Comedy, songs, love and complicated, leap year math misfortunes—just a few things students can expect to see in the upcoming OU comic opera, Pirates of Penzance.
“Pirates,” an 1880 W. S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan collaboration, tells the tale of Frederic, a 21-year-old man who is finishing his apprenticeship with a rambunctious group of pirates. Upon being released, Frederic meets and falls in love with the major general’s daughter, Mabel.
Unfortunately, as soon as love ensues, Frederic, whose birthday is Feb. 29, learns that his apprenticeship is far from over. Due to the fact that he must serve until his 21st birthday and that day only comes once every leap year, he is indentured to the pirates for another 63 years.
Despite how long that seems, Mabel agrees to wait for him faithfully.
Gilbert and Sullivan shaped musical theater in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Some of their best-known comic operas include “H.M.S. Pinafore,” “The Mikado” and, of course, “Pirates of Penzance.”
Known for the absurd worlds and humorous music created in their operas, many are still popular and performed worldwide.
OU’s rendition will feature junior Timothy Brown in the adoring role of the loyally-enslaved Frederic.
Brown, a vocal performance major and journalism minor, has performed in two fully-staged operas and numerous choral concerts and opera workshop performances during his time at Oakland. However, Brown said that Frederic is the largest role he has ever played and it is undoubtedly his favorite.
Brown chose to attend Oakland for one important reason: Dr. Drake Dantzler, assistant professor of music and director of the opera area.
Brown said the most important thing for undergraduate performance majors to consider in choosing a school is the voice teacher.
Having studied under Dantzler in high school, it was an easy choice for him.
“Though being admitted to other highly regarded music schools in the country, such as Indiana University and Michigan State, I knew that Dr. Dantzler was the right person who would put me in the best position to achieve my goals,” Brown said.
Dantzler and Brown, having worked closely for a few years, are now getting to experience what it’s like to work together as director and one of the lead actors.
“Tim’s great,” Dantzler said, “He’s open to tackling new challenges. This role is substantially larger than anything he has performed before, so it has been a daunting task at times. He has made substantial growth.”
Dantzler said that Tim’s uniquely large (loud) voice and silly and dutiful personality are intrinsic to Frederic.
Brown has a similarly fond opinion of the young pirate, though he didn’t audition with a narrow focus on playing him.
“I auditioned for Pirates because I want to get as much performance experience as possible while I’m here at OU,” he said. “I knew that I’d enjoy performing in such a fun and lively show, whether it was in a lead or supporting role.”
When asked what students can expect from attending the Pirates performance, Dantzler said, “Lots of tuneful music and an evening full of comedy and hijinks. Students will recognize the music without knowing where they heard it before. Gilbert and Sullivan music is deeply engrained in our society’s ear.”
Brown hopes to expose students with limited opera experience to the beauty of the art form.
“Opera is stereotypically known as boring and uneventful, while it is actually quite the opposite,” Brown said. “I hope that the humorous, light-hearted nature of this show makes students want to attend and that they leave the performance with a new appreciation for opera and the performing arts.”