Swashbuckling 'Space Pirates' to rocket into future on stage


March 30, 2016

SUNY Oswego’s theater and music departments will present “Space Pirates of Planet Penzance” starting Friday, April 22, in Hewitt ballroom, launching into the future an enduring Gilbert and Sullivan musical comedy.

The rollicking adaptation, featuring such popular—but updated for the space age—tunes as “Major-General’s Song” (“I am the very model of a modern major-general”) will run at 7:30 p.m. April 22, 23 and 29, with a finale at 2 p.m. Sunday, May 1. The curtain will rise on a preview at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 21.

Visiting director, lyricist and choreographer Donald Garverick, whose directorial work includes SUNY Oswego’s spring 2014 production of “Young Frankenstein,” said he believes that W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan, legendary comic opera collaborators of the late 19th century, would have supported the college’s effort to add contemporary interest to their 1879 hit “Pirates of Penzance.”

“Gilbert and Sullivan were much like ‘The Daily Show’ today,” said Garverick. “Their play was meant to be a spoof on men’s and women’s places in British society. We have made sure the concept honors the original piece.”

Even with costuming, props, scenery and the names of some characters more reminiscent of the outer-space fiction of today than of “Pirates of Penzance,” the undertone of gender push-pull remains.

“The stakes in this are much higher than in the original,” said Garverick. “The ‘damsels’ are not so helpless as you may have seen in the original play—these damsels have weapons.”

The plot resonates with fans of the original: A young man indentured to pirates reaches age 21 and is released from service. He falls in love with a major-general’s daughter, only to find that a quirk of the calendar requires him to serve the pirates for another 63 years.

Cast changes

Yet in “Space Pirates of Planet Penzance,” Frederic (Ryan Benson Smith) picks up the surname Skywanderer, and pirates’ maid Ruth becomes RU3-P.O. (Alexandra Matsu), a feisty robot that provides pointed comedic touches. Ashley Domenech plays love interest Mabel—sort of recalling Deanna Troi in “Star Trek: The Next Generation”—a daughter of Major-General Stanley (Evan Debevec-McKenney). The spit-and-polish major-general’s other daughters (Kelsey Clark, Megan VanVorce and Rachel Ruller) serve as ensigns.

Members of the SUNY Oswego music department, under the direction of Todd Graber, will offer the familiar melodies, from “Pour, Oh Pour, the Pirate Sherry” in Act I to the ensemble tunes of the closing act, including “Poor Wandering Ones!”

But Garverick, who has written or co-written such musicals as “Show Choir!” and “Casual Bob,” has taken liberties with some of the lyrics, which are long since in the public domain. For example, where the original referenced sailing ships of the Cunard and White Star lines, “Space Pirates of Planet Penzance” now alludes to spaceships.

In the famous “Major-General’s Song,” Garverick offers, “… when I can fly an enterprising ship at high velocities, while scanning for anomalies and other curiosities.”

Other cast members include the Pirate King (Anthony Sagrestano), Samuel (Remington), sergeant of police (Morgan Rae Noone), communication officer (Caren Morris), security officers (Molly Horth, Spencer Ventresca and David Fuenzalida) and the pirate ensemble (Matthew McCabe, Ervin Bautista and Micah Pasinski).

Tickets for “Space Pirates of Planet Penzance” are $15 ($7 for SUNY Oswego students) and are available at all SUNY Oswego box offices, online at tickets.oswego.edu or by calling 315-312-2141. All tickets for the preview are $5.

Parking is included in the price of a ticket and is available in the employee and commuter lots in front of Culkin Hall and the rear half of the lot behind Hart and Funnelle residence halls. Patrons with disabilities needing assistance should call 315-312-2141 in advance of the performance.

PHOTO CAPTION: Pirate party—SUNY Oswego’s music and theater departments will stage “Space Pirates of Planet Penzance”—shown here in rehearsal—at 7:30 p.m. April 22, 23 and 29, with a finale at 2:30 p.m. May 1. The play adapts the classic Gilbert and Sullivan musical comedy “Pirates of Penzance” for the space age.