Now Invading Bremerton’s Shores: A Rollicking Band of Deep Space Pirates

The Space Pirates of Penzance, an original take on a musical classic, is a fun crossover of all sorts of geekery (musical, space, and otherwise). It runs through 4/6 (extended from 3/30) at Enoch City Arts.


Having grown up on a steady diet of Stars (both Trek and Wars) as well as what was probably an unhealthy amount of Gilbert & Sullivan, for this reviewer The Space Pirates of Penzance — Enoch City Arts’ production of its own adaptation, an endearingly goofy and homespun mash-up of sci-fi elements and G & S’s most famous comic opera — was practically tailor-made. Though rough around the edges at times, and cheesy as all get-out, the production was brimming over with enthusiasm and love for the material, both the 1879 original and for the pew pew of it all. 

The plot itself is mostly unaltered, following our beleaguered hero, Frederic (an appropriately winsome Daniel Johnson), as he tries to extract himself from the band of pirates he’s been forced to serve since his childhood, due to an error on the part of his well-meaning but hard-of-hearing nursemaid.

Only here the pirates are space pirates, natch, led by a swaggering Pirate King — John “Mark” Bruce Fillmore, channeling Kevin Kline’s 1980s filmed Penzance performance as the King, and running away with the thing in every scene. The nursemaid? An android, Robot Ruth (Nancy Nucci in most performances, but played with aplomb by swing Colleen Carpenter in the performance I saw), whose glitchy software led to poor Frederic’s predicament. The bumbling Chief of Police and his men who try to help Frederic capture his former crew? A company of doomed red-shirted Starfleet officers. 

Many of the changes are small, but similarly clever. A few of the numbers, however, have been completely rewritten to reflect a more sci-fi bent, particularly the show’s best-known song, “I am the very model of a modern Major-General,” which replaces the character with the “Doctor Lord of Time,” about a certain time-traveling alien in a blue box. Patter songs are no joke, and Caleb Avery Lizon’s “Doctor” deserves credit for more than pulling it off, even if his fez was giving him agita. Similarly, a revamped version of the three-way patter number featuring the Pirate King, Ruth, and Frederic, “When you had left our pirate fold,” made smart use of classic sci-fi gobbledygook to explain the “paradox” of Frederic’s age. Creating a parody song is one thing, but rewriting Gilbert & Sullivan and making it work? Now that’s something for the resume.

Visually, the musical’s full of Easter eggs for fans, of either the casual or more obsessive class. The cast was apparently given free rein to develop their own costumes, and most selected well-known franchise players, though some were a bit more niche. Fillmore’s Pirate King costume is a riff on Peter Quill from the Guardians of the Galaxy films, while Johnson’s in classic Han Solo garb, with his love interest, Mabel (Kaylin Anderson, one of the more obviously operatically trained singers of the evening, hitting some stratospheric high notes), appropriately dressed as Princess Leia. I also caught a Katniss Everdeen, a Sarah Connor, Jayne Cobb from Joss Whedon’s much-mourned Firefly series, Ellen Ripley from the Alien franchise, a mash-up of costume elements from both classic and new Doctor Who … and I could go on. (That’s both true and a brag.)  

Overall, there’s an attention to details both large and small, both in the underlying musical and the superimposed sci-fi elements, that, imperfect in execution at times, just exudes a genuine love and care that made the piece feel like something more than the sum of its parts. If the singing’s off-key here and there, or the rhythm falters once and a while, who really cares in the face of that?   

So, if a silly love letter to 19th century opera and science fiction is your very specific cup of oolong, get ready for a steaming cup of it, prepared just how you like it. 

The Space Pirates of Penzance runs through 4/6 (extended from 3/30) at Enoch City Arts, in Bremerton. Tickets are $28, here. Accessibility notes: restrooms are gender-neutral and single-stall. Theatre and common areas are wheelchair accessible.

Jill Farrington Sweeney is a Texas ex-pat getting to know the Seattle-area arts scene, and is perpetually on the hunt for good Mexican food. Her writing has appeared on TheaterJones, Onstage NTX, and NWTheatre.