‘Pirates Of Penzance’ At Muhlenberg, Oct. 28 – Nov. 6

Muhlenberg’s ‘Pirates of Penzance’

features high seas and high Cs,

Oct. 28 through Nov. 6

Samuel Reyes’ choreography, Charles Richter’s direction

propel Gilbert and Sullivan’s 136-year-old comic opera

out of the past and into the mainstream

Allentown, PA — Fresh direction and choreography will paint a new face on a classic Gilbert and Sullivan comic operetta this fall, as the Muhlenberg College theater and dance department presents “The Pirates of Penzance,” Oct. 28 – Nov. 6.

“Expect a night of great family entertainment,” says theater professor Charles Richter, who directs the production. “It’s a work of comic genius and a real pleasure to direct.”

Music director Ed Bara and choreographer Samuel Antonio Reyes add a modern spin while also highlighting the original conventions of the play. Reyes choreographed Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “In the Heights” for Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre, this past July. Bara, a member of the music department faculty, also played the lead as a guest artist in the 2014 Muhlenberg production of Kurt Weill’s American opera, “Street Scene.”

“Ed has been a mainstay of the music department for years, and is an expert at coaching students to produce the sort of sound that this show demands,” Richter says. “Sammy is our hip-hop teacher. His choreography is very spunky — really different and interesting.”

Reyes says he loves “Pirates” as much as he loves working with Richter, and that he expects that audiences will be excited by his choreography.

“It’s challenging to perform opera while you’re also moving to very specific stylized movements, gestures, and rhythms,” Reyes says. “This show features such amazing young talent.”

“Pirates” tells the story of an accidental pirate’s apprentice named Frederic and his swashbuckling misadventures on the high seas. Along the way, he encounters the beautiful Mabel, the deceitful Ruth, the powerful Pirate King, and the absurd Major-General Stanley, who patter-sings the famous “I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General” towards the end of the first act.

“It’s a right work out,” says Nicky Rosolino, one of the two actors who will play Major-General Stanley, of his big song. “There is nothing quite like standing on top of a barrel and boasting about your range of talents to a crowd of pirates and adopted daughters.”

Jake Parisse, the other Major-General, says, “Charlie makes sure that the comedic rhythm of the character is maintained while encouraging Nicky and me to make very different and unique choices.”

Two sets of principal actors will alternate performances to allow vocal rest between shows — and to showcase the talents of the theater and dance department. The cast performs the show’s demanding score with a 21-piece orchestra — and without benefit of microphones.

“I’d think about coming twice,” Richter says. “The show is different with each cast. I think both of them have some really great comics and some really great singers. There are bright futures here.”

Between the Mainstage season and Summer Music Theatre, this is Muhlenberg’s fifth production of “Pirates.” Members of past productions are invited to return to campus for a reunion reception after the performance on Saturday, Nov. 5.

The last production, in 2005, featured what Richter calls “an all-star cast” of actors who have gone on to high-profile success, including Frankie J. Grande (“Rock of Ages,” “Mamma Mia!” on Broadway), George Psomas (“Fiddler on the Roof,” “South Pacific” on Broadway), and Michael Biren (national tour of “Billy Elliot”), among others.

“The Pirate King was one of my favorite roles at Muhlenberg,” say Psomas, who played the fierce but loveable rogue in Richter’s last production. “Who doesn’t want to sing that incredible music, lead a band of pirates, and carry a sword? The experience taught me so much about playing into the unique style and comedy of Gilbert and Sullivan, and it also taught me that I am capable of growing mutton chops.”

Along with “HMS Pinafore” and “The Mikado,” “The Pirates of Penzance” stands the test of time as one of Gilbert and Sullivan’s most widely produced and well-received operettas, Richter says. Its wry humor, clever lyrics, and catchy tunes make it popular even 136 years after its premiere.

“The play was written by the best comic writer of his time and the best composer of his time,” Richter says. “It’s a parody of 19th century melodramas and 19th century grand opera. All kinds of zany plot devices happen. Modern audiences have the best time with it. It’s opera for people who think operas are ridiculous.”

The production is family friendly, and young audiences are encouraged to attend. Children who attend the matinee performance on Sunday, Nov. 6 dressed as pirates can attend for just $4.

Thursday, Nov. 3 will be an Accessible Performance, with Open Captioning for patrons with hearing loss and Audio Description for patrons who are blind or low-vision. Please reserve tickets in advance for the accessible section of the performance by calling Jess Bien at 484-664-3087 or emailing boxoffice@muhlenberg.edu.

“The Pirates of Penzance” will be performed in the Empie Theatre, in the Baker Center for the Arts. Performances are Friday, Oct. 28, at 8 p.m.; Saturday, Oct. 29, at 2 and 8 p.m.; Sunday, Oct. 30, at 2 p.m.; Nov. 3-5, at 8 p.m.; and Sunday, Nov. 6, at 2 p.m. Regular admission is $22. Youth and student tickets are $8, and groups of 15 or more can purchase discount tickets for $16. Tickets and information are available at muhlenberg.edu/theatre or 484-664-3333.

Founded in 1848, Muhlenberg College is a highly selective, private, four-year residential college located in Allentown, PA., approximately 90 miles west of New York City. With an undergraduate enrollment of approximately 2,200 students, Muhlenberg College is dedicated to shaping creative, compassionate, collaborative leaders through rigorous academic programs in the arts, sciences, business, education and public health. A member of the Centennial Conference, Muhlenberg competes in 22 varsity sports. Muhlenberg is affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Muhlenberg offers Bachelor of Arts degrees in theater and dance. The Princeton Review ranked Muhlenberg’s theater program No. 1 in the country in its 2017 edition, and has consistently ranked the program in the top twelve in the nation. The Fiske Guide to Colleges lists both the theater and dance programs among the top small college programs in the United States. Muhlenberg is one of only eight colleges to be listed in Fiske for both theater and dance.

Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre 32nd Season

Allentown, Pa. (May 15, 2012) — If you’ve planned a wedding recently, then you’ll find something familiar about the lineup for this summer’s Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre season. In the spirit of bridal couture, the 32nd MSMT festival will feature something old, something new, something borrowed, and something — well, purple.

The “something new” is the regional professional premiere of “Hairspray: The Broadway Musical” that opens the season, June 13 – July 1. Adapted from the John Waters movie that was partially filmed right here in the Lehigh Valley, “Hairspray” will feature Angela DeAngelo as Tracy Turnblad and SMT mainstay Bill Mutimer as her mother, Edna. MSMT co-founder Charles Richter directs.

The “something old” is Gilbert & Sullivan’s HMS Pinafore,” the duo’s first commercial hit (way back in 1878), and a precursor to the Broadway blockbusters of today. The show runs July 11-29. Muhlenberg Theatre & Dance Department chair James Peck directs.

This season’s production for young audiences, Harold and the Purple Crayon,” accounts for both the “borrowed” and the purple. The play is a movement theater adaptation of Crockett Johnson’s beloved children’s book, created by Enchantment Theatre Company. “Harold” plays June 20 – July 28.

“Hairspray: The Broadway Musical” features a book by Mark O’Donnell, music by Marc Shaiman, and lyrics by Shaiman and Scott Wittman. It’s 1962. Beehive hairdos are in, rock ‘n’ roll is young, and Baltimore teenager Tracy Turnblad dreams of dancing on “The Corny Collins Show.” Plump and proud, Tracy wins a role on the program, then uses her newfound fame as a platform to rally support for racial integration.

Winner of eight Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Book, and Score, “Hairspray” is a big, goofy, good-hearted celebration of young people, rock ‘n’ roll, and doing the right thing. Ken Butler is the musical director, and Karen Dearborn is the choreographer.

“HMS Pinafore” was the first big hit by W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan, whose 19th century comic operas have been featured regularly on the MSMT stage. In this romantic comedy, Ralph Rackstraw, “the smartest lad in all the fleet,” is in love with the captain’s daughter, Josephine, but her father has a more sophisticated suitor in mind.

Full of hijinks and silliness, as well as the duo’s trademark wit, satire, and tunefulness, the production features musical direction by Ed Bara and choreography by AlexJo Natale.

“Harold and the Purple Crayon” adapts Crockett’s 1955 picture book about a curious four-year-old boy who, with his purple crayon, has the power to create a world of his own simply by drawing it. The play follows Harold’s adventures as he explores oceans, braves dragons, and finds friendship.

The production is created by Enchantment Theatre Company, whose “Cinderella” was a hit during the 2011 MSMT season. The show tells Harold’s story through movement, narration, and imagination, with innovative animated scenery and an original score by Charles Gilbert. Enchantment founder Leslie Reidel directs.

The show is recommended for ages 4 and up. The actors wear masks and full-body costumes throughout the show, and parents of young children are encouraged to bring their children at least ten minutes early to meet members of the cast without their masks on. Cast members will be available after the show to talk to audience members and sign autographs.

Tickets for the first four performances of both “Hairspray” and “HMS Pinafore” are $32 regular admission; seniors are $28; students and children are $18. For the remaining 11 performances, tickets are $38 regular admission; seniors, $35; students and children, $20.

All tickets to “Harold and the Purple Crayon” are $10 for June performances and $12 for July performances.

Sundays are Family Matinee day; tickets for children ages 5-18 are just $10 when purchased with a full-price or senior ticket. (Limit two discounted tickets per full-price ticket.)

Subscriptions to “Hairspray” and “HMS Pinafore” are available for $50 for the first four shows, or $60 for the remaining 11 shows. Group discounts are available for groups of 15 or more.

Open Captioning and Audio Description will be available at the Sunday, June 24, performance of “Hairspray.” Call 484-664-3087 for tickets in the accessible section of this performance. 

Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre performance information and tickets are available at 484-664-3693 or www.muhlenberg.edu/SMT.