Tickets now on sale for Gilbert & Sullivan Society of Houston’s The Pirates of Penzance at Hobby Center for the Performing Arts the last two weekends of July

Tickets to Gilbert & Sullivan Society of Houston’s July production of The Pirates of Penzance at the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts are now on sale to the public. Two performances are set for Saturday evenings (July 22 and July 29), while two are Sunday matinees (July 23 and July 30).

Serving as stage director is theater, opera and film professional Nicole Kenley-Miller, while noted conductor Eiki Isomura, who leads Houston’s Opera in the Heights, takes the reins as music director. This dynamic duo is certain to bring a unique take on the popular operetta, which was last performed by Gilbert & Sullivan Society of Houston in 2015. Kenley-Miller takes over after the retirement of beloved British stage director Alistair Donkin, who served for 40 years. Joseph Rawley is artistic director and chorus master.

Sung in English, this family-friendly comic opera is filled with infectious melodies, colorful costumes, and amusing dialogue. Since its launch in 1952 with The Gondoliers, Gilbert & Sullivan Society of Houston, the city’s longest-running opera company, has presented several Gilbert and Sullivan works over the years, including HMS PinaforePrincess IdaThe MikadoThe Yeoman of the GuardRuddigore and The Pirates of Penzance.

Kenley-Miller notes that Gilbert and Sullivan’s shows are a precursor to American Broadway musicals and were wildly popular in the U.S. in the late 19th century and have continued to delight packed audiences for the past century. The Pirates of Penzance has played on Broadway and was adapted into a 1983 movie starring Kevin Kline, Angela Lansbury, and Linda Ronstadt. However, opera devotees will recognize elements of classic operas from Donizetti and Verdi.

“As an alum of the Houston G&S Society myself – I covered the role of Katisha in The Mikado in 1997 – I am honored to lead this production of Pirates, featuring newly designed sets and costumes by an all-female design team of Jodi Bobrovsky and Shaun Heath/Mary Webber,’ says Kenley Miller. “This summer’s operetta will offer something for everyone – all the things diehard fans love about G&S’s quintessential comedic style and catchy tunes – but through a new lens. It will speak to a modern audience, with a fresh spin on heroine Mabel, who will be portrayed in a much stronger way than usual.”

The Pirates of Penzance features songs that audience members may recognize, such as “I am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General” and “Come Friends Who Plow the Seas,” which became “Hail, Hail, the Gang’s All Here” in the U.S. as early as 1898. Mabel gets a soprano star turn with “Poor Wandering One,” a coloratura aria. The noteworthy tenor aria is Frederic’s “Oh, Is There Not One Maiden Breast.”

“‘Pirates’ is especially popular among the G&S shows for a reason – the music is incredibly catchy, and the plot is genuinely funny,” says Isomura. “For anyone curious to try a G&S show, this is the best place to start. And for folks already familiar with it, they’re in for a special treat, too, as our dream creative team is making this a very fresh and dynamic production.”

The Pirates’ story line revolves around Frederic, who was mistakenly apprenticed to a band of tender-hearted pirates. Hoping to be released from his apprenticeship on his 21st birthday, Frederic soon realizes that a Feb. 29 birthday means that he must serve for decades to come.

Meanwhile, Frederic meets the daughters of Major-General Stanley, including Mabel, and the two fall instantly in love. Young Mabel agrees to faithfully wait for him. However, several questions loom: Will she wait? What becomes of Fredric? Are the pirates as tender-hearted as they claim? Find out the answers at one of the four performances of The Pirates of Penzance at the Hobby Center.

Cast members include Dennis Arrowsmith, The Major-General; Sean Holshouser, The Pirate King; Brian Yeakley, Frederic; Jana Ellsworth, Ruth; Roberto Reyna, Samuel; Johnny Salvesen, Sergeant of Police; Julie Hoeltzel, Mabel; Callie Denbigh, Edith; Giselle Bautista, Kate and Laura Smolik, Isabel. Arrowsmith, a Society mainstay, had the role of the Pirate King in the 2015 production.

“The audience will see some new faces in this year’s cast as well as some veterans of the G&S Society – all coming together to showcase some of Houston’s best singing/acting talent,” says Kenley-Miller. “This year’s show will be colorful, funny, and entertaining for all ages. This isn’t your stuffy old opera.”

The Women’s Chorus members are Valeria Bautista, Sarah Hernandez, Rose Kearin, Rufina Robbins*, Angie Tovar, Emma Hayden*, Chloe Owens*, Laura Smolik, Rebecca Tann and Lauren Turner.*

The Men’s Chorus includes Cody Arthur*, Mick Bayer, Zaccai Campos, Geoff Copper, Joe Key, Asa Ambrose*, Jadon Campos, Evan Clawson*, Joe Carl White* and Talbert Williams.

*Indicates understudy.

Tickets can be purchased online at Prices range from $39 to $84, plus handling fees. Be sure and purchase early to get the best seats.

Photo credit: Steve Feinberg

NOTE: Photos are from the 2015 production of The Pirates of Penzance. Rehearsal photos for the 2023 production will be available in mid-June.