Friday, February 29, 2008

THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE - A Most Ingenious Paradox!

February 29, 2008 is the 38th birthday of Frederic, the pirate apprentice from Gilbert & Sullivan's The Pirates of Penzance (1879). It's not a mondo musical, but it is one of my very favorites. Poor Fred was apprenticed to the Pirate King until his 21st birthday - not his 21st year - so although Frederic wanted to give up piracy and marry the daughter of the Modern Major General, duty dictated that he follow the letter of his contract - and that contract says he won't be 21 until 1940! See a clip from The Pirates of Penzance after the jump!
The Pirates of Penzance is one of Gilbert & Sullivan's "big three" most popular operettas that are frequently performed to this day - the other two being HMS Pinafore (1878) and The Mikado (1885).

Here's a clip from the 1983 film version of the stage show as produced by legendary New York producer Joseph Papp. It stars Rex Smith as Frederic, Kevin Kline as the Pirate King, and Angela Lansbury as Ruth. Although the instrumentations are lamentably 80s and synthesized, the sparkling humor of the piece shines through! This scene's absurdly literal legalese, and the knots the characters tie themselves into in order to follow etiquette, is a key feature of the delightfully funny G&S operettas.

So, happy birthday Frederic. You might be 152 in real time, but you're still a youthful 38 to me!

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