If you're a child of the 70's, as I am, you may remember Gilda Radner's performance of a medley of songs from the famous operetta, The Pirates of Penzance, on The Muppet Show. Very likely, it was your first exposure to this bit of musical theater, but it was probably not your only exposure. Although The Pirates of Penzance, the most famous operetta by the amazing duo of Gilbert and Sullivan, was written in 1879, it is still widely performed throughout the world, and often borrowed from in all forms of art, literature, and entertainment.
Playwright, W.S. Gilbert, and Composer, Arthur Sullivan, are often credited for inventing modern musical theater, as they were the first to do what really amounts to a parody of an opera. They also used this form of entertainment to make commentary about politics and society (all in a very witty manner, of course).
There is certainly no shortage of political satire or witty social commentary in the Skylight Music Theatre's production of The Pirates of Penzance, and audiences are certain to recognize, and enjoy, this most loved and enduring musical.
Skylight has been celebrating women throughout their season and, although it may seem out of place to end with a show about pirates, if you're familiar with the tale, you'll see that the women in the story are quite the powerful forces.
Our tale begins with Fredric (Ben Robinson), who was accidentally apprenticed to a band of rather soft pirates until his 21st birthday when his nursemaid, Ruth (Diane Lane), mistook the word "pilot" for "pirate." Now that Fredric is free of his duty, he announces to the Pirate King (Andrew Varela), and the rest of the band, that he despises them and is leaving the pirate life. Fredric then comes across a group of fair sisters, and falls in love with the boldest of them: Mabel (Julie Tabash Kelsheimer). The pirates return with plans to run off with the other sisters, but they are foiled when the girls' father, the Major General (Drew Brhel), arrives to sing his well known, tongue-twisting song. With the help of a group of cowardly policemen, Frederic intends to arrest the band of pirates and return home to marry Mabel, but the Pirate Captain and Ruth discover a loophole in Fredric's agreement that they know will change his plans.
Directed by Shawna Lucey, with Musical Direction by Robert Linder, The Pirates of Penzance is wildly entertaining, and the perfect show to bring the whole family to (though, not recommended for children under 6 years old). Audience members will agree, it is with good reason that this Gilbert and Sullivan production is still so popular, nearly 140 years after it made its debut.
Performances run through Sunday, June 12th, in the Cabot Theatre in the Broadway Theatre Center (158 N. Broadway, in the Historic Third Ward of Milwaukee). For more information visit www.skylightmusictheatre.org, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call the Box Office at (414) 291-7800.
About Skylight Music Theatre Skylight Music Theatre’s mission since 1959: To bring the full spectrum of music theatre works to a wide and diverse audience in celebration of the musical and theatrical arts, and their reflection of the human condition. Skylight presents productions “Skylight Style” – bringing fresh approaches or interesting twists to music theatre works; creating meaningful connections, not only between the characters on stage, but with the audiences, as well.