The Pirates of Penzance

Light opera with music by Arthur Sullivan and lyrics by W S Gilbert. Orphaned pirates, flat footed policemen, a bevy of blushing maidens and the pretty daughter of Major General Stanley - all the ingredients for a fabulous recipe of Gilbert and Sullivan at their very best. Sullivan's ever popular and memorable score contains some of his most beautiful writing as Gilbert, in his most topsy turvy of all plots, leads us through the squashbuckling world of young Frederic, the Pirate apprentice, who was born on February 29th in a leap year and therefore won't be 21 and come of age until he is 84!

Gilbert's unique tongue-twisting patter is set to Sullivan's most brilliant score of soaring melodies including The Modern Major General, Poor Wandering One, I am a Pirate King, Here's a First Rate Opportunity and A Policeman's Lot is Not a Happy One.

1981: Adephi Theatre - D'Oyly Carte Opera

1982: Drury Lane Theatre Royal - Joseph Papp version

1990: London Palladium - Joseph Papp version

1998: Queen's Theatre - D'Oyly Carte Opera

2000: Open Air Theatre - Joseph Papp version

2001: Savoy Theatre - D'Oyly Carte Opera

2001: Open Air Theatre - Joseph Papp version

2004: Savoy Theatre - D'Oyly Carte Opera

2004: London Coliseum - ENO Elijah Moshinsky version

2008: Gielgud Theatre - Carl Rosa Opera

2015: London Coliseum - ENO Mike Leigh version

2017: London Coliseum - ENO Mike Leigh version

The UK Premiere took place as a single basic 'UK performance rights' staging, effectively a staged-reading using scripts, on Tuesday 30 December 1879 at the (now demolished) Bijou Theatre in the Gerston Hotel, 77 Hyde Road, Paignton, Devon, the day before the show's Broadway Premiere at the (now demolished) Fifth Avenue Theatre in New York. The London West End Premiere took place on 3 April 1880 at the Opera Comique (now demolished, site of BBC Bush House at Aldwych) in a production that run for a year, up to 2 April 1881.

The D'Oyly Carte Opera Company presented Gilbert and Sullivan operas in London virtually every year in repertory seasons that extended up to three months at a time. These seasons, often staged at the Savoy Theatre or, more laterly, at Sadler's Wells Theatre, and would often include The Pirates of Penzance in the repertory run. The final London season, before the Company closed in 1982, was held from from 18 November 1981 to 27 February 1982 at the Adelphi Theatre in the West End and included The Pirates of Penzance in the repertory.

The D'Oyly Carte Opera Company was reformed between 1988 to 2004, during which time they presented The Pirates of Penzance in London's West End three times, in 1998, 2001, and 2004.

Joseph Papp's Broadway musical version, with musical adaptation by William Elliott, premiered in London's West End at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane in 1982, and run for 17-months, making it the longest running London production of Pirates. It was then re-staged for a touring production which comes into the West End in 1990 for a limited three-month season. The Open Air Theatre also revived the Joseph Papp version for two seasons, in 2000, and 2001.

Other Gilbert and Sullivan opera's seen in London include H M S Pinafore, The Gondoliers, The Mikado and Iolanthe. Adaptations include The Hot Mikado, by David H Bell and Rob Bowman.


1981 West End Revival at the Adephi Theatre

Opened 3 December 1981, Closed 26 December 1981 (in repertory) at the Adelphi Theatre

Presented for 15 performances by the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company in their 'final' London season from 18 November 1981 to 27 February 1982.

The cast featured John Ayldon as 'The Pirate King', Michael Buchan as 'Samuel', Meston Reid as 'Frederic', Patricia Leonard as 'Ruth', Alistair Donkin as 'Major-General Stanley', Vivian Tierney or Valerie Masterson as 'Mabel', Jill Pert as 'Edith', Helene Witcombe as 'Kate', Alexandra Hann as 'Isabel', and Clive Harre as 'The Sergeant of the Police', with the Chorus of the D'Oyly Carte.

Directed by Wilfred Judd, with choreography by Alan Spencer, and lighting by Joe Davis.


1982 West End Revival at the Drury Lane Theatre Royal

Previewed 17 May 1982, Opened 26 May 1982, Closed 29 October 1983 at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane

West End Premiere of the Joseph Papp musical version, with music adapted by William Elliott.

The original cast featured Tim Curry as 'The Pirate King', Sylvester McCoy as 'Samuel', Michael Praed as 'Frederic', Annie Ross as 'Ruth', George Cole as 'Major-General Stanley', Pamela Stephenson as 'Mabel', Karen Lancaster as 'Edith', Bonnie Langford as 'Kate', Louise Gold as 'Isabel', and Chris Langham as 'The Sergeant of the Police', with Carolyn Allen, Timothy Bentinck, Graham Bickley, Keith Binns, Peppi Borza, Ken Caswell, Mark Davis, Jackie Downey, Kevin Feighery, Alan Forrester, Andrew Golder, David Hampshire, Paul Hegarty, Simon Howe, Paul Leonard, Gaynor Miles, Clive Packham, Kevin A J Ranson, and Janet Shaw. Off-stage back-up singers: Christina Collier, John Denton, Mike Holoway, Michael Lessiter, Anita Pashley, Sarah Shipton, William Snape, and David Wheldon-Williams.

Directed by Wilford Leach, with choreography by Graciela Daniele, sets by Bob Shaw and Wilford Leach, costumes by Patricia McGourty, lighting by Jennifer Tipton, and sound by Don Ketteler.

The role of 'The Pirate King' was played by Tim Curry from Monday 17 May 1982 to Saturday 8 January 1982; and by Oliver Tobias from Monday 10 January 1983 to Saturday 29 October 1983.

The role of 'Major-General Stanley' was played by George Cole from Monday 17 May 1982 to Saturday 8 January 1982; and by Ronnie Fraser from Monday 10 January 1983 to Saturday 29 October 1983.

The role of 'Frederic' was played by Michael Praed from Monday 17 May 1982 to Saturday 26 February 1983; and by Peter Noone from Monday 28 February 1983 to Saturday 29 October 1983 (see below).

The role of 'Ruth' was played by Annie Ross for the entire run.

The role of 'Mabel' was played by Pamela Stephenson from Monday 17 May 1982 to Saturday 8 January 1982; and by Karen Lancaster from Monday 10 January 1983 to Saturday 29 October 1983.

Unfortunately Peter Noone - best known as 'Herman' of the pop group 'Herman's Hermits' - had a rather inauspicious start when, at his first performance on Monday 28 February 1983 he suffered an on-stage accident, slipping over and breaking his wrist, ending up with it in plaster. Due to this he was out of the show for around a week before he could return.

The cast changes on Monday 28 February 1983 also included Sarah Brightman taking over the role of 'Kate' from Bonnie Langford. Brightman left the show before it closed, with her understudy Teresa Wellard taking over the role for the last couple of months.


1990 West End Revival at the London Palladium

Previewed 23 March 1990, Opened 26 March 1990, Closed 30 June 1990 at the London Palladium

West End Revival of the Joseph Papp musical version, with music adapted by William Elliott.

The cast featured Paul Nicholas as 'The Pirate King', Richard Winch as 'Samuel', David Ian as 'Frederic', Patricia Lancaster as 'Ruth', Frank Thornton as 'Major-General Stanley', Bonnie Langford as 'Mabel', Kristin Blaikie as 'Edith', Alexandra Sumner as 'Kate', Sarah Sweeting as 'Isabel', and Simon Browne as 'The Sergeant of the Police', with Kate Arneil, Keith Micheal Boehm, Aubery Budd, Irene Cassidy, Paul Danbury, Francis Davidson, Fiona Dunbar, Andrew Fearn, Jody Hall, Phill Harrison, Peter Holbrook, Stuart Johns, Shaun Kerrison, Lucy Moorby, Andrew Newey, Michaela J Noakes, David O'Brien, Kevin Power, and Vincent Shiels. Off-stage back-up singers: Anna Daventry, Christopher Dee, Garrick Forbes, and Bill Snape.

Directed by Peter Walker based on the original by Wilford Leach, with choreography by Christopher Robinson based on the original by Graciela Daniele, sets by Bob Shaw and Wilford Leach, costumes by Patricia McGourty, lighting by Jenny Cane, and sound by Clement Rawling.

This production - which came into London's West End from a regional tour - was originally scheduled to open at the Palladium on Tuesday 27 March 1990, but instead it opened on Monday 26 March 1990 at the standard start time of 7.30pm.


1998 West End Revival at the Queen's Theatre

Previewed 18 December 1998, Opened 21 December 1998, Closed 9 January 1999 at the Queen's Theatre (now Sondheim Theatre)

Presented by the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company.

The cast featured Nicholas Todorovic as 'The Pirate King', Mark Hathaway as 'Samuel', Christopher Saunders as 'Frederic', Jill Pert as 'Ruth', Richard Suart as 'Major-General Stanley', Anna-Clare Monk as 'Mabel', Pauline Birchall as 'Edith', Gaynor Keeble as 'Kate', Catherine Mikic as 'Isabel', and Gareth Jones as 'The Sergeant of the Police', with Mark Anderson, Paul Barnhill, Stephen Brown, David Cavendish, Stephen Davies, Gaenor Ellis, Jane Faulkner, Gabrielle Fisher, Oliver Gibbs, Siobhan Gibson, Peter Grevatt, James Hodgson, Alison Rae Jones, Margaret Mary Kane, Hannah Kirk, Michelle Lokey-Smid, Hilton Marlton, Stephen McCarthy, Justin Miles Olden, Paul Reeves, Ben Stubbs, and Chloe Wright.

Directed by Stuart Maunder, with choreography by Lindsay Dolan, designs by Roger Kirk, and lighting by Chris Ellis.


2000 London Revival at the Open Air Theatre

Previewed 25 July 2000, Opened 28 July 2000, Closed 5 September 2000 (in repertory) at the Regent's Park Open Air Theatre

London revival of the Joseph Papp musical version, with music adapted by William Elliott.

Presented for 23 performances, and 4 preview performances (27 total).

The cast featured Jimmy Johnston as 'The Pirate King', John Owen-Jones as 'Samuel', Mark Umbers as 'Frederic', Gay Soper as 'Ruth', Paul Bradley as 'Major-General Stanley', Lucy Quick as 'Mabel', Sara Hillier as 'Edith', Joanne Redman as 'Kate', Fiona Dunn as 'Isobel', Bernadine Pritchett as 'Nora', and Stephen Matthews as 'The Sergeant of the Police', with Thomas Aaron, John Conroy, Tim Godwin, Nigel Harman, Paul Kissaun, Craig Parkinson, and Giles Taylor.

Directed by Ian Talbot, with choreography by Gillian Gregory, designs by Terry Parsons, lighting by Jason Taylor, and sound by Simon Whitehorn.


2001 West End Revival at the Savoy Theatre

Previewed 20 April 2001, Opened 24 April 2001, Closed 16 June 2001 at the Savoy Theatre

Presented by the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company.

The cast featured James Cleverton as 'The Pirate King', Stephen Davis as 'Samuel', Tim Rogers as 'Frederic', Patti Allison as 'Ruth', Royce Mills as 'Major-General Stanley', Charlotte Page or Alison Rae Jones as 'Mabel', Louise Crane as 'Edith', Michelle Lokey-Smid as 'Kate', Louise van de Bours as 'Isabel', and Gareth Jones as 'The Sergeant of the Police', with Gordon Adams, Davina Adshead, Dominic Barrand, Pamela Baxter, Trevor Conner, Stephen Davis, Megan Dorke, Jane Faulkner, Nathaniel Gibbs, Victoria Joyce, Anthea Kempston, Garry Kevin Pollack, Andrew MacNair, Dean MacRae, Rachel Munro, Benjamin Newhouse-Smith, George Newton-Fitzgerald, Wendy Robinson, Michael Robinson, Gabriella Santinelli, and Jeremy Sharples.

Directed by Stuart Maunder, with choreography by Lindsay Dolan, designs by Roger Kirk, and lighting by Chris Ellis.


2001 London Revival at the Open Air Theatre

Opened 27 August 2001, Closed 8 September 2001 at the Regent's Park Open Air Theatre

A major revival of Joseph Papp's musical version of Gilbert and Sullivan's The Pirates of Penzance in London starring Gary Wilmot and Su Pollard

The cast featured Gary Wilmot as 'The Pirate King', Mark Roper as 'Samuel', Joshua Dallas as 'Frederic', Su Pollard as 'Ruth', David Alder as 'Major-General Stanley', Karen Evans as 'Mabel', Sara Hillier as 'Edith', Alison Crowther as 'Kate', Eileen Hunter as 'Isobel', Catrin Darnell as 'Nora', and Giles Taylor as 'The Sergeant of the Police', with Jamie Beamish, Steve Bradford, Roger Dunkley, Howard Ellis, Pierre Fabre, Dickon Gough, Andrew Hutchings, Ramin Karimloo, and Sue O'Brien.

Directed by Ian Talbot, choreography by Gillian Gregory, designs by Terry Parsons, lighting by Jason Taylor, and sound by Simon Whitehorn.

This 2000 production returned to the Open Air Theatre in a re-staged version, with no preview performances, prior to embarking on a regional tour.

"There are monstrous liberties taken with the music, the orchestration is transformed for synthesisers and there's an Elvis Presley spoof thrown in. Yet I can't think of any production of this piece that is quite so much in keeping with the joyous anarchy of the 1880 original. The brillance of this production isn't just to do with the infectious pleasure of the cast, the sheer burlesque of the set and the excellence of Gary Wilmot as the Pirate King. It's even simpler. You can hear the words - most of them. Simple as that. And what words they are... Here the real novelty is the remarkable extent to which the lyrics are respected, not dumbed-down, and it gives you the opportunity to appreciate the subversive wit of W S Gilbert, almost wholly uncompromised." The Daily Mail

"This is nudge-nudge wink-wink entertainment but done with such infectious gusto by a company that believes in all the silliness before us that it's hard to resist. Gary Wilmot as the sword-swallowing Pirate King leading his band of lily-livered seadogs towards matrimony with a bunch of frilly girls, and Su Pollard as the devoted but ageing admirer of the naive hero, head an appealing cast that revels in Gilbert's tongue-twisting lyrics." The Times

The Pirates of Penzance in London at the Open Air Theatre opened on 27 August 2001, and closed on 8 September 2001


2004 West End Revival at the Savoy Theatre

Previewed 6 January 2004, Opened 8 January 2004, Closed 20 March 2004 (in repertory) at the Savoy Theatre

The D'Oyly Carte Opera Company, in association with Raymond Gabbay, present a major revival of Gilbert and Sullivan's The Pirates of Penzance in London starring Anthony Head

One of the best loved Savoy operas returns to its home stage in a lively new West End production. Rum and cutlasses at the ready for a night of toe-tapping, topsy-turvy entertainment! This is the rollicking tale of Frederic, a pirate apprentice, who was born on February 29 in a leap year and therefore won't be 21 until he's 84! Join him on his absurd escapades with the not quite so courageous Pirate King and the not quite as beautiful as she first seems, Ruth! Only in Gilbert's hilarious world could such a preposterous plot exist where swords are crossed with Major General Stanley, his very pretty daughters and a band of bumbling policemen.

Presented for 48 performances, and 2 preview performances (50 total).

The cast featured Anthony Head as 'The Pirate King', Hadley Fraser as 'Frederic', Kathryn Evans as 'Ruth', Jack Chissick as 'Major-General Stanley'., Elin Wyn Lewis as 'Mabel', David Burt as 'The Sergeant of the Police', and Jack Blumenau as 'Young Frederic'.

Directed by Steven Dexter, with designs by Francis O'Connor, and lighting by Andrew Bridge.

Performed in repertory with J M Barrie's Peter Pan.

"Theatrically Stephen Dexter holds fast to Gilbert's text; there's no modernisation here. His production brings out the fun, while the sets and costumes are lavish, colourful and in the best sense, traditional... Sullivan's terrific tunes emerge unscathed, and what you lose on the original orchestrations you gain with an upbeat musical presentation that shows how melodically impoverished so many modern musicals are. Only one of the enthusiastic and committed cast, Elin Wyn Lewis as Mable, has operatic training. The rest are experienced actors who do the best they can with the music. The star, Anthony Head, has no voice at all, but is a charismatic Pirate King, ably backed up by the veteran Jack Chissick's nouveau riche Major General and David Burt's drunken Sergeant of Police, who pretty much stole the show." The Mail on Sunday

"Director Steven Dexter has taken his cue from the one-day-only, first performance of The Pirates of Penzance at the Royal Bijou Theatre, Paignton, in 1879, and has turned it into a sort of end-of-pier concert party, while arranger John Rigby has updated the musical style to be played by a kind of jazz combo... Though there are some good performances, vocal prowess is not notably evident and TV favourite Anthony Head lacks swash and buckle as the Pirate King... The outstanding vocal work comes from Elin Wyn Lewis making an attractive and auspicious West End debut as Mabel. Hadley Fraser and Jack Chissick both lack vocal weight as Frederic and the Major-General but experienced Kathryn Evans does a great job with Ruth... If the show cannot be classed as vintage Gilbert and Sullivan it at least makes for a cheerful and undemanding night. Definitely worth a visit." The Sunday Express

"At least Gilbert's words remain more or less intact in Steven Dexter's brash, good-humoured staging in evocative, if low-budget, sets and colourful costumes by Francis O'Connor... Hadley Fraser sings an engaging Frederic, Elin Wyn Lewis has most of the notes for Mabel and Anthony Head is all tongue-in-cheek swashbuckling charisma as the Pirate King. The best performance is Kathryn Evans's Ruth - far too glamorous, yet timed with deadpan comic bravura. But sit well back from the stage if you don't want to be deafened by the amps." The Sunday Times

The Pirates of Penzance in London at the Savoy Theatre previewed from 6 January 2004, opened on 8 January 2004, and closed on 20 March 2004 (in repertory)


2004 London Revival at the London Coliseum

Opened 4 December 2004, Closed 15 February 2005 (in repertory) at the London Coliseum

Presented for 13 performances by English National Opera, in assocation with Chicago Lyric Opera.

The cast featured Karl Daymond as 'The Pirate King', Stephen Gadd as 'Samuel', Mark Wilde as 'Frederic', Jean Rigby as 'Ruth', Richard Suart as 'Major-General Stanley', Jeni Bern or Victoria Joyce as 'Mabel', Julianne De Villiers as 'Edith', Doreen Curran as 'Kate', Fiona Canfield as 'Isobel', and Peter Rose or Graeme Danby as 'The Sergeant of the Police', with the Chorus of the English National Opera.

Directed by Elijah Moshinsky, with with choreography by Denni Sayers, sets by Michael Yeargan, costumes by Anne Tilby, and lighting by Duane Schuler.


2008 West End Revival at the Gielgud Theatre

Previewed 18 February 2008, Opened 19 February 2008, Closed 1 March 2008 at the Gielgud Theatre

The Carl Rosa Opera Company present a major revival of Gilbert and Sullivan's The Pirates of Penzance in London starring Jo Brand

The cast featured Steven Page as 'The Pirate King', Michael Kerry as 'Samuel', David Curry as 'Frederic', Beverley Klein as 'Ruth', Barry Clark as 'Major-General Stanley', Deborah Meyers as 'Mabel', Sophie Louise Dann as 'Edith', Lesley Cox as 'Kate', Victoria Ward as 'Isabel', and Jo Brand as 'The Sergeant of the Police', with Humphrey Berney, Fred Broom, Ian Caddick, Deborah Crowe, Curtis Dabeck, Francesca Ellis, David Faulds, Ross Finnie, David Furnell, Toby Hunt, Melanie Lodge, Anna Lowe, Martin Milnes, Amy Pedwell, Betsy Pennington, Jane Quinn, Ted Schmitz, Carmen Vass, and Peter Willcock.

Directed and designed by Peter Mulloy, with choreography Steve Elias, and lighting by Mark Doubleday.

Presented by the Carl Rosa Opera Company in association with Raymond Gubbay, in a season that included The Mikado (30 January to 9 February 2008), and Iolanthe (11 to 16 February 2008).

"You don't think of Jo Brand as lacking in confidence. Yet here she is in her programme biography 'apologising in advance for a mediocre to dreadful performance'... There is no doubt she has more of a throaty, bar-room rasp than a voice and, even as the only member of the cast with a microphone, it rarely rises above a characteristically gravelly croak. The performance itself needs no apology, though. Miss Brand brings all her naughty, winking, doleful charm to this dozy copper, taking swigs from a hipflask, knitting on duty and doing things with her truncheon that Gilbert never envisaged. I doubt we'll be seeing more of her in G and S but this is an idiosyncratic party piece to cherish... Peter Mulloy's production for the Carl Rosa Opera Company finds all the unsinkable fun in this classic caper... and if there is only so much contemporary comedy to mine from Gilbert's satire on the Victorian sense of duty, there are some splendid performances to keep us happily absorbed." The Daily Mail

"Inventively cast as the Sergeant of Police, Jo Brand's constabulary dutiesincluded waving a football rattle, getting out her knitting and poking hertruncheon up the Major General's ample postliminary posterior, to borrow hisown mode of speech. She may not qualify as an all-out bass, but she can stay in tune and added a whacky flourish to this slick, cheerful Pirates of Penzance... In Peter Mulloy's Victorian stagings, The Mikado floated shakily, Iolanthe almost sank, but Pirates of Penzance, spruced up by some Johnny Depp-inspired wiggery and seaside picture-postcard fun, was in full-sail. The music, zestfully conducted by Richard Balcombe and expertly played, is Sullivan's best. The rip-offs - Verdi, Schubert, Anglican Church responses - are shamelessly well sustained, the tunes more memorable, the comedy sharper. And Gilbert's text still works even without contemporary frills. What really counted, however, was the superior cast." The London Evening Standard

"Dour comic Jo Brand plays the Sergeant of Police, and her deliberately hapless 'what? who me?' performance adds a hilarious dollop of extra topsy-turviness to a show already spinning with it... But Brand is far from the show's only attraction. Tenor David Curry brings a stylish voice and dashing presence to the hero Frederic, and Steven Page is superb as the swaggering Pirate King. Beverly Klein gives real comic depth to the role of the forsaken piratical maid-of-all-work, Ruth. Deborah Myers struggles a little with the vocal demands of the role of Mabel but Barry Clark enunciates the Major-General's famous patter-song beautifully... A real G&S treat." The London Metro

The Pirates of Penzance in London at the Gielgud Theatre previewed from 18 February 2008, opened on 19 February 2008, and closed on 1 March 2008


2015 London Revival at the London Coliseum

Opened 9 May 2015, Closed 4 July 2015 (in repertory) at the London Coliseum

Presented for 15 performances by English National Opera.

The cast featured Joshua Bloom as 'The Pirate King', Alexander Robin Baker as 'Samuel', Robert Murray as 'Frederic', Rebecca de Pont Davies as 'Ruth', Andrew Shore as 'Major-General Stanley', Claudia Boyle as 'Mabel', Soraya Mafi as 'Edith', Angharad Lyddon as 'Kate', Lydia Marchione as 'Isobel', and Jonathan Lemalu as 'The Sergeant of the Police', with the Chorus of the English National Opera.

Directed by Mike Leigh, with choreography by Francesca Jaynes, designs by Alison Chitty, and lighting by Paul Pyant.


2017 London Revival at the London Coliseum

Opened 9 February 2017, Closed 25 March 2017 (in repertory) at the London Coliseum

Presented for 16 performances by English National Opera.

The cast featured Ashley Riches as 'The Pirate King', Johnny Herford as 'Samuel', David Webb as 'Frederic', Lucy Schaufer as 'Ruth', Andrew Shore as 'Major-General Stanley', Soraya Mafi as 'Mabel', Katie Coventry as 'Edith', Angharad Lyddon as 'Kate', Lydia Marchione as 'Isobel', and John Tomlinson or Mark Richardson as 'The Sergeant of the Police', with the Chorus of the English National Opera.

Directed by Sarah Tipple based on the original by Mike Leigh, with choreography by Francesca Jaynes, designs by Alison Chitty, and lighting by Paul Pyant.