Author's History Behind Pirated!

History of Pirated!


Author's History Behind Pirated!
The impulse for Pirated! can be traced back to the spring of 1988. At the time, I was serving on the faculty at San Diego State University and had been scheduled to direct The Pirates of Penzance the following year.

As all directors do, I began considering my potential casting pool for the production. The dilemma I faced was this: in attempting to cast the roles of the young lovers, Mabel and Frederic, the best vocal choices were two individuals of such extreme physical size that it made them virtually uncastable in such roles. On the other hand, I also had the perfect Frederic and Mabel as far as visual appearance and acting ability were concerned. Unfortunately, both of them were tone deaf.

I found myself wishing that I had the ability to gene-splice during the casting process. I wanted the vocal ability of one actor to merge with the physical appearance of another. In seeking a solution to this problem, I suddenly realized that such wizardry takes place all the time... in Hollywood. (After all, most people have never seen Mamie Nixon's face-but they have heard her voice again and again providing the singing for Natalie Wood in West Side Story, Deborah Kerr in The King and I and Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady.)

So I set about the task of creating Marshall Pictures. . . a 1930's Hollywood sound studio where hardly anyone does their own singing! In the process, I discovered three keys which opened the doors and cleared the way for the final script:

  • The importance of the original subtitle for The Pirates of Penzance-"The Slave of Duty"-which provided the central issue of the new plot.
  • The Pirate King's line, "Always act in accordance with the dictates of your conscience, my boy, and chance the consequences," which expedites Daniel's (Frederick's) charge into the fray.
  • The discovery (while doing research) of the invaluably significant event
    which occurred on June 30, 1933. This last item provided the real solution to the "problem" of the play and supplies a deus ex machina which rivals the original scripts.

So welcome to the unpredictable world of Marshall Pictures where Gilbert and Sullivan gets turned upside down and wildly outlandish things fall out.

-Jim Christian


History of Pirated!

In the spring of 1993 the faculty of Weber State University Performing Arts Department met to consider the performing arts schedule and theatre productions for the 1993-1994 season. It had been previously discussed that they might do something historical, possibly a Gilbert and Sullivan piece. Jim Christian, head of Musical Theatre studies at the university, introduced his unique plot line of The Pirated Penzance to the faculty. Thrilled with the idea, the faculty invited Jim to stage the show as the season opener and enter it into the Kennedy Center/American College Theatre Festival as a participating entry.

After numerous rewrites, restagings and working out the kinks, the show opened for a two week run in the fall of 1993 in the Allred Theatre of the Weber State University campus. The revues were not mixed. The show was a sensational hit with critics and audiences.

As a part of the Kennedy Center/American College Theatre Festival entry, a regional adjudicator saw the show and recommended it for the Regional Festival. Shortly after, The Pirated Penzance was invited to compete at the KC/ACTF Regional Festival in Hayward, California. The musical comedy played three performances to rave revues, stand ovations and delighted audiences.

A few weeks later The Pirated Penzance was chosen from nearly 1,000 theatre entries to be one of six shows to debut at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC as a part of the Kennedy Center/American College Theatre Festival, a coveted national honor rarely bestowed upon college theatre endeavors and the equivalent of a Tony Award on the academic. Playing at the nations capitol, The Pirated Penzance continued its fabled journey with rave revues at the Kennedy Center. Long time festival attendees said it was by far the best thing they had ever seen at the festival. Those who experienced the show were certain they would see it on Broadway the next year.

In 1996 a regional professional theatre company in Salt Lake City, Pioneer Theatre Company, collaborated with Jim Christian to give The Pirated Penzance, now titled Pirated Penzance, its World Premiere, again to delighted audiences and rave reviews.

For the next several years, Pirated Penzance was seen in a few non-professional theatres throughout the western United States.

In 2004, a New York theatrical producer optioned the rights to bring Pirated Penzance to Broadway. The name of the show has since changed to Pirated! for marketing purposes.


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