Triangle Arts and Entertainment – News and Reviews Theatre Dance Music Arts

Sail Ho Ho Ho: Durham Savoyards Delight with Gilbert & Sullivan’s “The Pirates of Penzance”

The cast includes (from left) Mary Elisabeth Hirsh as Mabel, Jim Burnette as The Pirate King, Stuart Albert as Major-General Stanley, Elizabeth A. Clark as Ruth, and Kenny Cruz (photo by Joe Cohn)

The cast includes (from left) Mary Elisabeth Hirsh as Mabel, Jim Burnette as The Pirate King, Stuart Albert as Major-General Stanley, Elizabeth A. Clark as Ruth, and Kenny Cruz (photo by Joe Cohn)

The Durham Savoyards, Ltd. are celebrating their Golden Anniversary this year as the Triangle’s foremost purveyor of jaunty Gilbert & Sullivan comic operettas. Their latest contribution to the Triangle theater scene is a rollicking rendition of The Pirates of Penzance, or The Slave of Duty, which had its world premiere in December 1879 in New York City! Durham Savoyards artistic director and choreographer Derrick Ivey and music director Alan Riley Jones fill scenic designer Richard Dideriksen’s splendid recreation of various locations along the coast of Cornwall, during the reign of the United Kingdom’s beloved Queen Victoria (1837-1901), with lively song-and-dance routines for the tender-hearted gentlemen pirates of Penzance and their implacable foe, British Army Major-General Stanley (a sublimely silly impersonation by comic baritone Stuart Albert), and his Police allies.

Jim Burnette, Jr. is amusing as the braggadocio swashbuckling Pirate King, whose big piratical plans always seem to misfire; Kenny Cruz cuts a fine figure as Frederic, a dashing pirate trainee on the verge of completing his apprenticeship and more and more curious and eager to explore other, more lucrative “career opportunities”; and Elizabeth A. Clark is a caution as Ruth, a piratical jill-of-all-trades who was formerly Frederic’s nursery maid. Indeed, he is an apprentice pirate only because Ruth apprenticed him to a pi-rate, instead of a pi-lot, as his parents intended.


Mary Elisabeth Hirsh is lovely as Mabel, Major-General Stanley’s youngest and most innocent ward, whom Frederic loves at first sight, and who seconds that emotion. Michael Rowe has his merry moments as Samuel, The Pirate King’s chief lieutenant; and Ray Ubinger tickles funny-bones as the feckless local Sergeant of Police, who leads a squad of bumbling Bobbies as they stumble, bumble, and fumble their way through the Police manhunt for the not-particularly-hard-to-spot pirates of Penzance.


Although some Triangle theatergoers may not find the silliness of Gilbert & Sullivan’s improbable plot twists that bring Frederic and Mabel together to be their cup of tea, The Pirates of Penzance is sung and danced with great enthusiasm and undeniable charm by the Durham Savoyards — and you do not have to be a Gilbert & Sullivan aficionado to enjoy it.

SECOND OPINION: March 20th Raleigh, NC Indy Week review by Emma Miller (who awarded the show 3 of 5 stars):; March 16th Durham, NC Five Points Star review by Kate Dobbs Ariail:; and March 7th Durham, NC Herald-Sun preview by Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan: (Note: You must register to read this article).

The Durham Savoyards, Ltd. present THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE at 8 p.m. March 22 and 23, and 2 p.m. March 24 in Fletcher Hall at The Carolina Theatre, 309 W. Morgan St., Durham, North Carolina 27701.

TICKETS: $19.80-$31.35 (including fees).


Carolina Theatre Box Office: 888-241-8162, 919-560-3030, or

Ticketmaster: 800-745-3000 or

SHOW: and

STUDY GUIDE: (Utah Shakespeare Festival)





The Pirates of Penzance; or The Slave of Duty (background): (Gilbert & Sullivan Archive at Boise State University) and (Wikipedia).

The Script: (Google Books).

Gilbert & Sullivan: (Gilbert & Sullivan Archive) and (Wikipedia).

W.S. Gilbert (librettist): (W.S. Gilbert Society) and (Wikipedia).

Arthur Sullivan (composer): (Sir Arthur Sullivan Society) and (Wikipedia).

Derrick Ivey (artistic director and choreographer) (Facebook).


Robert W. McDowell is editor and publisher of Triangle Review, a FREE weekly e-mail arts newsletter. This review is reprinted with permission from Triangle Review.

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