Pirates of Penzance, The

Gilbert set the first act of the opera off the rocky coast of Cornwall, where a band of good-natured and inefficient pirates are celebrating the release from his indentures of their young apprentice, Frederic (REX SMITH). Frederic, however, shocks them by his revelation that he intends leaving them to lead an honest life, since he became a pirate in the first place only by accident. As a little lad his father had instructed his nurserymaid, Ruth (PATRICIA ROUTLEDGE) -- now the pirates' cook and washerwoman -- to apprentice him to a pilot. But Ruth, being hard of hearing, had misinterpreted her instructions and apprenticed him instead to a pirate.

Frederic, a slave of duty, has served out his indentures faithfully, but he is now resolved to become an honest man and urges the pirates to do the same. But they refuse, agreeing with their leader that "it is a glorious thing to be a pirate king" (KEVIN KLINE).

On his way back to civilization, Frederic falls in with a chorus of pretty young ladies who turn out to be the daughters of Major-General Stanley. With one of these girls, Mabel (LINDA RONSTADT), Frederic is much taken. Suddenly, the pirates swoop down upon the girls, who are saved only by the intervention of their father, who introduces himself as "the very model of a modern Major-General" (GEORGE ROSE).

To escape from the pirates' clutches, the Major-General pretends to be an orphan, which so excites their pity that they let him and his daughters go. Frederic, however, is not let off so lightly, for it appears that he was born in a leap year on February 29 and consequently -- his indentures providing him an apprenticeship until his 21st birthday -- he has many years yet to serve.

So, true to his ideal of duty, Frederic returns to the pirate band, now under threat of attack from a peculiarly hesitant posse of constables whose sergeant (TONY AZITO), echoed by his lugubrious men, laments the "policeman's lot is not a happy one."

In the ensuing fight, the reluctant policemen are defeated by the pirates, who, however, immediately succumb at the police sergeant's demands "We charge you yield, in Queen Victoria's name!"

"We yield at once, with humbled mien," the pirate king cries" "Because, with all our faults, we love our Queen."

The police, overcome with emotion, prepare to lead the pirates away. But Ruth interposes:

One moment! Let me tell you who they are. They are no members of the common throng; They are all noblemen who have gone wrong! On receipt of this startling information, the Major-General unhesitatingly hands over his daughters to the pirates with the memorable words: "No Englishman unmoved that statement hears, because, with all our faults, we love our House of Peers."

Won 3 Tony Awards, for Best Revival, Best Director (Wilford Leach) and Best Actor (Kevin Kline); 2 Obie Awards; the New York Drama Critics Award; 5 Drama Desk Awards; and the Outer Critics Circle Award for the Best Musical. Also received numerous nominations, including one for a Tony award for Linda Ronstadt as Best Actress in a Musical.

"delivers a dizzying amount of pleasure." - The New York Times

1980, Musical Comedy, 120 minutes, Color

Cast: Kevin Kline , Linda Ronstadt, Rex Smith, George Rose , Patricia Routledge, Tony Azito


Written by: William Gilbert

Music by: Sir Arthur Sullivan

Directed by: Wilford Leach


Produced by: Joseph Papp

Executive Producer: Joseph Papp



Productions Stills







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