‘The Pirates of Penzance’ Opens Tonight at Victorian Lyric Opera Company

The article is by by Ed Vilade & Courtney Kalbacker.

Pirates, police, and the lovely daughters of a modern Major General combine in the topsy-turvy whirl of Gilbert & Sullivan’s most popular operetta, The Pirates of Penzance, presented by the Victorian Lyric Opera Company June 12-22, 2014 at the F. Scott Fitzgerald Theatre. The theatre is located at the Rockville Civic Center – 603 Edmonston Drive, in Rockville, MD.


Tonight, there will be a special $12 Preview Performance. This, and the subsequent evening performances June 13-14 and 20-21 are all held at 8 pm. The closing matinee on June 22nd will also start at 2 pm.

Because of the popularity of the swashbuckling The Pirates of Penzance with children and young people, VLOC has scheduled two special community outreach matinees on Sunday, June 14th and Saturday, June 21st. Special backstage tours and activities for children of all ages will begin at 12:45 pm, prior to the 2 pm show. Activities will include special photo opportunities with members of the cast, a treasure-chest craft project, Pirate “tattoos,” and refreshments for purchase for both kids and adults. Tickets are $24 for adults, $20 for seniors, and $16 for children and anyone with a valid student ID.The story of the creation and staging of

The Pirates of Penzance reads like something out of one of W.S. Gilbert’s serpentine plots. Gilbert & Sullivan began working on their new show on the heels of the explosive international popularity of H.M.S. Pinafore. At the time, U.S. copyright law offered no protection for foreign copyrights, allowing hundreds of unauthorized – one might say “pirated”- productions of Pinafore to spring up all across America, with none of the profits going to the authors.The only way to prevent this from occurring again with the new show was to stage simultaneous premiers in both the U.K. and the U.S. to establish copyright in both countries.

Gilbert & Sullivan brought the lead actors from England, hired an American chorus and rehearsed in total secrecy, posting guards outside the hall and keeping scripts under lock and key. The English premiere was just as hectic – held hurriedly in a little fishing village in Devon where a touring company of Pinafore was recruited to give a single performance of the new work to establish copyright.The show that emerged was the tale of an apprentice pirate who tries to win the hearts of the beautiful daughters of a Major General – as do many of his buccaneering cohorts. It proved a huge success on both sides of the Atlantic, and the author and composer managed to retain most, but not all, of the proceeds.

With Jeffrey Grayson Gates, Timothy Ziese, and Wendy A F G Stengel.
With Jeffrey Grayson Gates, Timothy Ziese, and Wendy Stengel.

It seems only appropriate that a show so concerned with copyright would be staged by a director, Felicity Ann Brown, who is also the librarian for Theatre, Dance and Performance Studies at the University of Maryland. “Pirates is the first Gilbert & Sullivan show I ever saw, and it has stuck with me my whole life. I remember how awestruck I was when I was watching the cartoon Animaniacs as a middle-schooler, and the “H.M.S. Yakko” came on and I realized I had been let in on this incredible extended inside-joke for specifically for Gilbert & Sullivan fans. It’s a part of our cultural literacy, particularly in comedy (of which W.S. Gilbert was a master), that warrants passing on to future generations,” says Brown. “My favorite VLOC performances are always the community outreach matinees, and getting to talk to kids who might be attending their very first opera, or maybe even their first theatre performance. I like talking to them about what goes into the shows behind the scenes, and how they can express their own creativity whether it be through performing on stage, or learning to run lights or build sets, or playing in the orchestra. There’s always a role in the production of theatre for everyone.”

This production of Pirates won’t be a static “park-and-bark” opera. There will be plenty of movement on stage to keep audience members of all ages entertained. “I come from a storybook-ballet theatre background, so movement is very important to me in staging and how the story of an operetta is told. I don’t believe in letting singers stand still on stage for too long. I find, listening to Sullivan’s scores, it’s impossible for me to sit still…there are so many intricate layers and subdivisions to his music…they just make me want to dance,” says Brown.

“Sullivan’s music is both widely appealing and impressively well-crafted,” says Music Director Joe Sorge, “and that is a major reason the G&S canon is still performed after 150 years. This music flows so easily that it is easy to underestimate its quality. It is lovely, and a pleasure to conduct with the fine musicians of our orchestra.”

For further information visit the VLOC website at www.vloc.org, or call the F. Scott Fitzgerald box office at  (240) 314-8690.

Timothy Ziese and Keely Borland.
Timothy Ziese and Keely Borland.

The Victorian Lyric Opera Company (VLOC) is a non-profit organization founded in 1978 to perform musical works of the Victorian era. VLOC’s first show was Trial By Jury paired with Cox and Box. Since that time the company has performed every operetta in the Gilbert & Sullivan canon, most of them many times over. Lately, VLOC has branched out into other European operettas and even grand opera, such as Mozart’s The Magic Flute & Donizetti’s The Elixir of Love. The mission of the company is to produce high quality performances of light operatic works, providing educational and performance opportunities to the community. In 2011,

The Victorian Lyric Opera Company merged with The Forgotten Opera Company. VLOC is a resident company at the F. Scott Fitzgerald Theatre at the Rockville Civic Center.

Pirates DCMTA banner

The Pirates of Penzance plays through June 22, 2014 at the Victorian Lyric Opera Company  at the F. Scott Fitzgerald Theatre  at the Rockville Civic Center – 603 Edmonston Drive, in Rockville, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (240) 314-8690, or purchase them online.


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