With the exception of Shakespeare, today’s popular musical theatre shows usually weren’t written prior to the 1950’s. However, there are a few exceptions to this; one being Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance.
Currently playing at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts in Saint Paul, the show is led by Broadway actor Brandon O’Neill as the Pirate King and under the direction of Ordway Producing Artistic Director James Rocco. Pirates of Penzance tells the story of a young man, Frederic (Hunter Ryan Herdlicka), who completes his required apprenticeship with a band of friendly yet dumb witted pirates off the coast of Cornwall, England. Upon his release of his apprenticeship he sets off to find a wife and establish a noble life. However, thanks to being born during leap year and technically not having 21 birthdays, Fredric is left indentured to the pirates for even longer.
As Fredric’s maid Ruth, Kersten Rodau uses those comedic chops of hers, which have delighted Twin City audiences for years, to keep the plot light and moving. Brandon O’Neill’s Pirate King can be explained as a cross between Peter Pan and Captain Hook. He wants to be this big scary pirate, but it’s almost like he would rather just have fun and never grow up instead. How Gary Briggle is able to articulate his words for “I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General” every night is beyond me. The song is exhausting just listening to him sing it. But it’s a highlight of the first act.
For a show first performed 145 years ago, The Pirates of Penzance doesn’t just hold up well, but easily transforms into a fun and relevant comedy for today.
For more information on the show, or to purchase tickets visit the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts’ website.