Yes, I’ve seen Pirates of Penzance before. I lived on the 1983 soundtrack with Kevin Kline and Linda Ronstadt for probably an unhealthy amount of time. CMU stages a musical in the fall semester and an opera in the spring. This semester, they were putting on Pirates and I saw a great opportunity. Not only to finally see the show live but to take Daria, my 7 year old daughter, to her first opera. And yes, we watched the movie first (to get her comfortable with the plot and music).
There is a classic joke about sex and pizza; even when they are bad they are still pretty good. In my mind, Pirates of Penzance works that way. I’m not saying that CMU did Pirates badly, not saying that at all. I’m simply saying it is virtually impossible to do it poorly. Everything works on its own, all you have to do is put the notes and rhythms in the right order. You could read the dialog with a fairly flat monotone and still get chuckles (like the orphan/often argument).
And is there really an operetta with more solid hits? The “plot unnecessary” songs are few and charming enough to listen to. CMU’s production was plagued by the things you might expect: daughters outnumbered pirates 2 to 1 (and then half of the pirates had to become police officers). The ranges on the Pirate King and the Major General are tough for college-age singers. But even with those minor issues the show was a real hoot. Everyone did a great job and I’m not just saying that because I work here.
Daria was so excited she just about burst. We sat right up front, about the 5th row, and she bounced a giggled the whole time. After the production, as I was congratulating the students, Daria was shy and starstruck. I earned a lot of points because I actually knew the cast! And she got to stay out until 10 which is a big deal.