is a hilarious delight!

But be that as it may; no doubt, under more enlightened management, topless jello-wrestling will one day reach the Huntington stage, when at last all divisions between high and low have finally been battered down by our professors (as they should be, of course!). Right now, however, I'm actually most interested in your insistence that you would never debate a critic point-by-point, but are perfectly happy to send an angry mob after them, calling for their head on a platter (the point of many of the comments over at boston.com). I'm intrigued by that. Because what you're doing, and what your audience is doing, is intimidation, pure and simple, since you refuse to do that point-by-point part. In short, your call to arms would be okay if you had, in fact, an intellectual position to back it up. But apparently you don't, and indeed you seem to think having one would be somehow unprofessional. So you merely have the show's popularity with its target as your argument. (And thus very little interesting commentary has been generated by the discussion.) Now to be fair, popular response would be enough for a commercial producer to launch such an attack, surely. But is the Huntington merely a commercial producer? Perhaps the implication of your actions is that yes, it is.

Thomas Garvey said...

I'd also like to add that I wish one of the comments on this post had noted that this whole "purist"/"traditionalist" meme that the Huntington seems to be deploying around Pirates! is a red herring. No one does Gilbert and Sullivan the way D'Oyly Carte did anymore, and no one wants to see rigid, hidebound productions; certainly I don't. What one hopes for instead is a production that successfully updates the spirit of the original to the present day. This, I think, would require satire, romance, and a bemusedly light touch, as well as a willingness to be innocently silly. But I'm afraid that hardly describes Pirates! It's neither innocent, nor actually sexy; it's ironic, all right, but there's not an ounce of honest satire in its bones. And as for romance . . . oh, well! It's true that the Huntington has fielded a great cast, and has designed and built a great set, and certainly the whole thing hums along without a hitch. And occasionally the original tunes do cut through the clutter and cast something close to their original spell. For that we can be grateful. But the whole thing strikes me as a huge, lost opportunity. For wouldn't audiences also cheer a Pirates that caught more of the piece's original sensibility? Isn't that what is in short supply these days, rather than the ironic thrill-ride atmosphere of Pirates of the Caribbean?

Anonymous said...

Oh the age old problem of rely on one critic to be the voice of the viewing public. When they are on they are on and when they are off they are WAY OFF! I hope this is the case as i am headed to the play tonight with my wife. I will report back tomorrow. I bought a series of 4 tickets to different shows and so far one we liked, one we loved, one we left at intermission, and time will tell of tonight. Funny thing is when we went to leave at intermission, we overheard people saying "isn't that spectacular, i have followed this produer for years and i think this is one of his best!" So, we chalked it up to the fact that some people actually like contemporary art and some hate it with a passion! Good part is that it is America and we had a choice not to stay. And enough respect for others views that we would deter anyone for a personal experience. I figure it tends to detract from the herculian effort of the cast and crew who work just as hard for good critiques as bad! So, hang in there, this isn't the first or the last time a Globe critic may be polar opposite in opinion!

Anonymous said...

I'm just back from seeing the Saturday matinee of "Pirates." This performance is one of the most fun theatre experiences I've had in quite a while (and I go to a fair amount of theatre). I'm clueless why anyone who write such a negative review. In this case, it reflects badly on her and not you. But it is a bummer if her review cuts into ticket sales.

Anonymous said...

I was the first anonymous from yesterday and attended the show last night! To have a critic form an opinion of a show while attending without the general public is one thing. But, to attend it with them and come away with total disregard for the audience's positive response to talent and performance brings to mind two words...'brain dead'. For sake of projecting my thoughts, as they are meant to be, a rebuttal to her profession and not her personally, i will reduce it to one word...'asleep'. Then again to be asleep during a wonderful, energetic, cometic, exciting, talent filled, and just plain fun performace like that could only happen with the help of a major sedative. I am left to only guess what the 'hidden agenda' of the critic was, as there clearly was one as it in no way reflects the perfomance i attended. It reminded me of being a bit worried in going with my wife to see 'Mama Mia' for the first time. Being forwarned that there was much audience participation (my wife an I
tend to like the more conservative...audience left to interpret and ponder silently until the end...theater)I was predisposed to not like it with such a format. To my suprise it just plain worked and we loved it! The same concern for 'Pirates', compounded by the globe critique, was on our minds as we stepped into the show. From the exciting reaction and involvement of my wife from the openning curtain to the very end said it all. She just loved it. So, maybe they accidentally sent a conservative art critic to critiqe a contemporary art piece! We all know how that crique would read. But, if we knew that was the angle from the start, then we would automatically discount 95% of the content! Our hope is they send someone who can critiqe for the general theater going public. Yes, the majority of us that are not professional theater goers. Hopefully, your blog has encouraged people to go experience it for themselves. Sometimes even a bad critique can work back into your favor because people are at least talking about it. And during intermission and at end in the hallway there was much talk of Ms. Kennedy's ill founded review. General theme seemed to be 'she was just having a bad day and needed to vent and it just so happened she attended Pirates! My sense is it wouldn't have mattered what the performance was, because her ranting wasn't representative of the feeling about anything we saw.

AlexaMac said...

My husband and I went to see "Pirates!" last night.

I come from a New York theatrical family, was a drama major, and my mother was a lead soprano in the famous Gilbert & Sullivan troupe "The Savoyards." My husband, on the other hand, didn't see a musical until he was 29 and was completely unfamiliar with "Pirates of Penzance" - I explained it to him over a quick sushi dinner before the show, because I thought it would enhance his enjoyment at the Huntington.

So, as you might imagine, we don't always see eye-to-eye where theatre is concerned.

Well, we did last night! We both LOVED virtually every minute of "Pirates!" In fact, on numerous occasions, my husband leaned over and asked if "Pirates!" was headed to Broadway. He thought it was that good.

The performances were excellent. The premise and writing, clever and very much in the spirit of Sir Gilbert and Sir Sullivan.

I encourage everyone to see - and thoroughly enjoy - this delightful production!

Chris Caggiano said...

I saw Pirates, and reviewed it on my blog, and I agree with pretty much everything Louise Kennedy had to say:

http://ccaggiano.typepad.com/everything_i_know_i_learn/2009/06/pirates-at-the-huntington-.html

I think it unfair of Michael to foment ad hominem attacks against a critic just because she didn't like a show. If Mr. Maso would like better reviews, perhaps he should see to it that the Huntington puts on better shows.

This tempest in a teapot is giving the Huntington a black eye in the theater blogosphere. This is a group of people who are becoming increasingly influential in shaping public opinion. Perhaps the Huntington should choose its PR battles a bit more carefully.

ar said...

We had a WONDERFUL evening - a delight. I got two different emails from attendees on opening night telling me to plan on going. Then the Globe's review gave me pause; however, after talking to my friends (well-versed theater types) they continued to support. So glad we went - there were five of us, ranging in age from 24 to 64 and we all loved it.

DGwrites said...

Very enjoyable evening at the Huntington Theater. I wish we could have more than one musical per year -- they are so lively and uplifting. Music is the food of life....

Anonymous said...

I have seen (finally) this production at the Huntington after much talk and debate, not only on the internet, but also around my Boston neighborhood. I had not planned on attending (long before any reviews were published), as budget constraints unfortunately are forcing my husband and I to take a second look at "nights on the town". But I am an avid theatre lover -- and try as hard as I can to support our local theaters in these tough times, when more people are drawing the purse strings tight and locking the money away.

I read Kennedy's review before and after I saw the show, for I felt like it was necessary to even remotely feel I could be a part of the many conversations happening on the web...

That all said -- I have to disagree with the idea that Michael Maso reaching out to his audience members to comment on their own experience was "harassment" (Thomas Garvey). Not one person who has felt the need to take the time to respond or comment (as I am now) was forced to...it was completely voluntary -- and based on the words written, each has had a very strong response that they felt had to be shared.


Yes, Louise Kennedy is paid to offer her opinion on a production she has seen. This is her job, and she has garnered a lot of respect in the business for being brutally honest in her opinion.

However, I have to agree that she is not paid to insult other audience members, or to even mention the audience in any other way than what she does in her first paragraph. She is very smart at covering up these insults throughout the review. I did not see any of the insults before seeing the show, and felt, along with many of you, that the responses were a bit over dramatic, and unnecessary.

However, now that I've been to the show and have been among one of the happiest and most enthusiastic audiences I've experienced in about 20 years -- I agree that Kennedy's review went many steps too far in condescending the audience and attempting to make others feel shameful for enjoying the evening.

I think that Michael Maso was actually quite an inspiration to other non-profit organizations in his ability to voice his opinion, and encourage others to offer other suggestions with their one voice. Of course they are not going to be paid theatre critics -- but their opinion should be just as valuable if they feel the desire to share it.

Who cares if Michael Maso didn't nitpick the review? He stated his main concern -- which was the blatant disconnect a critic had with the public...which does have a lot of bearing and importance in her position, given the fact that she directly affects a person's decision on whether or not to attend that production. I think given the fact that Michael Maso has been what some would call a "big wig" in the theatre world for 3 decades gives him the right (and experience) to express his shock at a review that so clearly did not resemble an actual review of a piece of theatre.

I think he's doing exactly what the Huntington expects of him -- trying his best to start a conversation about their productions, and support his company's work in the best way he knows how. So much of an audience's decision to go to a show depends on what a critic writes (this is true of movies, music, and books as well) and I think Michael Maso can only be applauded for encouraging those thousands of audience members to speak out on the enjoyable experience they had at his theatre.

I also love a good debate -- and seeing all of the many conversations and comments that have resulted in this, I think it's truly remarkable.

I truly hope everyone will see this production for themselves, and decide, based on their own experience (and no one else's), how they feel about it.

Al said...

I am one of those purists who according to the Globe wouldn't like Pirates and I lvoed it. I thought the lyrics and choreography were excellent. Two suggestons: (1) No reason to change Ruth's song to 3/4 from 4/4 (2) Give us more of the old G&S finale. No one does finales like G&S. You haev an extra 15 minutes to play with since a typical Braodway show runs 2:30 so give us back more Act 1 and Act 2 finales

Donna said...

We loved the show. It was so much fun. The singing voices of the performers were fabulous. I don't see how anyone could find a negative comment about this production.

Anonymous said...

This show was wonderful. The energy was uplifting. The acting and dancing were great. I was sitting in the front row and so had
the good fun to interact with the
Pirate Captain as he so..... wanted
my pearls.

Both the Enterprise and the Herald
gave this show what it deserved
a BRAVO - I am new to the Huntington and will continue to go.

Anne

Andy said...

I love Gilbert and Sullivan and after reading the Globe review thought I might be disappointed in this production. It was a delight, easily the highlight of the season for us.

elizabeth said...

I took my three teenage daughters and we all thought that although the production was very well performed and overall enjoyed it, there were a lot of unnecessary burlesque and over the top additions and changes. They particularly did not like Ruth or the curse (no need to add this- did we really need to listen to vomiting?). We all hated the forced audience participation- not funny; it made us cringe. I like the Caribbean twist and the Major General was great.
The choreography and dancing were SUPERB!

Overall, we were lukewarm. Fine to add the Pirates of the Caribbean aspect but did you need to drag it down with all the vulgarity?

Anonymous said...

We have no idea what the Globe was thinking - Pirates! was well done and most enjoyable. Voices were terrific and the topical updates to G&S pleased our group, both G&S fans and not. This was the best thing the Huntington has done all year in our opinion!

Anonymous said...

I took my adult daughter to see Pirates in the hope of having her develop the same deep appreciation of Gilbert & Sullivan that I have had since first being introduced. IT WORKED! She loved it! Such intelligent fun! Go see it and take a friend. You'll be so glad you did.

Anonymous said...

Louise Kennedy's review almost kept me from going to see "Pirates" Your letter to the Globe changed my mind. I had a wonderful time and may go again. Ms Kennedy seemed bothered by the fact people were enjoying themselves. Maybe she is just burnt out from seeing too many plays. I hope she can lighten up a bit in the future. For me, I am certainly glad I went.

Peggy said...

I loved the show, and judging from the comments I heard all around me, so did many other people. The cast received a standing ovation at the show we saw. I overheard a woman saying that she thought the Globe review could not have been more wrong. I heard a man saying that the show was the best production he had seen in years. All around me, people were talking about how wrong the Globe review had been. The Globe has a lot of power to influence theatre goers, but they clearly can be wrong about a show, as many now know.

Anonymous said...

My wife and I had such a fine time watching “Pirates” on Thursday evening—the sets, the choreography, the voices, and of course the Gilbert and Sullivan music and lyrics.

The moving of the setting from Cornwall to the Caribbean allowed for an interesting calypso (?) beat, particularly for “A Policeman’s Lot…”. I liked that. (The dance sequence for that music was spectacular.)

But at the risk of sounding churlish, I must tell you some of the changes displeased me. For example the relocation from Cornwall to the Caribbean required scrapping the Englishness of the play, particularly the pell-mell dénouement. From “Frederic here, O joy o rapture” to the swift cascading end, is one of the great glories in all of Gilbert and Sullivan comedy. Dropping this Englishness, the adaptors of the text had to provide another motive for the happy ending (gone was Queen Victoria as deus ex machina) and the motive provided, the sea legs / land legs business, was tedious, clumsy and unfunny.

Attempts to make the dialogue relevant were sometimes tolerable—upstaging the usual and nowadays embarrassing Gilbert misogyny (e.g. “O is there one not one maiden here / whose homely face and bad complexion . ..”) by making Mabel smarter than her smug father and dimwitted Frederic (and, of course, her sisters), making Ruth a woman of the world, that’s OK I suppose, I can live with it anyway, but the vulgar jokes and Chippendale moves were far from the spirit of Gilbert and Sullivan.

Here’s what I think, in general., Gilbert and Sullivan is best presented untouched except for the accreted tried and tested over the performance history of the play. Unlike Shakespeare, where new interpretations and new points of view plumb the bottomless (apparently) depth of human experience and behavior—consider the recent colonialist performances of his Caribbean play, The Tempest--Gilbert and Sullivan is all surface—brilliant, glittering, and brittle. A fragile ornament. Hands off.

So, as I began, I enjoyed the play, but much less than the earlier and tradition-respecting Huntington productions of The Mikado” and “Iolanthe”. I went back for seconds of these.

Paul C. Doherty

Anonymous said...

I didn't read the review, but I saw Pirates and I loved every minute of it. I've seen the original multiple times, know all the words, and all that just added to my enjoyment of Pirates Plundered! I laughed out loud and smiled through it all. "Hail Poetry" gave me chills..love the harmony. What a terrific cast and great performance. All concerned should be very proud. Thanks for a great show! a happy Marbleheader

sue said...

A great night out, standing ovation at the end, we left feeling uplifted, 2 inches taller and with big smiles on our faces, just like the rest of the audience around us. A must see. Well done Huntington.

Ken Sullivan said...

First off, let's get right to the Boston Globe controversy. I respect Louise Kennedy and have found that I agree with her often enough to pay attention to what she has to say. And, I will add that I am as conservative a theatergoer as you could hope to find. She thoroughly missed the boat on this one. "Pirates" turned out to be as good a time as I can ever remember having at the theater and I attend 8 to 10 productions a year at the various companies in the area. The energy that flowed from the entire cast could be felt throughout the hall. The singing was first rate, the dancing joyous, and the performances brilliant. My wife and I had a wonderful time and were laughing constantly. Frankly, I would have preferred a more traditional presentation of Gilbert and Sullivan, but their work is not sacred, and, since so much of what they did was satirical, I'm sure they would be able to handle a parody of their own work. OK, maybe not Gilbert. Anyway, a magnificent afternoon at the theater.

Donald E. Fulton said...

On my first viewing of Pirates I liked the show, but was a little put off by some of the changes, especially the calypso policemen which so clashed with my gold standard for the Pirates of Penzance: DVD of the live performance at Central Park's Delacorte theatre in the 1980's featuring Kevin Kline, Rex Smith, Linda Ronstadt, George Rose, and Patrica Routledge.

But on repeat viewings I have completely changed my mind. I now love this show. I saw it six times during the run. My seat neighbor summed it up well when she said to me, "This show is pure fun". The cast is terrific, with special praise for the six daughter ensemble. The plot changes and musical changes all fit together nicely. (I leaned at a talk back session with the cast that the Huntington version is somewhat different from the two earlier productions with Ruth now more sexy.) The great voices of the entire cast are evident in the wave of sound coming from the stage in 'Praise Poetry'. I hope the show (someday) makes it to Broadway, where it should do well.

Anonymous said...

Pelvic thrusts, puking, maidens stripping, Ruth's legs spread to the audience, "cow-tipping" . . . left at intermission. 'nuff said!

Nicole said...

At the production that I attended, I was asked to take part of the show and be "The Girl with the Pearls" in the audience. Not only did I have a blast bantering (shamless flirting) with the Pirate King, but it definitely made the show that much better. I wish I had known about the production earlier in it's run as I would have loved to see it again. Great job!

On a side note...the pearls went with my outfit so I want them back! ;)

Lisa said...

I had not attended a performance at the Huntington in a long time and I'm very glad that I changed that by seeing "Pirates". I had a wonderful time - I hadn't laughed out loud like that in the theater for awhile. The cast was amazing: the way The Pirate King channeled Captain Jack Sparrow was quite impressive and I loved the way he interacted with the audience; Frederick was wonderful as was Mabel; and The Major General was so very good. All in all, I had a terrific evening!

Anonymous said...

We thoroughly enjoyed this production! the cast had great voices, the action and humor abundant. G&S is still relevant today. May government walk the plank!!

Michelle said...

I saw a matinee showing of Pirates! with my sister and her boyfriend who were visiting from out of town. Neither are theater buffs, especially not musical theater. This show was perfect for them as well as my husband and I who try to get to as many productions as we can. They hadn't seen Pirates of Penzance before, and enjoyed this adaptation since it was not 'Masterpiece Theater' style theater.

Gilbert and Sullivan were origninally writing for the people, and it's been adapted very well! The 'curse' was a bit 'Pirates of the Carribean' but it works, as does the disregard of the 4th wall and interaction with the audience. It keeps the light-hearted feel that most appreciate about G&S, but makes it more accessible.

phantoo said...

Audience makes a big difference in any setup there if you touch and attach with audience then its a better feelings and opportunities you can get that therefore Micheal is happy with conversations and discussions with audience