It’s late one night in 1873. At the abandoned chapel on Major-General Stanley’s recently purchased estate, Frederic just learned that his pirating days may not be over. He’s not fulfilled the agreed terms of his apprenticeship. “I’ve just discovered that I was born in leap-year and [my twenty-first] birthday will not be reached by me till 1940!” he tells his beloved, Mabel, who is distraught by the news.
This spring, Pensacola Christian College students enjoyed the hilarious hijinks and iconic music of Gilbert and Sullivan’s operetta, The Pirates of Penzance, which was last performed on campus as a Fine Arts Series production in 2014. Meant to be a ship’s pilot, Frederic was accidentally apprenticed to a pirate by his nursemaid. Having left the crew after 21 years, he’s soon frustrated by his crewmates, policemen, beautiful maidens, and his oddly spaced birthdays in the search for love and happiness.
Before taking charge of this production, performing arts faculty member Dan Webb has directed musical Fine Arts productions on two other occasions during his time at PCC. Along with musical director Dr. Charles Bombard and vocal coach Andy Cole, the cast, crew, and orchestra worked together to bring this production to life. “Gilbert and Sullivan present a unique opportunity to update comedy to a modern audience, but the real draw that pulls me back time after time is the opportunity to work with the chorus and the musical leads,” said Mr. Webb. “PCC has such a unique atmosphere for its music and speech students that working with them in tandem is always a joy.”
Over the last several months, the cast met for rehearsals, going over lines, lyrics, stage movement, blocking, scene changes, and makeup. Throughout rehearsals, Mr. Webb has seen the cast grow in their roles and alongside each other. “Between Fine Arts, classes, and workshops, I have seen many different groups of students, but this group is unique in that they not only encourage and energize each other, but they also hold each other accountable,” he explained. “Their dedication and spirit are truly like no other production I’ve worked with to date.”
“PCC has such a unique atmosphere for its music and speech students that working with them in tandem is always a joy.”
As the Pirate King to whom Frederic is apprenticed, Coda Owens (Fr., FL) was honored to join the long list of those who have portrayed the role. Throughout rehearsals, he found new ways to build up and add to the character. “A musical incorporates blocking, [stage movement], singing technique, and characterization,” he said. “Aspects of each can be compromised with the other and sometimes it’s difficult to find a balance, but once you find it, it’s this magical sensation that can make theater challenging yet rewarding.”
“Working with performers like Anna Overton, Dwight Bayer, and Stormy Helms (Graduate Assistant) [who played Mabel] has been such an incredible experience,” Coda continued. “They, as well as the entire cast, have completely blown my mind as we worked together to fulfill Mr. Dan Webb’s vision. They each pushed me to work harder, and they kept pushing themselves past incredible limits.”
Anna Overton (So., OH) felt as though she inherited playing Ruth, the nursemaid whose misunderstanding is responsible for Frederic’s predicament. “My mom was the character Ruth when she was here [at PCC],” she said. “I thought it would be cool to at least be in the chorus, but then got [the role of] Ruth! The character has come full circle!”
Having a seven-year history in live theater, Dwight Bayer (Sr., IL), who played Frederic, was thrilled to be part of the classic operetta. “A specific scene I really enjoy is when the maidens sing ‘Go to glory and the grave!’ It’s got all the musical theater vibes and it always makes me smile,” he said. “I hope the audience learned to not take life too seriously. This is a fun show, but perhaps it helped audience members relax and take a break from the craziness of life.”
Chloe Goforth (Jr., FL) auditioned to be in the play with her sister, Bailey (FL), a graduating senior. They played two of Major-General Stanley’s daughters, Isabel and Kate. “Our schedules were extremely packed outside of rehearsals. We knew we would rarely see each other if we did not do this,” said Chloe. “I don’t regret trying out. Spending almost every evening with my sister/best friend was a great decision!”
“I hope the audience saw how much we put into this so that we can glorify God through the gifts He has given us.”
Freshman Samuel Sainsbury (FL), who played a pirate, found an encouraging atmosphere and camaraderie among his castmates. “Throughout this production, I have made so many good new friends and have created so many memories,” he said. “That is one of the best things that you get from working with a great cast. The friendships and memories are worth getting into a production, and I hope the audience saw how much we put into this so that we can glorify God through the gifts He has given us.”
Students attended Fine Arts during their final week of classes for the year. Many of them appreciated the time and effort their peers put into their roles in the operetta. “Great job, guys! I know you’ve been working on this almost the entire semester. I really liked the Modern Major-General song—that one was fun!—and also any of the songs with all the pirates because they were catchy and upbeat,” said Josh Casis (Fr., CA). “I knew nothing about [this production]: not the music, not the storyline—nothing—but it was phenomenal.”
Groups of friends and dates enjoyed attending the musical comedy together—one last shared experience before jumping into finals. Soon, they’ll part ways, whether for the summer or as graduates. But for the moment, time paused, and they enjoyed a laugh or two with The Pirates of Penzance.