FARGO—April Fools Day came a little early as the Fargo-Moorhead Opera opened a hilarious new staging of "Pirates of Penzance" Friday night, March 31, at Festival Concert Hall.

The jokes weren't on the nearly full house, but a few were on the White House, or rather just the Tweeter in Chief.


Leading up to the show, FM Opera had touted an updated staging, moving the action to a "Mad Men"-inspired mid-20th Century modern period. Those updates didn't add much as this production is performer-powered.


As the pirate apprentice, Frederic, tenor Joshua Kohl is fit for the lead role, especially in a sweet second act duet with Mabel, his love, played by the Mariane Lemieux-Wottrich. The coloratura soprano dazzled two years ago in the title role of "Daughter of the Regiment," and she was just as sparkling Friday night.


The stars were upstaged by some of the smaller roles which required more physical acting to match the vocal chores. Melissa Parks made a memorable local debut playing Ruth, the pirate maid, with comic gusto. Similarly, Elizabeth Lewis plays the boy-crazy sister Edith with so much energy that even when she's not unleashing her impressive soprano she threatens to steal the show. Recent Concordia College graduate Peter Johnson plays the Pirate King with a loose-limbed swagger and a baritone that's just as limber.


The biggest applause justly came for Peter Halverson who earned every clap in a boffo—or was it blotto?—performance as Major-General Stanley. While playing the character as a stumbling, martini-swilling blowhard, Halverson is light on his feet and on his lips with the tongue-twisting, "I am the Very Model of the Modern Major General."


Word of advice to those going to Sunday's matinee—don't bother reading the supertitles as you won't want to take your eyes off the staggering singer.


He underscored his comic timing after the number, soaking up the applause for a moment before an aside to the audience to confide—"I have the best words"—which doubled down on the laughter.


It wasn't the only jab at President Donald Trump, or the most pointed. Discussing the impending arrest of the Pirate King and his men, Kate Jackman as the Sergeant worked in a reference to Trump's alleged coziness with Russia and his penchant for early morning Tweeting. That the lines were dropped in the number, "When a Felon's not Engaged in His Employment," was not lost on the crowd, half of which howled in laughter.


Operas aren't necessarily known for bringing the laughs, but this staging is a "Pirates" beauty.