Pirates of Penzance replaces the Mikado

Last-minute change replaces The Mikado with The Pirates of Penzance

Photo courtesy of www.wlu.edu.

Photo courtesy of www.wlu.edu.

Ashley Faulkner

The show tickets, posters and programs may have said The Mikado, but that was not the show the audience saw the evening of Sept. 21 at the Lenfest Center of the Arts.

With days notice, The New York Gilbert and Sullivan Players changed their tour from The Mikado to Pirates of Penzance after receiving complaints from the Asian community over Japanese characters being portrayed by Caucasian actors.

“I was notified at 12 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 18 that the show had been canceled in New York,” Susan Wager, the assistant director of Lenfest said, “Then at 12:10 p.m., [the Lenfest Center] made the decision for NYGSP to present the ever-popular The Pirates of Penzance.

The university made it a priority to make all ticket holders aware of the change, so by show day approximately 97 percent knew of the show switch. While the two operettas are different, only 28 tickets were refunded and the house was still packed come show time.

The Pirates of Penzance is a comical operetta that tells the story of a young man, Frederic, who just finished his indenture to a group of pirates and the issues that follow as he falls in love and struggles with his “sense of duty” to his former captain.

Some students in the audience attended the performance as a class assignment. Typically, Director of Lenfest Center of the Arts and theatre instructor Robert Mish has his “Introduction to Theatre” class attend four of the five performances during the semester.

“Primarily, I wanted them to get exposure to the precursor of American Musical Theater: the operetta,” Mish said. “All of the students’ reviews that I have read so far tell me that Pirates was the first Gilbert and Sullivan piece that they had ever seen – not unusual for a modern audience.”

While Mish was disappointed that a change had to be made, he was pleased that it was  The Pirates of Penzance. He had seen the show 47 times and performed in it himself, playing the Major General and the Sergeant of the Police.

Nicole Eldred, ‘18, did not have a preference between seeing either production since this was her first operetta. Eldred enjoyed the modern additions the cast incorporated into the show, such as when the sergeant of the police referenced “No Child Left Behind.” However, she thought that the actors were hard to understand at times which made the show difficult to follow.

“‘Oh, Is There Not One Maiden Breast’ I thought was [actually more] appropriately named, “Oh, Is There Not A Maiden Left,” Eldred said. “It is these kind of mistakes in diction and lack of clarity that made the play more of a headache than the masterpiece I had been looking forward to.”

While Eldred thought the opera took away from the story, Lauren Hoffman, ‘18, was impressed by how well trained the performers were and thought they used excellent control.

“I was impressed with the performers, but I am not a huge fan of opera,” Hoffman said. “[But] I would have had the same reaction to The Mikado.