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School of Theatre & Dance takes on ‘Pirates of Penzance’

Pirates of Penzance Actors

The swashbuckling Gilbert and Sullivan operetta “Pirates of Penzance” will light up the Lyell B. Clay Concert Theatre at West Virginia University April 6-9.

The dashing, comedic operetta follows Frederic, played by musical theatre major Casey Johnson, on his path to finding true love. Released from his indenture to a band of pirates on his 21st birthday, he meets Mable, played by graduate music performance student Jenna Weaver, and falls instantly in love. When Frederic realizes he was born on Leap Day, making him only five years old and slave to the pirates for another sixty years, he works to escape their clutches and be reunited with his true love.

Gilbert and Sullivan’s lively tale brings together many departments in WVU’s College of Creative Arts under the direction of Lee Blair, associate professor in the School of Theatre and Dance.

The show is choreographed by Yoav Kaddar, associate professor and director of dance, and James Kenon Mitchell, visiting assistant professor of opera, lends his talents as music director. Set and costume for the production are handled by graduate design and technology students James Raymond and Lauren Brennan, respectively. Josh Williamson, director of the School of Theatre and Dance, designed the show’s lighting.

The structure of “Pirates of Penzance” has created cross-training opportunities for the student actors, challenging them to bring music, acting and dance into one cohesive production. 

“The whole ensemble has a sense of play, which has been awesome for creativity,” said Rick Mugrage, a Master of Arts in Acting candidate. “Lee always gives us freedom to explore, and the whole rehearsal process has been so much fun. This has really enhanced the feeling of collaborative unity with the cast, choreographer, director and music director.”

Blair explained his vision for bringing Gilbert and Sullivan’s world to the WVU stage saying, “the rehearsal process of ‘Pirates of Penzance’ has been full of fun and laughter – which is how I like to work as a director and indicative of the story we are presenting. It’s a fun and wonderful romp of a show about love, intrigue and duty to one’s true calling.  It is well-crafted by its creators as they blended complex musicality, satirical lyrics and, of course, swash-buckling pirates with fair maidens to tell this melodramatic tale."

Shows begin at 7:30 p.m. April 6-8 and at 2 p.m. April 9 in the Lyell B. Clay Concert Theatre at the Creative Arts Center. Tickets are available through the WVU Box Office at 304-293-SHOW or by visiting Ticketmaster.