About the Pirates of Penzance

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The Story

This show is an adaptation of Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic operetta.

Frederic, a pirate apprentice, has fallen in love with sweet innocent Mabel. Yet his vocation is a major roadblock to their union. But perhaps the situation can be rectified by his old nurse, Ruth, who made a dreadful blunder years before when she misheard Frederic’s father say he wanted him to be apprenticed as a pirate, when he really said pilot.

After many years Frederic discovers the truth. He is ready to leave the Pirates of Penzance when his maid pleads with him to take her with him. He agrees, but shortly after he meets Mabel and falls in love. But then, something stirs up in the story, and Frederic’s sense of duty as a pirate and his love for Mabel leave him stuck in the middle.

As always, situations and people are never quite what they seem, and it turns out the pirates have a few secrets that they have been keeping.

The History

o Book and lyrics were written by William S. Gilbert, with music by Arthur Sullivan. The “Pirates” opera was the fifth collaboration for the duo.

o Originally opened at the Fifth Avenue Theatre in New York on Dec. 31, 1879, with a cast that included J.H. Ryley (Major General), Hugh Talbot (Frederick), Signor Brocolini (Pirate King), Fred Clifton (Sergeant), Blanche Roosevelt (Mabel), and Alice Barnett (Ruth).

o A Broadway revival featured Kevin Kline as the Pirate King, Rex Smith as Frederic, and Linda Ronstadt as Mabel. It opened at the Uris Theatre on Jan. 8, 1981, and ran for 772 performances.

o The “Major-General’s Song” is arguably the most famous in Gilbert and Sullivan’s operas.