The Pirate Queen: And It Isn't, It Isn't A Glorious Thing
FEMININISM 101 AS TAUGHT IN BROADWAY'S THE PIRATE QUEEN:
Lesson 1: In conflicts against men, the only maneuver a woman needs to know is to distract him by acting slutty and then kicking him in the balls.
Lesson 2: A Queen who changes her mind about using force against her enemies and decides instead to use diplomacy is a noble and admirable woman. The man who had been patriotically following her orders before she changed her mind is a reprehensible villain.
Lesson 3: It's okay to kill someone who is trying to stop you from robbing and terrorizing innocent people as long as you're a positive role model for young girls.
Based on Morgan Llywelyn's historical novel, Claude-Michel Schonberg (music/book), Alain Boublil (book/lyrics), Richard Maltby, Jr. (book/lyrics) and John Dempsey's (lyrics) The Pirate Queen is a bombastically cartoonish revisionist diluting of the story of 16th century pirate and Irish Chieftain Grania O'Malley, reducing the complex political conflict during the days when newly-crowned Elizabeth I was trying to grasp firmer control of Ireland into a monotonous bombardment of simplistic rhyming couplets screamed at the audience in high-belted wails. It's not so much a horribly bad musical as it is an exceedingly dull one, despite the efforts of some talented artists who try to create something entertaining out of material that's inescapably bland.
Despite the title, the piratical career of our heroine, here Anglicized to Grace O'Malley (Stephanie J. Block), is downplayed in favor of a plot where a young girl is just trying to prove she can be as good as the boys (in stealing ships and killing those who try to stop her). When her father (Jeff McCarthy, wasted in an ineffectual role) forbids her to join him at sea because women on ships cause sexual distraction, she slips aboard disguised as a boy. After proving her bravery and leadership skills she's allowed to remain. Grace celebrates by switching to a form fitting and cleavage-baring top.
Although she and pal Tiernan (Hadley Fraser) are smitten, Grace is arranged to marry hard-drinking playboy Donal (Marcus Chait) in an effort to unite rival clans against British imperialism because Queen Elizabeth (Linda Balgord) has sent the ruthless (and in this case extremely swishy) Sir Richard Bingham (William Youmans) to secure England's rule.
And since Riverdance producers Moya Doherty and John McColgan present the show, there's a heck of a lot of step dancing choreographed by Carol Leavy Joyce. (Graciela Daniele works the musical staging) It provides welcome distraction from the plot.
Block certainly runs a marathon in the physically demanding title role, singing at full blast for most of the nearly sung-through evening. Unfortunately the banal lyrics offer her little chance to show any kind of acting depth and with director Frank Galati having her swashbuckling non-stop all over Eugene Lee's grandly nautical set (beautifully lit by Kenneth Posner) she barely has an opportunity to connect with the audience. (In one scene, minutes after giving birth, she joins in a battle and stabs an English soldier with his back turned away from her.) On the other hand, her romantic counterpart Fraser seems to have been staged to perform most of his big power ballad with his codpiece thrusted out at the audience. (Large codpieces are quite abundant in this show.) Chait at least has a fun, rowdy number called "Master Of The House" "Boys'll Be Boys" where he gets to kick back a little and show himself as a spirited and charismatic performer.
Poor Balgord is made to look rather ridiculous as Queen Elizabeth, sporting a parade of painfully tacky gowns (designed by Martin Pakledinaz) and singing in a soprano key that makes her voice sound awfully shrill. Youmans doesn't get any favors either, playing a role that requires him to fop about the royal court, occasionally snarling his hatred of the Irish and, of course, getting his balls kicked by Grace. Toward the end of the show the writers have him spew out an outlandishly over-the-top rant against the Irish. I suppose that's to remind the audience of which thieving murderer is meant to be the bad guy.
Center: Linda Balgord
Bottom: Stephanie J. Block and Marcus Chait