Pirates of Penzance

For the UAS Whalesong

I don’t remember when the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie came out, but I do remember that my “pirate phase” was well underway by my 12th birthday. That’s probably why my parents decided to bestow the soundtrack to Gilbert & Sullivan’s musical The Pirates of Penzance upon me. Having never heard of Gilbert & Sullivan before, I was still immediately enraptured with this gift because it had “pirate” in the title – so I listened to it as soon as possible, and proceeded to listen to it on repeat for the next year.

But the Whalesong is not a venue for me to reminisce on fond childhood memories! I promise you, I have a point. Specifically, my point is that Thunder Mountain is hosting a production of Pirates of Penzance Junior soon, and I thought that maybe if I had never heard of this musical – at least, not in my earlier formative years – then maybe other people hadn’t as well. It would be a shame if anyone missed out on going to see it simply because they didn’t know what it was, so I thought I would do an informative article-slash-review to give you all a heads up.

Gilbert & Sullivan are actually pretty well-known figures in popular culture, though some people might not know it; a few songs from their opera H.M.S. Pinafore featured heavily in the famous sports movie Chariots of Fire. Their opera The Mikado is also being performed near the end of the 1978 film Foul Play. So if you’re seen either of those movies, you have heard a Gilbert & Sullivan opera before. Pirates of Penzance is, perhaps, less well-known; the film version starring Kevin Kline was on Netflix for a while, but I think most people would know Pirates of Penzance from its most popular song. “I am the very model of a modern major-general, I’ve information vegetable, animal, and mineral…” Veggie Tales did a cover of it, and in the popular video game series Mass Effect, the character Mordin Solus sings his own version.

Whether you know every song by heart or haven’t ever heard of it, Pirates of Penzance is always a great time. The story follows a young man named Frederic, who was apprenticed to a crew of tender-hearted pirates by accident and who will be freed from his apprenticeship on his 21st birthday. Feeling that it is his duty, he swears that he will spend his post-apprenticeship life hunting down and eliminating all of the pirates, and in the process meets the daughter of the major-general, Mabel. However, just as he and Mabel are planning their life together, the Pirate King confronts Frederic with harsh reality: Frederic was born on February 29th, and his apprenticeship dictated that he would remain with the pirates until his 21st birthday, specifically. Again feeling it is his duty to remain bound to the contract, Frederic resigns himself to being a pirate for the next 63 years – but hey, it’s not all bad, since Mabel promises to wait for him until he is freed of his indentures.

Of course, that’s not the entire plot – I don’t want to give it away, after all – but you can see, I hope, how this would make for interesting viewing. Pirates of Penzance is a great story with excellent music that’s fun for all ages. I would   definitely recommend it, or anything else by Gilbert & Sullivan, if you enjoy the modern televised musical phenomenon Galavant! If you’ve seen that, you’ll remember that the end of season 1 featured a very loud song about being quiet – something that was hilarious, delightful, and Pirates of Penzance did first.

So, now for the pirate’s lair! And I hope you enjoy it as much as I did, and still do.

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