by Gilbert and Sullivan
Directed by Gordon Greenberg
5/15/2009 – 6/14/2009
BU Theatre - Mainstage
I knew almost nothing about Pirates of Penzance going into this (Gilbert and Sullivan isn't really my thing, so I haven't seen any of their stuff -- assuming we don't count the 8th grade chorus having done Mikado, Penzance, and Pinafore, so you saw all 3 by the time you got through junior high, but which I barely remember), but my impression in watching the show was that they basically kept the original plot and just bawdied it up with the way it was performed.
Reading the Wiki article, however, apparently there were at least a couple major plot changes.
It kinda made me sad that Pirate King was such a Captain Jack Sparrow knockoff, just 'cause it feels so derivative (though after the first few scenes I didn't notice it so much) -- especially since there is also a pirate curse (such that they can never set foot on land unless engaged in piracy ... curse only breakable by marrying a virgin).
Sometimes the plot of this adaptation of Pirates! borrows from other pieces by Gilbert and Sullivan. What inspired that direction?Apparently in the original, Ruth's deceit was that she misled him about being beautiful (she being the only woman he had ever seen). I prefer this version with her having misled him about being a virgin. Yay bawdy Ruth and her boots :)
Nell Benjamin (additional book and lyrics): One of the things I thought about was that the pirates in the original story are constantly talking about wanting to marry these daughters. They're fixated on the prospect, and you don't really think of pirates as the marrying kind, That became my idea for the curse. Why did they want to marry them? Well, because they have to.
Gordon Greenberg (director): In every good pirate move and pirate story, there is a curse of some sort. We remained fairly faithful to the original until we get to the idea of the curse. That is a song we appropriated from another Gilbert and Sullivan show called Ruddigore.
-from An Interview with Nell Benjamin and Gordon Greenberg
Frederic's insistence on "duty" reminded me of "They're all about duty" (Ainsley Hayes, The West Wing).
I was really surprised at so much criticism of cultural imperialism in the "Modern Major General" song (especially given that Gilbert and Sullivan were mid-late-1800s) but it appears those bits were added for this production. Wiki comments, "The song is replete with historical and cultural references, satirically demonstrating the Major-General's impressive and well-rounded education that seems to come at the complete expense of any useful military knowledge. Some performing companies write their own lyrics satirizing current events."
I also get the impression that the feminist stuff is also added by the Huntington -- which, again, makes sense.
From when the sisters are deciding whether to go look for Mabel or not:
"You can't vote twice."
"Technically we can't vote at all."
The sisters are all pale and blonde and dressed all in white, while Mabel is brunette and dressed in more sensible looking clothes. While I complained about this stereotypical dichotomy in the music video for Taylor Swift's "You Belong With Me," I actually minded it less here because the combined effect of the pale look of the sisters emphasized their vapidness (moreso even than their "purity"), but the play also purposely undercuts the performance of their purity and their vapidness (and indicates that to a degree theirs is in fact a conscious performance out of necessity).
P.S. Mom, reading various reviews and stuff from the Huntington, the girl with the pearl necklace is indeed a plant.
The audience member is chosen before the show begins, and is given the option to not participate. The pearl necklace that is "taken" from them is a prop - and they wear it with the full knowledge they are in for some "trouble". A plant - if you will.
-from the Huntington blog