Pirate Queen Unfurls Her Sails on Broadway March 6

News   Pirate Queen Unfurls Her Sails on Broadway March 6 A rich slice of Irish history gets served on Broadway starting March 6 with the first preview of The Pirate Queen, the new musical by the Tony Award-winning creators of Les Misérables and Miss Saigon.

Stephanie J. Block in The Pirate Queen.
Stephanie J. Block in The Pirate Queen. Photo by Joan Marcus

Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg's windswept romantic epic at the Hilton Theatre is directed by Tony winner Frank Galati (The Grapes of Wrath), with musical staging by his Ragtime collaborator Graciela Daniele.

The songwriter-storytellers Boublil and Schönberg partner with their Miss Saigon collaborator Richard Maltby Jr., who contributes to the book and lyrics.

Daniele and Maltby joined the creative team following the fall 2006 Chicago world premiere of the musical, in which a famed Irish chieftain named Grace O'Malley meets with Queen Elizabeth I. The Broadway opening is April 5.

Commissioned and produced by Moya Doherty and John McColgan, the producers of Riverdance, The Pirate Queen "combines classic storytelling with a sweeping score and joyous dancing to celebrate the real-life story of legendary Irish chieftain Grace O'Malley: a compelling, inspiring heroine who led an extraordinary life as a pirate, chieftain, lover and mother in 16th-century Ireland. To protect her people and save her one true love, O'Malley must confront the one woman more powerful than her — her fierce rival, Queen Elizabeth I of England."

The creative team for The Pirate Queen also includes John Dempsey (Witches of Eastwick) who co-wrote the lyrics. Stephanie J. Block (The Boy From Oz, Wicked) plays the title character, and British actor Hadley Fraser is her love interest, Tiernan.

Fraser, making his Broadway debut, characterizes the show this way: "I suppose succinctly I would say The Pirate Queen is a love story set against the backdrop of historical duel between two women of extraordinary power when women weren't used to having that power. There's two main plots there, if you will: the love story between myself and Grace, and that struggle between Grace and Elizabeth. So they're two fascinating stories and they interweave very, very closely and very, very fascinatingly."

Block said, "The big challenge that I'm finding — which is also the glory to her — is that she is this gorgeous feminine woman, but yet a warrior at the same time. So it's kind of a journey, and you get to show all aspects and all colors of being a woman. A lot of times, as an actress, you just show one little snippet of the complexities of being a woman. And this journey takes you everywhere: to her joy, to divorcing, to giving birth, to getting married but having a lover, and it's quite complex, but it's a journey that I think the audience will really want to take."

What's new to the show since last fall?

Block revealed, "Within the first five minutes of the play, I get to sing the 'I want/this is my heart's desire/this is my dream' song. It's called 'Woman,' and that was just recently written. We didn't have that in Chicago for the out-of-town tryout. It was just written, and I think it truly encompasses who she is. And then, in the second act, on the flip side of that at the top of Act Two, she sings the same song — but now it's a lullaby, and she actually sings what the joy is of being a woman and this new sensation of giving birth and breast-feeding and finding that love that only a woman can feel."

Such words as "epic," "sweeping" and "pageant" have been applied to the musical. What's the challenge for the director?

Galati told Playbill.com, "It's a matter of taking an epic that spans a number of years — hugely crucial episodes in the lives of quite a number of people — and creating a kind of panorama that doesn't look like a panorama; that doesn't look like a kind of static series of museum cases where, with a click, in one frozen moment we see the burial of the chieftain, and in one frozen moment we see the battle between the English ship and Irish ship. So to make it dynamic, to make it move with the music and to achieve transitions that will produce a visual flow on stage, that's a big challenge."

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The cast of 42 includes Linda Balgord (Queen Elizabeth I), Marcus Chait (Donal), Jeff McCarthy (Dubhdara), William Youmans (Bingham), Nick Adams, Richard Todd Adams, Caitlin Allen, Sean Beglan, Timothy W. Bish, Jerad Bortz, Troy Edward Bowles, Grady McLeod Bowman, Rachel Bress, Don Brewer, Kimilee Bryant, Alexis Ann Carra, Noelle Curran, Bobbie Ann Dunn, Brooke Elliott, Christopher Garbrecht, Eric Hatch, Cristin J. Hubbard, David Koch, Timothy Kochka, Jamie LaVerdiere, Joseph Mahowald, Tokiko Masuda, Padraic Moyles, Brian O'Brien, Kyle James O'Connor, Michael James Scott, Greg Stone, Katie E. Tomlinson, Daniel Torres, Aine Ui Cheallaigh, Kathy Voytko, Jennifer Waiser, Briana Yacavone.

The two boys who share the role of "Eoin" are Justin Fernandez and Christopher Grey Misa.

The creative team features Julian Kelly (orchestrator, vocal arranger and musical supervisor and director); three-time Tony Award-winner Eugene Lee (scenic designer), two-time Tony winner Martin Pakledinaz (costume designer), Kenneth Posner (lighting designer), Jonathan Deans (sound designer), Carol Leavy Joyce (Irish dance choreographer), J. Steven White (fight director), Paul Rubin (aerial design), Paul Huntley (wig design), Angelina Avallone (make-up design), Howard Werner (projection design), Greg Meeh (special effects), Tara Young (associate director), Tara Rubin Casting (casting), Rachel Bress (associate choreographer), Peter Lamb (production manager), with additional choreography by Mark Dendy.

Frank Scardino, Theatre Production Group LLC, is the General Manager. Edgar Dobie is the executive producer.

Tickets are available at www.ticketmaster.com or by phone at (212) 307-4100 or at the Hilton Theatre box office (213 W. 42nd Street).

The Pirate Queen will play Tuesday-Saturday at 8 PM with matinees on Wednesday and Saturday at 2 PM and Sunday at 3 PM.

There will not be matinee performances on Wednesday, March 7, 14 and 21.

For more information, visit www.ThePirateQueen.com.

Linda Balgord in Boublil and Sch
Linda Balgord in Boublil and Sch Photo by Joan Marcus
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