Pirates of Penzance

by Gilbert and Sullivan

Young pirate-in-training Frederic can’t wait for his 21st birthday, the day his erroneous pirate apprenticeship ends….or does it? Born in a Leap Year, Frederic discovers he must remain with the raucous band and delay a future with the lovely Mabel who promises to wait, much to the chagrin of her father, the Major General. Bound by his own sense of duty and loyalty to the Pirate King, will Frederic be forced to sail away into the sunset alone or fly high on the seas of love?

Gilbert brings the best patter song in all of opera and Sullivan makes us swoon with catchy tunes in this funny and hopeful farce of an operetta. Add SDO favorite Greer Grimsley and his real-life wife in the lead roles and you’ll be hooked on this swashbuckling favorite about love, laughter, and loyalty.


The approximate run time is 2 hours and 20 minutes with one intermission.

Pirates of Penzance

Act I

A rocky seashore on the coast of Cornwall

The pirates offer a toast to Frederic who is celebrating his 21st birthday and the end of his apprenticeship. Ruth, a maid who also works with the pirates, explains that when Frederic was younger she was instructed by his father to have the small boy apprenticed to a pilot, but she misheard and instead took Frederic to a pirate.

Now that his obligation to the pirates has ended, duty compels Frederic to devote himself to destroying them. When the men admit their inability to make piracy pay, Frederic explains that they are themselves slaves to their tender hearts, particularly regarding their refusal to take advantage of anyone they believe to be an orphan. Frederic wishes he could bring the pirates back to a respectable life, but the Pirate King rejects that possibility.

Ruth longs for Frederic to take her with him when he leaves. He admits that he is reluctant to marry her, though he is satisfied that, despite her age, she is beautiful. But when he sees a group of lovely young women approaching, he rages at her for deceiving him.

The young women are astonished to encounter Frederic and horrified to hear that he is a pirate. He assures them that he only wants to love one of them. They all reject him except Mabel.

The pirates surprise the girls and anticipate soon becoming their husbands. Their father, the Major General, enters and objects to the girls being married against their wills to pirates. He lies his way out of the situation by claiming to be an orphan. The girls are released from the pirates’ clutches, as Mabel and Frederic – ignoring the pleas of Ruth – look forward to their marriage.

Act II

On Major-General Stanley’s estate: a ruined chapel by moonlight

The Major-General believes his lie about being an orphan has shamed the family name and he fears the consequences. Frederic will soon march against the pirates accompanied by the police.

Ruth and the Pirate King enter. They explain that Frederic was to be apprenticed until his twenty first birthday but having been born in a leap year on 29 February, he is officially only five. The Pirate King insists that Frederic respect his own sense of duty, whereupon the obedient young man informs him that the Major General lied about being an orphan. The Pirate King and Ruth swear vengeance.

Frederic informs Mabel that he will not reach his twenty-first birthday until 1940. Convinced that he can ignore the pirates’ claim, she begs him to remain with her and swears to be faithful, even though he is a slave of duty and feels compelled to re-join the pirates.

Afflicted by insomnia, the Major General enters. Frederic and the pirates seize the Major General and overcome the police. When the Sergeant implores the pirates to yield in the Queen’s name, Ruth reveals that they are in fact peers of the realm. With this revelation, they are pardoned by the Major-General, who rewards them with the girls’ hands in marriage.

STARS IN THE SALON - Hosted by David Bennett, General Director

Pirates of Penzance - October 5, 2017 at 5:30pm

Join the stars of Pirates of Penzance in Stars in the Salon. This is a thrilling experience for anyone who loves opera. We welcome our distinguished guest panels for a provocative look at the music, characters and behind-the-scenes work which is so important to each production. The Civic Theatre’s beautiful Beverly Sills Salon acts as the setting for this enjoyable discussion where audience members have a chance to meet the stars and ask their own questions of the leading singers, conductors and directors first hand! All sessions are open to the public and free of charge.

► Learn More

PIRATES OF PENZANCE POST-OPERA CAST PARTY

Saturday, October 14, 2017 after performance
The US Grant Hotel

Join us immediately following the opening night performance when we’ll journey a few short blocks to The US Grant. We’ll meet the artists from Pirates of Penzance and enjoy a wine and champagne reception with light hors d’oeuvres and desserts. Post-Opera Cast Party tickets are $100 per person. ADD TO YOUR TICKET ORDER TODAY!


Already have your Pirates of Penzance tickets? Purchase your cast party tickets here!