A rambunctious group of sword-wielding pirates will take the stage on Wednesday as the Sam Houston State University Musical Theatre Program presents a revival of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Pirates of Penzance”.
The show is a two-act comic operetta originally premiered in 1879 and reimagined by Joseph Papp in 1980. The story focuses on Fredric, who was mistakenly apprenticed as a pirate for many years instead of a pilot. When he meets Mabel, a daughter of the Major-General Stanley, the two attempt to maintain their love among the zany background of pirates, policemen and the general.
The songs of the show were written as a parody of several composers including Verdi and Schubert.
SHSU’s production of “Pirates” will take on the 1980s revival that pulls songs from the original Gilbert and Sullivan score, but with different instrumentation to modernize the sounds.
“This show is unique because we haven’t done an operetta recently,” director Penelope Hasekoester said. “The reimagining gave the songs more a pop rock swing to them and made [the show] more modern with contemporary references.”
While the sound is modern, Hasekoester said it is some of the most complex music in theater.
“It is not a language and music that we learn every day,” she said. “It’s all a very specific style and sound.”Even with to the complex music, much of the 33 member cast took on the additional challenges of performing through sword battles and swinging on ropes throughout the show.”
We had a fight choreographer from Houston come in and teach the actors how to handle them on stage,” Hasekoester said. “It was complex but I don’t consider it a challenge because that’s what makes the show more fun. It’s just about making sure they’re safe so they can enjoy it.”
Hasekoester said the costumes are also meant to be satiric and ironic to help bring the music to life. The costumes include bright, colorful coats and glitter lime pants to capture the pop-rock feel of the music.
The elaborate set includes a large ship and beach setting along with a grand estate at night.
“[The set] is fantastical and magical to help capture the mood of the beach,” Hasekoester said. “There is nothing about this show that is meant to be subtle.”‘
Pirates’ will also be more than just another theatre performance but a dedication to late dance professor Jonathan ‘Jonny’ Charles, who died in Feb. Charles was a long-time teacher and choreographed many musical productions at SHSU. Hasekoester said Charles was part of the inspiration for the show.
“Jonny and I wanted to do something light,” she said. “It was always meant for us to have fun and play with it and I think the show achieves that.”
Hasekoester hopes the audience will enjoy all the work put into the show and takes home the show’s central themes of hope and doing what’s right.
“The main character, Fredric, always tries to do what’s right,” she said. “The show is hopeful and I hope the audience leaves happy.”