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Sail with ‘The Pirates of Penzance’ on Lake Michigan

Orion Couling, center, the Pirate King.

Orion Couling, center, the Pirate King.

UPDATE: Extended for two performances!
5:45 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 22 and 23.

W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan’s “The Pirates of Penzance” nearly always means a rollicking good time, and the production now in Chicago is no exception. Catchy music, romping shenanigans, fun choreography, terrific singing — this show has it all.

Plus — it’s performed on a schooner under full sail on Lake Michigan! Devilishly handsome Orion Couling, as the soft-hearted Pirate King, takes full advantage of the unusual setting, climbing the rigging, swinging from ropes and looking as if he’s having an even better time than the audience. A fine singer, with a commanding voice, his rendition of “I am a Pirate King” is a glorious thing.

Stephen Boyer as Frederick, the duty-driven apprentice pirate, also puts in a great performance, with a beautiful tenor, and Michelle Perkowitz, a strong soprano, makes a lovely Mabel. Brian Elliott, a stalwart Major General Stanley, delivers his famed patter song with panache. June Entwisle Miller, as Ruth, and David Fink, as the Sergeant of Police, sometimes have trouble projecting across the deck, but otherwise do a fine job, while the choristers are all attractive and in harmony.

The script has been shortened to accommodate the 90-minute cruise, but the cuts are seamless. The show takes place rain or shine. On opening night, the windy weather made the ride a bit choppy but the actors kept their footing admirably on the rocking boat. Disappointingly, the wind had the ship moving too fast so the sails were furled for most of the trip, but that was the only disappointment of this fun show.

On land in an ordinary theater, this “Pirates” would be terrific. In this setting, it’s extraordinary.

Tall Ship Adventures’ ‘The Pirates of Penzance’

Theater: Tall Ship Windy at Navy Pier.

Showtimes: .All performances are sold out except 12:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 8. 5:45 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 22 and 23.

Tickets: $45.

Dining: The ship docks near Riva if you feel like continuing a seaside theme, and the Navy Pier location of Billy Goat Tavern. Harry Caray’s Tavern at the front of the Pier is a good bet, too.