The Pirates of Penzance tells the story of a young
pirate apprentice named Frederic who has come to the end of his
indentured period. As it turns out, Frederic was indentured by
mistake. His half-deaf nurse had been instructed to apprentice
him to a "pilot" but got it a little wrong. At any
rate, Frederic has decided to leave the pirate life forever and,
though he loves his comrades dearly, devote his life to the extermination
of their kind. However, since he is until the stroke of midnight
still one of them, he feels obliged to point out the pirates'
weakness--they are too softhearted. Apparently, all a captive
must do is plead to being an orphan and he is immediately released!
Once upon the shore, Frederic, who has never seen any woman
other than his old nurse, stumbles upon a bevy of beautiful maidens.
He immediately falls in love with the most beautiful of the bunch,
Mabel, who graciously offers to reclaim the "Poor Wandering
One." What Frederic has forgotten, however, is that there
are pirates about! Suddenly his old comrades are upon them! The
lonely pirates are delighted by the beauty of their captives
and recognize the situation as a "first rate opportunity
of getting married with impunity." But the girls' father,
Major-General Stanley, arrives just in the nick of time and claims
untruthfully to be an orphan, thus winning a brief reprieve for
his daughters. The General is terrified that the pirates will
uncover his lie, but Frederic eases his fears, promising to apprehend
the band of pirates and put an end to their plundering. However,
when Frederic learns that, due to a technicality, he is still
indentured to the pirates, the complications abound.
The Pirates of Penzance opened at the Fifth Avenue
Theatre in New York on December 31, 1879 with a cast that included
J.H. Ryley (Major General), Hugh Talbot (Frederick), Sgr. Broccolini
(Pirate King), Fred Clifton (Sergeant), Blanche Roosevelt (Mabel),
and Alice Barnett (Ruth). A major Broadway revival featuring
Kevin Kline (Pirate King), Rex Smith (Frederic), and Linda Ronstadt
(Mabel) opened at the Uris Theatre on January 8, 1981 and ran
for 772 performances. A 1983 film version featured Kline, Smith,
Ronstadt, and Angela Lansbury.