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January 16, 2013

Wheaton College's 'Pirates' Adds Contemporary Laughs to Classic Opera

Opera Music Theater 'Pirates'

When Wheaton College's Opera Music Theater presents Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic opera "The Pirates of Penzance" this week, theatergoers can expect a performance that sticks faithfully to the original, as performed in 1879.

Mostly.

“There may or may not be a little rap, maybe a little Gagnam Style,” hints director Andy Mangin, referring to the South Korean dance song that went viral last year. “Other than that, it’s a classic opera.”

Mangin says his light adaptation of the work—adding a few jokes specifically for college and community audiences—is in line with Gilbert and Sullivan’s satirical treatment of life and duty during the 1800s.

“Gilbert and Sullivan were able to poke fun at a lot of things that were contemporary during the turn of the century,” he says. “The reason that they were successful is they touched on themes that carry across generations, and packed some really smart material into some really smart tunes.”

The fully staged production includes a cast of singers and an orchestra led by Professor of Choral Music and Conducting Mary Hopper. Cindy Trowbrdge is music director, and choreography is by Linda Fortunato.

Mangin says working with a cast that includes students from beyond Wheaton College’s Conservatory and theater programs has allowed him to challenge the actors to dig deeply into their roles.

“What’s been exciting is saying to the singers, ‘You sing really well, but what else is funny, true, and engaging about your character?’” Mangin says. “The result is a lot of really fine performances by individual actors that makes for a production that’s satisfying as a whole.”

One thing that’s consistent across the centuries? Theatergoers should expect to laugh, says senior Tabitha Burchett, one of two students sharing the role of Mabel. “Don’t come thinking you’re going to see an opera where everything is stuffy, and we’re just standing there singing,” she says. “There’s so much for people to see, and receive, and laugh along with in this show.”

The show will run from January 16-19 at 7:30 p.m. All performances will take place in Pierce Memorial Chapel, located on the southeast corner of Washington and Franklin streets in Wheaton. General audience tickets are $10 and may be purchased at the door, or in advance by visiting the Wheaton College Ticket and Information Office, located at 418 North Chase Street in Wheaton. For more information, call the Wheaton College Conservatory of Music at 630.752.5099.

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