While I was back in Oxford, OH this past weekend I saw Miami University’s version of The Pirates of Penzance with my girlfriend and her family.  This was my third time seeing the live version of this Gilbert and Sullivan musical.  I’ve seen the Oxford Community Arts Center put on a very nontraditional version of it as well as The University of Michigan’s more traditional version in Ann Arbor, MI.  I’ve enjoyed it every time.  I love the movie version as well.  It would be difficult for me to pick a favorite version of it.  I’ve enjoyed them all in different ways.

If you’ve never seen The Pirates of Penzance I understand, but you’re missing out.  If your first exposure to musical theater was something like Grease then I can completely understand why you want to avoid the genre in general.  In my opinion The Pirates of Penzance should be everyone’s introduction to musical theatre (my spell check thingy doesn’t accept this spelling, but I’m fancy and will use it if I want to).

I have a well reasoned argument for why it should be everyone’s first musical.

  1. It is short.  Unlike 1776 (also great, by the way), which is over 18 days long, The Pirates of Penzance is under 2 hours.  This keeps it from dragging on and on and is good if you have a short attention span.  Plus, if you don’t like it for some reason it will be over soon.
  2. The plot has something for everyone.  If you like romance, comedy, violence, or tragedy then you should be satisfied.  There is at least a little of each (but mostly comedy).
  3. The musical numbers are well done.  Unlike some musicals (Grease), The Pirates of Penzance has well thought out, well written numbers, that entertain and advance the plot.  They are memorable and catchy.
  4. The characters are great.  It’s hard to pick a favorite.  It usually depends on the actor.  Sometimes I like the pirate king the best, sometimes the sergeant, sometimes Ruth, but usually I like Major General Stanley.  He has one of the best roles and songs in the whole production.  His character is hilarious as well as tragic at times.
  5. It has Pirates!  I don’t think I need to clarify or explain why this is a plus (If I do then you have problems).

I’m not saying this should be everyone’s favorite musical.  But I do think it should be your first because it is the most approachable to the widest audience.  If you don’t like The Pirates of Penzance then musicals may not be your cup of tea.  And if you like Grease then you are beyond my help and I feel sorry for you.

During this latest theatrical experience I noticed a young boy of about 10 in the row in front of me.  He was fidgety and looked bored.  When we went out to the lobby during intermission we met up with a friend who was there with her 11 year old son and husband.  She was enjoying the performance.  Her son and husband were not.  I did not understand why these two young boys did not like this musical.  There are singing pirates!  This is probably the best musical for young boys to see.  If you are a 10 year old boy and you do not like this musical then there is no way you will enjoy something like The Mikado or The Sound of Music.  Are musicals only fun for adults?  Doubtful.  I only got into musicals in the last few years, but I would assume most people who enjoy them have enjoyed them since childhood.  My only explanation is to say “kids these days,” and shake my head disapprovingly.  I’m old enough to start doing that now, right?

Here’s a little sample.  Enjoy.