Avast! There be pirates!

By Danielle Roberts

Pirates, sword fights, maidens in distress and singing? The Pirates of the Penzance, an operetta by Gilbert and Sullivan, is making its way to the University of Calgary this week thanks to the work of director Colleen Whidden, music students and members of the community.

The Pirates of Penzance premiered for the first time in 1879 at the Fifth Avenue Theatre in New York and since has become one of the pair’s most beloved works. The Pirates of Penzance is an entertaining Victorian fantasy with its collaboration of absurd humour, masculine Pirate characters, beautiful women and music.

Frederic, the protagonist, is an accidental pirate apprentice who is going to be free of the trade he detests after serving 21 birthdays with the pirates. His freedom comes with a sense of duty to help get rid of the pirates for good and he joins sides with Major-General Stanley and the police. He falls in love with Mabel, one of the Major-General’s daughters. Finding out later that because he was born on a leap year, he has only served five birthdays he reverently rejoins the pirates and is separated from Mabel. Armed with swords and some ridiculous logic, the Major-General and his men work things out with the pirates and Frederic is reunited with Mabel in the end.

Director Colleen Whidden explains she picked The Pirates of Penzance because of its memorable music and its fun, accessible story line. Whidden is in her last year of her doctorate in musical education at the university and hopes of becoming a professor when she finishes. She has had plenty of experience within the music industry and is fluent in both song and instrument. This is the second show that Whidden has directed at the university.

The cast of The Pirates of Penzance have been rehearsing twice a week since Sep. to pull this show together and just an example of some of their efforts include a full pit orchestra and hand tailored clothing for the actors. Colleen hopes that she has created a small tradition within the music program and that once she finishes her degree that these types of shows will become a regular item to see.

The Pirates of Penzance runs Jan. 17-19 at 8 p.m. in the University Theatre. Tickets are: $10 for adults, $7 for students and seniors and children under six are free. You can buy tickets at the Campus Ticket Center or at the door.

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