Essgee's The Pirates of Penzance
Essgee's The Pirates of Penzance
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Operetta meets pop-eretta in this modern retelling of the well-loved classic about false identities, hopeless love, and the misfortune of being born in a leap year. Mistakenly apprenticed to a pirate instead of a pilot as a child, Frederic is now 21 and free to roam the world. He becomes smitten with the daughter of a “Modern Major-General,” only to learn that he’s technically still a pirate because his birthday is February 29th. Peppered with the tongue-twisting songs that are the signature of Gilbert & Sullivan, this new Pirates of Penzance is the modern motherlode of musical melee. A smash-hit from Down Under.


Our story begins as Frederic, a young man with an unswerving sense of duty, is about to reach his 21st birthday and conclude his long apprenticeship to the infamous Pirates of Penzance. His good-hearted but hard-of-hearing nursemaid Ruth reveals that she has made a most disastrous mistake. When Frederic was just a boy she misunderstood her employer's directive and apprenticed him to a pirate instead of a pilot, as intended. Frederic tells the Pirate King (a dashing figure who never preys on orphans since he himself has had the misfortune to be one) that his freedom will be devoted to exterminating all pirates and that it would be better for the pirates to leave before midnight when his indentures are over. The pirates depart immediately and Frederic is left alone with Ruth, the only woman he has seen in years. Ruth pleads with Frederic to take her with him, but her case is lost when a bevy of very young, attractive women appear.

Frederic appeals to the girls to overlook his pirate apparel and his past profession, but no one will listen until the beauteous Mabel appears. Frederic and Mabel fall in love instantly. The pirates return and Mabel warns them that their actions will not go unpunished since her father, the guardian of all of these young ladies, holds the exalted rank of Major-General. The Major-General is forced to pretend that he is also an orphan in order to win their sympathy. Although he fools the Pirate King, the Major-General cannot rest easy with his troubled conscience.

Meanwhile, Frederic is launching an attack on the pirates with the cowardly assistance of the police. But Ruth and the Pirate King interrupt him with a most ingenious paradox— Frederic was born in leap year on the 29th of February and, in terms of actual birthdays, is only 5 instead of 21. Frederic, slave of duty that he is, rejoins his former associates, and the police are left to attack the pirates on their own.

The Pirates seize the Major-General, and the police are quickly defeated. But the Sergeant of Police charges them to yield 'in Queen Victoria's name,' and the pirates cannot resist this overpowering appeal.

Ruth then reveals that the pirates are actually 'noblemen who have gone wrong.' Mabel and Frederic are happily united forever with the unqualified blessings of the Major-General.


As dazzling... as the Best of Broadway

–Brisbane Courier Mail


The Pirate King

Samuel, his Lieutenant


Ruth, a Pirate Maid

Major-General Stanley's Daughters – The Fabulous Singlettes


Major-General Stanley

The Sergeant

Chorus – Pirates, Maidens

Willaim Schwenck Gilbert: (18 November 1836 – 29 May 1911)

William Schwenck— a name he loathed— Gilbert was born to a family of comfortable means in a house a few hundred yards from the site of the Savoy Theatre, which was later to become the centre of a cult whose merry devotees to this day describe themselves with pride as Savoyards. Aged two, he was kidnapped in Naples by brigands and ransomed for twenty-five pounds. This Gilbertian event he was to use years later in the plots of H.M.S. Pinafore and The Gondoliers. Frustrated and less than successful as a barrister, Gilbert invented a world of 'Topsyturvydom... where right is wrong and wrong is right, where white is black and black is white,' a world that first appeared in print as the whimsical and nonsensical poems that constituted Bab Ballads (1869) and from 1871 onwards as the evergreen Savoy operas, starting with Thespis and finishing with The Grand Duke in 1896.

An established comic playwright who revelled in artificial plots and good, clean, Victorian fun, Gilbert was an important figure in the history of the English stage because he was the first director ('stage manager' in late nineteenth-century parlance) to put his stamp on texts and productions. He insisted on the importance of rehearsals for the whole company and supervised in detail every aspect of design, costume, choreography, and lighting. With composer Arthur Sullivan, and the brilliant entrepreneur Richard D'Oyly Carte— the Cameron Macintosh of his day— Gilbert became part of England's most important operetta triumvirate, was recognised as being the foremost librettist of his century, and is acknowledged as such by his pupils and successors Lorenz Hart, Alan Jay Lerner and Stephen Sondheim. WSG was also a quarrelsome and dictatorial tyrant who never for a moment doubted his own genius and who, as he grew older, took to suing those who crossed him.

He was knighted in May 1907 and lived in comfortable retirement in his Harrow mansion, Grim's Dyke. He was drowned in his private lake while trying to assist a young lady in difficulty. His commemorative plaque on London's Embankment carries the aptly epigrammatic epitaph, 'His foe was folly, and his weapon, wit.'

Arthur Seymour Sullivan: (13 May 1842 – 22 November 1900)

Born in Lambeth, the son of an orchestra musician, Sullivan taught himself piano at five and composed his first anthem, "By the Waters of Babylon," aged eight. At twelve, he published his first sacred song, "O Israel." He studied at the Royal Academy of Music and later in Leipzig, where he met Liszt, Schumann, and Greig. The darling of London musical society, Sullivan was feted by the famous soprano Jenny Lind, taken to Paris by Charles Dickens, and pressed (in vain) by Lewis Carroll to set Alice In Wonderland to music. His parlour ballads, sacred songs ("Onward Christian Soldiers" and "The Lost Chord" being his most famous), oratorios, and overtures made him a household name in England and a favourite of Queen Victoria. He was knighted in 1883 at the age of 41. This newfound honour was not without its problems. The Musical Review spoke for the world of serious music when it observed that 'something Mr Arthur Sullivan may have done, Sir Arthur ought not to do.' Not surprisingly, he increasingly came to regard his light music collaboration with Gilbert as a frivolous diversion from his more noble vocation as a serious composer. His one opera, Ivanhoe, though now forgotten, holds the record for the longest single run (155 performances) of any opera in England.

Unlike the militarily disciplined Gilbert, Sullivan was more 'artistic' in temperament, preferring the world of supper parties, royal shoulder-rubbing, and European gallivanting and gambling, not least in Monte Carlo. Plagued by ill health, he constantly worked against the clock to complete songs for rehearsals. Indeed, often as opening night approached, he was so late— and sick— that he would send only outlines for overtures, leaving them to be constructed by his musical director, Francois Cellier. The completed score of The Pirates of Penzance did not appear until four days before opening night, and when he approached the podium to conduct, he recorded that he took up the baton 'more dead than alive.'

He is buried in the crypt of St Paul's Cathedral, London. His plaque in Savoy Gardens, London, bears the inscription suggested by Gilbert, from The Yeomen of the Guard:

Is life a boon?

If so it must befall

That Death whene'er he call

Must call too soon! 

Simon Gallaher/Essgee Entertainment created an exciting new version of the classic The Pirates of Penzance in 1994, which became an immediate runaway hit throughout Australia and New Zealand. ABC-TV broadcast the production nationally at the conclusion of the Australian tour, and the video quickly attained Triple Platinum sales as the highest-selling live musical theatre video of all time. Essgee followed up their massive hit with The Mikado in 1995, followed shortly thereafter by H.M.S. Pinafore, the final in the Essgee Musical Trilogy. Essgee now licenses productions of their Gilbert & Sullivan trilogy of shows to companies and theatre societies across the world. Through special arrangements with David Spicer Productions in Australia, Steele Spring Stage Rights is proud to represent the Essgee Musical Trilogy in the US and Canada.

Essgee’s The Pirates of Penzance, Gilbert and Sullivan for the 21st Century, presented by arrangement with Steele Spring Stage Rights, on behalf of David Spicer Productions, representing Simon Gallaher and Essgee Entertainment.

Performance Royalties are based on theater particulars. Please fill out an application for a personalized quote. 

Billing responsibilities, pertinent copyright information, and playwrights' biographies are available in the show rider that comes with your license agreement. To download the show rider for Essgee’s The Pirate’s of Penzance, click here.

Materials: Your materials will be sent to you two months prior to your opening date and will include everything necessary for your production. They can be ordered in Printed or Digital format. Printed Materials are provided on unbound three-hole punched loose-leaf paper while Digital Materials are provided via email as downloadable PDF files for you to print in-house. All materials are yours to keep! No deposits, no returns.

The Authorized Materials/Rehearsal Package for Essgee’s The Pirates of Penzance includes:

  • Production Scripts
  • Piano/Vocal Score
  • Vocal Scores
Small Set Orchestrations: 

  • Piano
  • Keyboard 1
  • Keyboard 2
  • Keyboard 3
  • Percussion
  • Guitar
  • Drums
Large Set Orchestrations: 

  • Piano
  • Keyboard 2
  • Woodwind 1 (Flute, Piccolo)
  • Woodwind 2 (Oboe, Cor Anglais)
  • Woodwind 3 (Flute, Clarinet)
  • Woodwind 4 (Clarinet, Bass Clarinet)
  • Horn in F
  • Trumpet 1
  • Trumpet 3
  • Trombone 1
  • Trombone 2
  • Bass
  • Percussion 1 (Kit, Triangle, Cowbell, Woodblock)
  • Percussion 2 (Timpani X3)
  • Percussion 3 (Glock, Xylophone, Triangle, Suspended Cymbal and Mallets, Hand Cymbals, Bass Drum, Tambourine, Cowbell, Mark Tree, Samba, Whistle)
Official Logo Pack Now Included! To help you promote your show, Stage Rights now includes a logo pack with your license. The logo pack includes high resolution versions (both color and black and white) of our show logo. The logo is the portion of the artwork with the title of the show. The surrounding artwork is also available for an additional fee.
Optional Materials: 

  • Reference Recording - Audio recording for reference purposes only
  • Stage Manager’s Script – Printed on standard 8.5” x 11” 3-hole-punched paper, with the same page numbers and text as the Production Scripts, but with more space on the page for notes and cues.