The Very Model of a Modern Director/Conductor: Ted Sperling Prepares for Public Theater Penzance Gala

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05 Jun 2013

Ted Sperling
Ted Sperling
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Ted Sperling's career has gone full circle. The Tony Award-winning conductor, whose Broadway credits include The Light in the Piazza, South Pacific and Guys and Dolls, recalls The Pirates of Penzance as one of the first Broadway productions that he purchased a ticket to in the early 1980s. Now, Sperling is directing a production of The Pirates of Penzance June 10 at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park.

The one-night-only gala performance, which will also pay tribute to late Academy Award-winning writer Nora Ephron, will feature a star-studded ensemble including original cast member Kevin Kline returning to the role of the Pirate King, which he first played in 1980.

The 1980 production of the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta was adapted by William Elliot and choreographed by Graciela Daniele and was first staged at the Delacorte by Wilford Leach in August 1980 prior to transferring to a Tony Award-winning Broadway run in December. The original cast featured Kline (Cyrano, On the Twentieth Century, "A Fish Called Wanda"), Linda Ronstadt as Mabel, Rex Smith as Frederic and George Rose as Major-General Stanley.

Along with Kline, the 2013 performance will feature Glenn Close as Ruth, Eric Idle as The Sergeant and Martin Short as Major-General Stanley, as well as Anika Noni Rose, Jonathan Groff, Norm Lewis, Betsy Wolfe Montego Glover and Rocío Del Mar Vallés. The ensemble will include Becca Ayers, Craig Bennett, Sarah Bolt, Alvin Crawford, Doug Eskew, Maryann Hu, Amy Justman, Justin Keyes, Orville Mendoza, Darius Nichols, Eliseo Román, Martín Solá, Asa Somers, Matthew Stocke, Frank Vlastnik, and Kevin Vortmann.

Sperling, who attended productions of Shakespeare in the Park while in college, said he did not sleep in the park, a technique many passionate fans utilize now to obtain the highly coveted tickets, but he remembers seeing Kline perform and describes him as a "fearless performer" and the gala cast as "a really special group of people."

Along with Kline, Daniele will revisit her role from the original production, by choreographing the gala performance.

The Pirates of Penzance premiered in December 1879, and Sperling credits its longevity and popularity to the show's entertaining and fun atmosphere.

"The show appeals to young people as well as older people," he said. "It's playful, it has pirates, a beautiful young sexy couple that don't take themselves too seriously."


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