- The Washington Times - Friday, October 13, 2006

By Christine B. Callaghan, age 14

Bishop O’Connell High School, Arlington

The Arlington Players opened their 56th season with Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Pirates of Penzance” at the Thomas Jefferson Theater in Arlington on Sept. 29.

Writer Sir William Gilbert and composer Sir Arthur Sullivan are famous for their comic operas. Written in 1879, “The Pirates of Penzance” is an operetta, or short opera, about a young man named Frederic who was apprenticed to a band of pirates by his nanny, Ruth, when he was a boy.

This was, of course, a mistake, as he was meant to be apprenticed to a pilot, not a pirate. The agreement was that on his 21st birthday, he would be allowed to leave the pirates if he wished.

When he finally is released from his apprenticeship, Frederic leaves the pirates’ den and stumbles upon some very pretty maidens — all daughters of Major General Stanley — preparing for a picnic. Frederic warns them that their picnic area is actually a pirates’ haven. Because he has never seen such beautiful women in his life, he proposes to every one of the maidens, but all except Mabel refuse.

Suddenly, the pirate king enters the scene and tells Frederic that he has some important news: Frederic was born on Feb. 29, in a leap year. Therefore, with a birthday only every four years, Frederic technically will not finish his service for a very long time.

At this point in the play, hilarious chaos begins, with lively songs and dances between the pirates and the maidens. Major General Stanley sings the funniest song I’ve ever heard, and Frederic calls for the policemen, who also sing and dance. The pirates and policemen fight, and the play keeps going until Sergeant Policeman invokes a truce in the name of Queen Victoria.

At this point, Ruth tells the pirates that they all are sons of noblemen, which makes them suitable to marry the major general’s daughters, and the play comes to a close.

I had many favorite characters in this play. The pirate king was energetic, and Mabel had an incredibly beautiful voice. The major general’s song (“I am the very model of a modern major general”) was hilarious. The various songs and dances by the pirates, the maidens and the policemen were all funny and lively.

I enjoyed all the different characters, and the music and witty lyrics were the best. The costumes were bright and colorful. The choreography was great, and the orchestra, which sounded excellent, was an important part of the performance.

I would recommend this operetta to anyone who is looking for a good family play. Younger children may not understand all that is going on, but the wonderful music and dancing surely will entertain them.

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