Open Forum

Pirates of Penzance

  • 1.  Pirates of Penzance

    Posted 03-26-2019 15:17
    Edited by Elizabeth Nelson 03-26-2019 15:17
    I am working on my 2019-2020 season and I was looking at Pirates of Penzance for our musical. Has anyone done the show recently? How did your students take to the "opera" style vs. the normal musical theater?

    Any other stories, suggestions or help about your productions is much appreciated!

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    Elizabeth Nelson
    Bishop Miege High School
    Theatre/Video Production Teacher
    Shawnee Mission, KS
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  • 2.  RE: Pirates of Penzance

    Posted 03-26-2019 15:55
    Edited by Elizabeth Nelson 03-26-2019 16:03
    Also what company did you license the show through? I see that you can license it through MTI and Rodgers and Hammerstein.

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    Elizabeth Nelson
    Bishop Miege High School
    Theatre/Video Production Teacher
    Shawnee Mission, KS
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  • 3.  RE: Pirates of Penzance

    Posted 03-27-2019 08:26
    My troupe's then-co-director produced Pirates almost twenty years ago.  We never had much of a talk with the kids about any kind of operatic style (though we did have the legit soprano, tenor and baritone to cast the leads), and they simply bought into the silly humor of the piece.  It went over very well at school, and was even accepted as a mainstage production for the Florida State Thespian Festival.

    We did the original version, which is in the public domain and requires no licensing - you just buy piano-vocal scores from the cheapest supplier you can find.

    If you want to do the New York Shakespeare Festival version, that must indeed be licensed from MTI.

    I wasn't aware of the R&H Theatricals version, but a check at their website appears to indicate that what they have is the original version of the show with a specially commissioned reduced orchestration - that last point, I suppose, being what allows them to copyright this version and license it.  Our production simply used a piano, so orchestrations weren't necessary.

    If you like the piece, pick the version that worked best for you (we liked not having to pay royalties), and full steam ahead!

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    Jeff Grove
    Theatre Teacher, Aesthetics Department Chair
    Stanton College Preparatory School
    Jacksonville FL
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  • 4.  RE: Pirates of Penzance

    Posted 03-27-2019 10:52
    I have beeen involved with two productions of this show.
    Students love it. It requires strong singers in the leads, but what show doesn't?
    In rehearsal, plan on having your students spend twice as much time as they normally do with the vocal director.
    Here's the GOOD NEWS: This show is in the public domain, as is all of Gilbert and Sullivan.  You don't have to pay royalties. The companies that are licensing it are selling a newer arrangement.
    There are many complete scores available. Here is a loose-leaf version that looks promising.


    good luck!
    Billy Houck
    Theatre Teacher, retired
    Carmichael, CA







  • 5.  RE: Pirates of Penzance

    Posted 03-27-2019 14:00
    And here's another free online resource: the Petrucci Music Library, which makes a host of public-domain scores easily available.  They have downloadable, printable piano-vocal scores of Pirates, and if you're musically ambitious, they even have a full orchestral score and individual orchestral parts.

    https://imslp.org/wiki/The_Pirates_of_Penzance_(Sullivan%2C_Arthur)

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    Jeff Grove
    Theatre Teacher, Aesthetics Department Chair
    Stanton College Preparatory School
    Jacksonville FL
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  • 6.  RE: Pirates of Penzance

    Posted 03-28-2019 14:10
    We did the show 3 years ago, and also went the public domain route.  I was nervous about how the kids would take to it, and at first they were leery, but we had a ton of fun with it and they loved it.  Many say it was their favorite show to be a part of in high school.

    Most of our audience also loved it, but we did get one email that chastised us for not including a summary in the program so that the person could understand the story better.  1 out of 1000, but it has stuck with me nonetheless.

    Also, know that the police officers have the least amount of stage time but will be the favorite of all the characters. Ours also had deceptively difficult dances and spent as much time in rehearsal as everyone else, even though they only appear in act 2.

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    Laura Steenson
    Theatre Director
    Reynolds High School
    Troutdale OR
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  • 7.  RE: Pirates of Penzance

    Posted 06-11-2019 22:20
    I teach middle school and we just finished doing the JR version. Before you dismiss this for being a middle school production, this was the most successful show the school's done in the last six years -- and we've done Aladdin and Lion King during that time.

    The key was having the buy-in from the students and showcasing amazing talent.  I always double-cast my shows and we had one group with a few more 7th and 8th graders and one with a few more 6th graders, but both casts were excellent, though vocally the older students were a little more consistent in their singing.  The British bobbies were hysterical and "stole the show" and choreographing everything with the Bobbies and the Pirates and the maidens on stage all at the same time was phenomenal!!

    My biggest joy with the show was watching the students deliver their lines with confidence once they understood the meaning of all of the words like "reckoning by my natal day" (according to my birthday), etc. That was a huge success and a major life lesson for adding vocabulary knowledge.

    I ordered through JWPepper, but they only have the JR version.  If you can get away with the JR version, it was well-written and tight to the story line.  Otherwise,  MTI has the full new version https://www.mtishows.com/the-pirates-of-penzance

    Have fun!!

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    Lynn-nore Chittom
    Theater Teacher
    Ellis Middle School
    Sumner County Schools
    Hendersonville TN
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