April 25, 2009

Pirates! Full casting announced


WHAT: Huntington Theatre Company presents Pirates! (or, Gilbert and Sullivan Plunder’d), an adaptation of the Gilbert and Sullivan classic The Pirates of Penzance that updates the script and moves the action to the Caribbean but contains the original music.

WHEN: May 15 – June 14, 2009

WHERE: The Huntington’s main stage – the Boston University Theatre, 264 Huntington Avenue, Boston

The masterful work of Gilbert and Sullivan returns to the Huntington Theatre Company stage for the conclusion of its 2008-2009 Season. Pirates! (or, Gilbert and Sullivan Plunder’d) transports the action of The Pirates of Penzance, the classic operetta about a Pirate King and his motley band; a dutiful pirate apprentice and his nurse; a modern Major-General and his virgin wards; and a Sergeant of Police and his skittish force to the Caribbean in a raucous and rowdy update complete with swordfights, sex appeal, and Sullivan’s original music. Gordon Greenberg (Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris), Nell Benjamin (Legally Blonde, the Musical), and John McDaniel (“The Rosie O’Donnell Show”) co-conceived the adaptation.

The Huntington’s production of Pirates! is helmed by co-conceiver Gordon Greenberg, who directed earlier versions of the piece at the Goodspeed Opera House and the Paper Mill Playhouse to much acclaim. The production includes a cast of 22 and features Steve Kazee (110 in the Shade opposite Audra MacDonald on Broadway) as the Pirate King, Tony Award winner Cady Huffman (Ulla in The Producers: The New Mel Brooks Musical) as Ruth, Ed Dixon (Broadway’s Sunday in the Park with George) as Major-General Stanley, and Mel Johnson, Jr. (Broadway’s The Lion King) as the Sergeant of Police. Anderson Davis (Broadway’s Les Miserables) plays Frederic, the pirate apprentice, and Farah Alvin (Broadway’s Grease!) recreates the role of Mabel, which she previously played at Paper Mill and Goodspeed.

As in the original, Pirates! tells the story of a motley band of pirates, their dutiful apprentice Frederic who longs for the day when he can be freed from his servitude, and his nursemaid, the “piratical maid of all-work,” Ruth. When the pirates discover a beautiful bevy of young women, they make plans to marry. But when the girls’ guardian, Major-General Stanley, pleads that this act would leave him, an orphan, alone in the world, the similarly orphaned Pirates withdraw. Riddled with guilt over lying to the pirates, Stanley is comforted by his wards, which encourage a nervous regiment of police to go forth and face likely slaughter at the hands of the frightening pirates. Meanwhile, as Frederic prepares to join the Police in their charge against the pirates, he is visited by his nurse and the Pirate King who inform him that, upon examination of the facts of his indenture, his servitude is not, in fact, complete and he must return to their band.

Collaborators Greenberg, Benjamin, and McDaniel have transferred the action of the original to the Caribbean, putting a Pirates of the Caribbean-like spin on the classic operetta. Benjamin has contributed to the original book and penned new lyrics for some of the classic songs to move them to the new setting while keeping the spirit of Gilbert’s trademark wit. Choreographer Denis Jones (She Loves Me at the Huntington) will infuse the piece with a contemporary musical comedy style and athletic, swashbuckling dance numbers.

“The humor of the original Pirates text is based on Victorian social values and morals,” says Greenberg. “The idea of having pirates in Penzance, an inland town, was a joke in and of itself — it’s like saying ‘the Pirates of Newton.’ Even the subtitle of the piece, The Slave of Duty, was a jab at Victorian social conventions about morality and duty. By taking these ideas and folding them into a new, contemporary context where they really hit home, we’ve been able to get to the core of what Gilbert and Sullivan were trying to do. I feel our adaptation is right up the creators’ street. They were famous for plundering from others and from themselves and making light of social themes of the day, and that is exactly what we’ve done.”

Gordon Greenberg (Co-Conceiver/Director) directed the Drama Desk and Drama League Award-nominated revival of Jacques Brel is Alive and Well…, Happy Days (national tour), Pirates! at Goodspeed Musicals and the Paper Mill Playhouse, Working (Old Globe , Asolo Rep), which he also revised, Band Geeks (Goodspeed Musicals, also co-writer), The Baker’s Wife (Paper Mill Playhouse, Goodspeed Musicals), 1776 (Paper Mill Playhouse), and Peter Pan (national tour).

Nell Benjamin (Co-Conceiver/Additional book and lyrics) received a Tony Award nomination with her husband Lawrence O’Keefe for their score and a Drama Desk Award nomination for their music and lyrics for Legally Blonde, the Musical. The pair also received an Ovation Award for The Mice. Benjamin wrote the lyrics for Sarah, Plain and Tall, won the Kleban Award for Lyrics, and is the recipient of a Jonathan Larson Foundation grant. Her television work includes “Unhappily Ever After,” Animal Planet’s “Whoa! Sunday with Mo Rocca,” and the new “Electric Company.”

John McDaniel (Co-Conceiver/Music Supervisor) received two Emmy Awards for his work on “The Rosie O’Donnell Show” where he led the band for its six-year run. He served as the arranger and conductor for “A Rosie Christmas” and for four years of Comedy Central’s “Friar’s Roasts,” and as arranger for three Tony Awards presentations. On Broadway, he served as producer, music supervisor, arranger, and orchestrator for Brooklyn, the Musical, music director/arranger for Grease!, and conductor for Chicago, among others.

“The Huntington enjoys a rich tradition of presenting Gilbert and Sullivan on our stage,” says Huntington Artistic Director Peter DuBois. “Pirates! is a terrific adaptation of the classic – audiences will see Gilbert & Sullivan's fingerprints all over as they experience the dynamic, new twist Gordon, Nell, and John have infused in the piece by re-imagining it in a musical comedy style.” DuBois continues, “Gilbert and Sullivan were brilliant political satirists – the Jon Stewarts and Stephen Colberts of their time. This adaptation brings that spirit of satire into a more contemporary context, while maintaining the beauty and skill of Gilbert and Sullivan's brilliantly silly music and rhymes.”

The cast is led by:

  • Steve Kazee (Broadway: 110 in the Shade with Audra MacDonald, To Be or Not to Be, Spamalot; Helen Hayes Award Nominee for The Subject Was Roses) as the Pirate King;
  • Tony, Drama Desk, and Outer Critics Circle Award winner Cady Huffman (Broadway: The Producers: The New Mel Brooks Musical, Steel Pier, The Will Rogers Follies;) as Ruth;
  • Drama Desk Award nominee Ed Dixon (Broadway: Sunday in the Park with George, Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas, The Iceman Cometh, Les Miserables) as Major General Stanley;
  • Anderson Davis (Broadway: Les Miserables; New York’s City Center Encores!: Damn Yankees) as Frederic
  • Farah Alvin (Broadway: Grease!, Saturday Night Fever, Nine) as Mabel;
  • Mel Johnson, Jr. (Broadway: The Lion King, The Rink, On the 20th Century; the film Total Recall) as the Sergeant of Police;
  • Caesar Samayoa (Broadway: Hot Feet; Off Broadway: Four Guys Named Jose… and una Mujer Named Maria) as Samuel; and
  • Julia Osborne (Regional: A Little Night Music at Baltimore Centerstage; Half a Sixpence at Goodspeed Musicals) as Edith.

The Ensemble includes:

Krista Buccellato (Anne and Emmett at Emerson College)
Wes Hart (national tour of Urban Cowboy)
Sam Kiernan (national tour of Gypsy);
Douglas I. Lyons (national tour of Rent);
Chris Messina (North American and Asian tours of Hairspray),
Brittney A. Morello (Carousel at the Summer Theatre in Meredith Village),
Michael Rossmy (Cymbeline on Broadway);
Joel Perez (Cabaret at New Repertory Theatre);
Dave Schoonover (Grind at The York Theatre Company);
Kristen Sergeant (Tonya and Nancy: The Opera);
Christopher Sergeeff (West Side Story at Theatre Under the Stars);
Erica Spyres (IRNE Award for A Light in the Piazza at SpeakEasy Stage Company);
Victor J. Wisenhart (West End production of West Side Story); and
Sarah Ziegler (Iolanthe at the Boston Conservatory).

The creative team for Pirates! (or, Gilbert and Sullivan Plunder’d) includes choreographer Denis Jones (She Loves Me for the Huntington), musical director/conductor F. Wade Russo (Company for the Huntington, By Jeeves on Broadway), scenic designer Rob Bissinger (Broadway: Funny Girl; Off Broadway: Jacques Brel is Alive and Well…), costume designer David C. Woolard (Broadway: West Side Story, Dividing the Estate), lighting designer Jeff Croiter (Brendan for the Huntington; Broadway: Kiki and Herb on Broadway), and sound designers Drew Levy and Tony Smolenski IV(She Loves Me for the Huntington). Production stage manager is Gail P. Luna; stage manager is Carola Morrone.


A T T S said...

Boston.com could not be further from accuracy. Thetare is listed as near Kenmore and website is to an unsupported BU Theatre website. Alert your PR team!


Todd Williams said...

Thanks for pointing this out!