NEW PALTZ -- An ensemble of over fifty singers and players, fill the stage for the SUNY New Paltz production of Pirates of Penzance, set in 1935 in Queens Hall, London, the site of the famous BBC “Proms” concert broadcast. Pirates of Penzance, directed by Kurt Daw, is presented by the Department of Theatre Arts October 11 – 22.
The “Proms,” short for Promenade, concerts were great summer celebrations making music in the classical tradition available to the masses. In the late 1920s the BBC began to broadcast the concerts live on BBC Radio 3. During the mid 1930s the famous D’Oyly Carte Opera company, which maintained the original tradition of performances of W. S. Gilbert and Sir Arthur Sullivan comic operas, joined forces with the BBC to perform and broadcast many of the Gilbert and Sullivan works, though not Pirates of Penzance. The New Paltz staged concert re-creates the missing “Proms” 1935 broadcast of Pirates using an on-stage chorus and orchestra along with costumed principle actors and a chorus playing the D’Oyly Carte performers.
The production serves as a kind of double performance, with actors playing the roles of radio show performers. Visible to the theatre audience, although not to the BBC radio audience, are the complications faced by the cast of helping a guest star from the movies, who is singing the role of the Pirate King (played by Evan Teich), find his way to the microphones and away from the chorus girls; managing the debut of an inexperienced young tenor (played on alternate nights by Nick Milello and Michael Kaplan); managing the drama set off by their fiery diva (played on alternative nights by Charlotte Pines and Andrea Green); and the mounting fear as their famous comic lead, scheduled to sing the role of the “modern” Major-General, fails to appear in the theatre by the beginning of the show.
Kurt Daw, director for the production, comments on his approach, “The initial inspiration for this show was the recent performances of Sweeny Todd and Company, in New York directed by John Doyle. I found Doyle’s style so elegant. He really concentrated on showing off the talents of his cast and eliminated distractions.”
Daw has a long history with Gilbert and Sullivan having previously directed productions of Ruddigore, The Mikado, H.M.S. Pinafore, Trial by Jury, Pirates of Penzance and Iolanthe. Considering the work of Gilbert and Sullivan, Daw remarks that, “One of the things that I love about Gilbert and Sullivan operas is that they appeal to almost everyone. They are perfectly suited as family entertainment, while at the same time they have a sly humor that inspires a rather erudite cult following. They are musically gorgeous, while completely hummable!”
About the director
Kurt Daw is the Dean of the School of Fine and Performing Arts and founder of the Public Opera of Dallas. In 1986, his production of Pirates of Penzance was named the best classical musical event of the year by WRR radio in Dallas, Texas. Daw began his professional theatre career stage managing a touring company of actors from the D’Oyly Carte on an American tour.
Musical direction for Pirates of Penzance is by theatre arts professor Stephen Kitsakos. Choreography by Hillary Hight. The lavish costumes were designed by Andrea Varga, with elegant sets and lighting by Michael Heil and John Wade.
Pirates of Penzance is performed October 11, 12, 13, 18, 19, 20 at 8:00 p.m. Matinee performances on October 14 and 21 at 2:00 p.m.
Tickets are $18 general reserved, $16 reserved senior/staff/student. They may be purchased online now at www.newpaltz.edu/theatre or at the Box Office, located in Parker Theatre, Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.