Pirates Set Sail at the Excel Theatre in Tipperary

 Karen Corbett


Karen Corbett



Tipperary Musical Society wowed audiences recently with their 2018 production of the Gilbert and Sullivan classic, ‘Pirates of Penzance’.

‘Pirates of Penzance’ was the very first musical ever staged by Tipperary Musical Society back in 1947 and again in 1982 when the Society reformed. Coincidentally, the director that year was Mr. Michael O’Donoghue who also directed this year’s production! While perhaps not the most straight forward plot ever, this somewhat farcical and witty story of the ‘Pirates of Penzance’ was wonderfully played out by the members of Tipperary Musical Society.

Set in Cornwall in the early 1800’s, ‘Pirates’ tells the story of Frederic, who was mistakenly apprenticed to be a pirate instead of a pilot, by his devoted nursemaid, Ruth. Upon turning twenty-one, Frederic renounces the pirate-life and decides to dedicate his life to the extermination of his once beloved comrades.

Despite his nursemaid’s assertions that she is both young and pretty enough for him to marry, Frederic falls in love with Mabel, one of Major General Stanley’s (many!) daughters. In a bid to ensure that all his daughters are not captured by the pirates, Major General Stanley tells the pirates that, like them, he too is an orphan, knowing that this information will elicit a favourable response from the hapless pirates.

Act Two opens with Major General Stanley lamenting a lie he has told the pirates while Frederic is informed by the Pirate King and his nursemaid Ruth, that having been born on February 29th on a leap year, he is to bound to remain a pirate until his twenty-first birthday, not his twenty-first year!

Bound by sense of duty, Frederic reluctantly agrees to give up his love Mabel and re-join his former comrades. The local constabulary are now on the case of the pirates and following a game of cat and mouse, a melee ensues. The second act closes with Frederic reunited with Mabel and the Major General Stanley’s daughters all promised in marriage to the pirates, who are, Ruth assures the Sergeant of Police, ‘nobelmen gone wrong’.

The entertainment began before the curtain went up - once inside the newly refurbished Excel foyer, we were greeted by both pirate and policeman, who had cast aside their rivalries to welcome the incoming audience! Once we had taken our seats in the front row of the balcony, my pint-sized comrades (aged seven and nine) were tickled pink to see the orchestra decked out in pirate and maiden garb.

Tipperary Musical Society has a wealth of talent to choose from and front line was particularly well cast. Newcomers to the Society, Emmet Donlon and Sinead O’Donovan, were suberb in their roles as Frederic and Mabel respectively, while society stalwart Deirdre Ryan gave another stellar performance as Ruth, Frederic’s nursemaid.

The Society were delighted to welcome back Cathal O’Donoghue and John Murphy, and with good reason too; both gave outstanding and highly entertaining performances as Major General Stanley and the Pirate King. Aidan O’Connell (Sergeant of Police) and his band of ruddy-faced policemen drew huge laughs from the audience in Act Two, while Jack Sharpe (Samuel), Olwyn Grogan (Edith), Siobhan Scanlon (Kate) and Alma Quinn (Isobel) gave wonderful performances in their supporting roles.

It would be remiss of me not to mention the chorus and in this particular case, what a chorus they were! Under the expert tutelage of Helen Colbert (Musical Director/Chorus Mistress) and Dermot O’Dwyer (Rehearsal Pianist), both leads and chorus were finely tuned and effortlessly delivered four and five part harmonies throughout.

A special mention must go to ‘Hail Poetry’ in Act One, sung acapella by a chorus of forty plus, as a particular hi-light of the production.

Choreographer Miriam Ball did a fantastic job with the choreography as policeman and pirate, maiden and Major General, moved seamlessly around the stage. The choreography was very much in keeping with the era and stereotype of each group and was particularly well thought out by the choreographer and executed by a fantastically able cast and chorus.

Huge congratulations to director Michael O’Donoghue and Tipperary Musical Society for delivering a highly entertaining production of ‘Pirates of Penzance’.