Anoka High tackles Gilbert and Sullivan’s ‘Pirates’ operetta

By Elyse Kaner
Staff Writer

Matt McNabb, theater director for Anoka High School, has upped the ante of tackling challenging productions to provide what he aims, he said, to be the best show ever under his directorship at the high school.

Jake Sullivan (Pirate King), Devin Blanchard (Frederic) and Tara Schaefle (Ruth) rehearse Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Away, Away! My Heart’s on Fire!” for Anoka High School’s upcoming production of “Pirates of Penzance." Photo courtesy of Scott Andreassen

This time around he is tackling a production rarely performed at the high school level: Gilbert and Sullivan’s operetta “Pirates of Penzance.” The show opens Jan. 20 and runs for five performances through Jan. 28.

“Musically, it’s the most ambitious and challenging show we have produced in my time at Anoka,” McNabb said.

He compares the musical score to such demanding shows as “West Side Story,” “Les Misérables” and “Into The Woods.”

Packed with music and wit, Anoka’s comic opera“Pirates” will feature a cast of 40 supported by 20 musicians and 20 crew members.

The story is about Frederic, who on his 21st birthday, flees his pirate band in search of a life of respectability. He soon encounters beautiful maidens vacationing on the rocky shores of the coast of Cornwall. He falls head over heels for one of them, Mabel, the daughter of Major-General Stanley. Unfortunately the maidens are all captured by the pirates, who intend to make them their brides. It is up to Frederic to save his new love, her father and himself from the clutches of the pirates.

Anoka High School Theatre presents
“The Pirates of Penzance”
directed by Matt McNabb
Jan. 20, 21, 26, 27 & 28, 7:30 p.m.
Adults $10, students/seniors $8
3939 Seventh Ave. N., Anoka
For more information visit
or call 763-506-6439

The show, with a focus on rhythmic musical patter and which has probably twice as many words as an average musical, holds a special place in McNabb’s heart. “Pirates” was the first show he directed in his career at Lyric Arts back in 2005. The experience steered him toward theater.

“More important, it’s a hilarious, memorable, amazing show,” McNabb said. “It deserves the title of ‘a true classic.’”

The artistic team is comprised of: Michael Halstenson and Michelle Hayes, music directors; Christopher Marc, scenic designer; Lisa Mangone, costume designer; Stirling Callander, lighting designer; and Jennifer Crist, choreographer.

Elyse Kaner is at [email protected]

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