The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

MSU Theater’s ‘The Pirates of Penzance’ production promises amusing performance

Austin Grove
Pirates of Penzance

Students, faculty and staff have the opportunity to see Mississippi State University’s production of the classic Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, “The Pirates of Penzance,” Friday or Saturday night as directed by Cody Stockstill, who has stepped in as director after the early retirement of MSU theater legend, Jo Durst. 

Although the play has undergone several creative flourishes at the hands of Stockstill, it conserves Gilbert and Sullivan’s original aim and plot. The plot follows the major general and his daughters as they interact with a band of not-so-ruthless pirates. Stockstill illuminates the playwright’s original intent by maintaining the satirical nature of the play. 

He said Gilbert and Sullivan originally wrote the play as a satire on British culture, and his interpretation of the play “pretty much highlights the zany nature in Gilbert and Sullivan.”

Although the actors have put countless hours into making this play a success, Stockstill seems to know the true purpose of theater. 

“The goal is for the audience to have fun … to leave in a better mood than you came in,” he said.

Jordan Dobbins, junior music education major and principle character in the play, said she also hopes the audience will leave the production inspired. 

“We collaborate, and we show the singing, the acting, the dancing. Mississippi State has a lot of talent that I don’t think people know about, exactly. I just hope the more people know about it, the more people come, and the more people come, the more we get to do big productions like this,” she said. 

J.J. Haight, junior music performance major and lead role, also takes pride in the talents of his fellow cast members. 

“We have some very talented people in the cast and in the department because this is a combined effort between music and theater. We have very talented people on both ends of the spectrum, people who are definitely double and triple threats,” he said. 

Haight also said he believes the ridiculous nature of the show actually enhances its value.

“It’s not an extremely weighty show. It’s supposed to be light and making fun of things,” he said. 

Although the play is primarily humor-based, it is not completely void of depth. Haight said he is proud of the progressive spin Stockstill put on the production. 

“I think (some parts are) pushing some boundaries at Mississippi State, and especially in Mississippi, but I think it does that in the best way possible,” he said. 

This play is particularly extravagant in its use of an approximately 10-piece orchestra and headset microphones for its key actors. This enhances the professional musical atmosphere to a step above previous productions, which have often not utilized microphones or live music. 

The music follows the playful nature of the production. It highlights the ridiculous nature of the story and allows the actors to shine and fully flesh out their stereotypical and preposterous roles in this classic British satire. Having live music with a director gives more energy to the acting and a cohesive nature to the production.

Not only is the production audibly stimulating, but it is also visually striking. The costumes are excellent and lend a lighthearted air to the otherwise nefarious, piratical and British colonial environment. The set also allows for an active environment for hilarious antics. 

The cast members strive for professionalism in every aspect of their craft, even with regard to their free time. Dobbins referenced the Broadway tradition of professional actors and actresses spending their Thanksgiving holidays together. She mentioned the MSU cast honored this tradition by spending their Easter holiday together in preparation for this weekend’s show. 

“We had an orphan boy Easter. All of our friends who were in the play got together, cooked a ham, made Easter lunch, watched musicals and had an Easter egg hunt – stuff you would do with your family, but we got to do it with our theater family,” she said. 

MSU students, faculty and staff are encouraged to attend the play and see for themselves what this close-knit cast has put together. Tickets are available at the door and online. The curtain will rise for each performance at 7:30 p.m.

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MSU Theater’s ‘The Pirates of Penzance’ production promises amusing performance