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Department of Theatre and Dance to offer rollicking version of Gilbert and Sullivan classic 'The Pirates of Penzance'
Friday, March 03, 2017

Department of Theatre and Dance to offer rollicking version of Gilbert and Sullivan classic 'The Pirates of Penzance'

The cast of the “The Pirates of Penzance” includes, (from left) Jeff Kringer as Frederic, Kordell KeyAndre Hammond as the Pirate King and Genevieve Ellis as Mabel. The Walter Gloor Mainstage Series event opens March 31 for six performances in Marvel Theatre.

Take a bright, clever score from the team of Gilbert and Sullivan, add a delightfully absurd story line, top it off with plenty of pirates and you have the next offering in the Walter Gloor Mainstage Series.

The Department of Theatre and Dance presents six performances of “The Pirates of Penzance” from March 31 to April 8 in Marvel Theatre. Directing will be Tom Loughlin, who recently retired after a 28-year run with the department.

Loughlin said there are many factors that make “The Pirates of Penzance” such a compelling piece of theater.

“First off, it’s one of Gilbert and Sullivan’s greatest operettas, with a bright, clever score and a delightfully absurd storyline,” he said. “Second, it’s a show that’s rather like a meringue – light, fluffy, tasty, fun, sugary. Thirdly, it’s pirates! And what’s more fun than pirates?”

Gilbert and Sullivan’s famous farce follows young Frederic, an orphan who has mistakenly been apprenticed to an ineffectual but raucous band of pirates. Frederic falls for the beautiful Mabel, the daughter of Major-General Stanley. The Major-General, it turns out, has a “bevy of beautiful daughters” who catch the eye of the rest of the pirate band. The prospect of having pirates as sons-in-law is far less than appealing to the Major General, so the road to romance proves a to be a rocky one.

The Mainstage production is based on the 1980 Joseph Papp adaptation, which was presented on Broadway by New York Shakespeare Festival. The original cast featured Linda Ronstadt, Rex Smith and Kevin Kline and the production went on to earn three Tony Awards and five Drama Desk Awards.

“The Pirates of Penzance” was written in 1879 by the British team of W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan. The duo collaborated on 14 comic operas between 1871 and 1896, including “H.M.S. Pinafore” and “The Mikado.” The works of Gilbert and Sullivan have enjoyed broad and enduring international success and are still performed frequently throughout the world.

Loughlin noted that both the original version and the Papp revival use essentially the same score and plot.

“I think in both versions there is a lack of seriousness that makes the work very enjoyable,” the director said. “As to differences, I think the Joseph Papp production took what was originally a lighthearted satire and amped it up to a swashbuckling comedy more in line with a zany Errol Flynn adventure with a ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ flavor.”

Approximately 100 Fredonia students will be involved in the production.

“There are 42 members of the cast and when all is said and done, probably just as many students will have contributed something backstage,” Loughlin said. “There will also be a pit orchestra of about 15 musicians under the direction of Professor Ray Stewart (of the School of Music).”

“The Pirates of Penzance” will feature the high-quality production values that the Department of Theatre and Dance Mainstage events are known for. “I think audiences will enjoy many of the production values such as the set (which will be a rolling pirate ship), the costumes and lighting,” Loughlin said. “The singing will also be a treat, with three different choruses (pirates, daughters, and police). We also are planning some ‘over-the-top’ slapstick comedy which we hope will bring the laughs.”

Show times are 7:30 p.m. on March 31 and April 1, 6, 7 and 8. There will be a 2 p.m. matinee on Sunday, April 2. This Mainstage Series event is sponsored by Midtown Realty Company as part of the Lake Shore Savings Season.

In the end, Loughlin expects audience members will have a “rollicking, frolicking, swashbuckling good time!”

Tickets are available through the Fredonia Campus Ticket Office in the Williams Center, online at and by phone at 673-3501.

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