The Pirates of Penzance, or The Slave of Duty – W. S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan

I saw a school performance of this comical musical when I was about six and the movie version after another six years of life and was confounded both times. Watching a dress rehearsal at the New York State Theater a generation later proved an amply better experience. For those as ignorant as I, the story centers on Frederic, who was apprenticed to a group of incompetent pirates until his 21st birthday. Now un-indentured he swears to bring justice to his former comrades, as Frederic is a slave to duty—whatever that duty might be to: ship or society. There is, naturally, much singing, dancing, romance, humor (farce, social satire, and political commentary all of which works as well today as 130 years ago), and delightful chaos before everything, equally naturally, works itself out. I was certainly taken by the performance even if dancing wasn’t a primary skill for many of the tertiary cast members.