THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE
Music by Arthur Sullivan
Libretto by W.S. Gilbert
Music adapted by Bill Lutes
Libretto adaptation by Diane Garton Edie
The Pirates of Penzance (M, T, B, SC) sail to shore and celebrate Frederic’s (T) 21st birthday. Now that he’s an adult, Frederic decides to become a law-abiding citizen. He discovers Mabel (S) and the Wards (SC) playing by the seashore. Frederic asks if anyone might like to marry him and Mabel says she would! Suddenly, Ruth (M) and the pirates (SC) appear and begin to kidnap the wards in order to turn them into pirates. Mabel’s father, the Major General (B), enters and convinces the pirates NOT to take away his family because he’s an orphan and would be lonely. The pirates – who are all orphans – give in and cheer him up by making him an honorary pirate.
The Major General confesses to Mabel and Frederic that he’s not really an orphan, but is afraid to tell the pirates, and hopes that the Constables (SC) will scare them away. Ruth and the Pirate King find Frederic and explain that he’s only had five birthdays because he was born in “leap year.” That means he must is still be a pirate! He rushes off to join the pirates and Mabel gathers the Constables. The pirates hide. Mabel and the wards scamper in and the pirates grab them. The King announces that the wards must now become pirates! The Constables appear and bravely demand that the pirates surrender in the name of the Queen. Being loyal subjects, the pirates immediately surrender. Everyone shakes hands. Mabel and Frederic are reunited.
*S – soprano; M – mezzo; T – tenor; B – baritone, SC – student chorus; AV – adult volunteer
- Original language of classic libretto is largely retained while connecting dialogue helps explain complicated story
- Ruth’s character is changed from lovesick middle-ager to robust pirate
- Children’s roles are Wards, Pirates and Constables – all important roles. Also, the whole “pirates trying to capture young women to marry them” plot line has been changed to “pirates trying to capture young people to enlist them as pirates”