The Harding University departments of theater, music and English have collaborated to produce the annual Harding homecoming musical, “Pirates!?! A Pillaging of Gilbert and Sullivan.” The musical comedy has been transformed by faculty and alumni, and the creation is an original performance unlike any other show that the University has produced.
The new adaptation is a result of rewriting and recomposing the original operetta “Pirates of Penzance,” written in the 1870s by W. S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan. Due to its age, the work is in public domain and can therefore be altered in any form to accommodate specific theaters, performers and audiences. Dr. Michael Claxton, associate professor of English, has rewritten and re-imagined the production specifically for the local audience.
Adaptations include the removal of archaic language and additions of big production numbers. Jordan Dollins, a 2011 graduate, re-orchestrated the entire show and updated the music with special theme songs for the Searcy audience. According to producer Cindee Stockstill, the crew has stayed true to the intent of Gilbert and Sullivan, and the storyline is the same as well as lampooning of current events and other musical theater productions
“Working with our talented students in this particular show, we have given them a little freedom to create some of their own comic moments, and they have come up with some really fun stuff,” Stockstill said. “Getting to work collaboratively on a project that incorporates three departments of the College of Arts and Humanities, music, theater and English, has been a real joy. I’m excited to see it all come together.”
The production cast of 70 is comprised of a comical group of pirates, beautiful maidens, inept and awkward cops, and the Prince Island Royal Amateur Theatrical Entertainment Society (PIRATES) of onstage vocalists.
“Each group is a hoot and a half in their own right,” Stockstill said. “When you combine them for a scene, it is so funny — the pirates are a crazy, zany bunch of comics; the daughters are sweet, silly, daffy, girly and funny; the cops are bumbling idiots and always running into each other; and the society sings beautifully and has a lot of fun. With the leads, there is amazing singing going on, but most of it is musical comedy. There are a lot of laughs in this show.”
Tickets for “Pirates!?! A Pillaging of Gilbert and Sullivan” are available online at www.hardingtickets.com for $12, $15 and $18. Tickets can also be purchased at the box office in Benson lobby an hour prior to the show, which will be performed at 8 p.m. Oct. 25 and 26. For more information contact the department of theater at 501-279-5315.
Harding is the largest private university in Arkansas with 6,295 students. Harding also maintains campuses in Australia, Chile, England, France, Greece, Italy and Zambia. For more information visit www.harding.edu.