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The Pirate Queen – Original Broadway Cast Recording 2007

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Synopsis

16th Century Ireland: a wild country ruled by feuding clans with long, noble histories. Most clans are landed, but some, such as Clan O’Malley, are sea-farers. King Henry VIII of England has decided to annex Ireland, and his attacks have turned the Irish into patriots. The O’Malley pirates have begun plundering British treasure ships coming from China, India, and the West Indies in retribution.

When The Pirate Queen begins, Clan O’Malley is christening a new ship (“Prologue”). Grace (Grania) O’Malley, eighteen-year old daughter and only child of Dubhdara, Chieftain of the O’Malley clan, has snuck aboard ahead of time with Tiernan, a sailor and her childhood sweetheart. Tiernan, pursuing her in a game of hide-and-seek, finds her and they engage in a serious sword-fight, a game which has over the years turned Grace into a skilled fighter. On this day, however, the heat of their young love can’t be restrained any longer. They drop their swords and kiss passionately.

They are interrupted when the whole of Clan O’Malley arrives for the ship’s christening. Evleen, an old woman who is the spiritual voice of the Clan, gives Dubhdara a goblet of whiskey which he spills on the figurehead, naming the ship “The Pirate Queen.” A christening is one of the few events for which women are allowed aboard. Grace confesses to her father that she wants to be a sailor, but Dubhdara tells her it is impossible. A woman would disrupt the male crew, and there are superstitions that a woman on a ship brings bad luck. He orders Grace to leave the ship with the other women. Grace expresses her frustration to Tiernan (“Woman”).

Instead of going ashore, Grace disguises herself as a cabin boy and stows away. The Pirate Queen is barely out to sea when a terrifying storm comes up. A spar breaks and the mainsail cannot be brought down. A young sailor is needed to climb the rigging and cut the sail free. Grace volunteers. The sailors cheer the boy’s bravery, but are shocked to learn that the boy is the captain’s daughter. There is a woman on board!

Dubhdara is furious, yet he cannot avoid his pride at Grace’s heroism. And so he allows her to stay aboard the ship as a part of the crew. Since her mother’s death, Grace has been Dubhdara’s only family. Though he loves her deeply, he realizes that he barely knows the passionate woman she has grown up to be (“My Grace”).

Tiernan is overjoyed that the woman he loves will be allowed to stay on the ship. Although their relationship must be kept secret, they swear themselves to each other in a kind of marriage ceremony (“Here on This Night”).

The Pirate Queen plans to intercept and sack English treasure ships – but instead, in a deep fog, the ship is attacked by a huge English warship. In the furious battle that ensues, Dubhdara is wounded and Grace instinctively takes charge. Though outmanned, Grace and the pirates manage to defeat the English soldiers and sink the warship. Dubhdara now sees the true power of his remarkable daughter and, against all tradition, decides to train her to be a sea captain like himself. Grace O’Malley has proven that she is The Pirate Queen.

In 1558, Henry VIII’s successor, Mary Tudor, dies suddenly, and to everyone’s surprise, Elizabeth, Henry VIII’s daughter by Anne Boleyn, ascends to the throne. Elizabeth knows that a young woman will not he taken seriously as a monarch and so, on the first day after her coronation, she resolves never again to let anyone see her as a female. She will be: “The Virgin Queen,” a monarch untouched by the taint of the flesh. Even her maidservants are never to gaze upon her unless she is clothed in her royal guise. (“The Waking of the Queen.”) Suitably arrayed, Elizabeth summons her court, and in one stroke shows her condescending ministers how forceful she intends to be as Queen (“Rah-Rah, Tip-Top”). The only disruption in her Empire, her royal advisor Sir Richard Bingham tells her, is rebellion in Ireland, a land her father failed to conquer completely. Not only that, but the English fleet is beset by a ferocious female sea captain named Grace O’Malley. Elizabeth instantly rescinds Bingham’s royal commission to Asia and instead names him Lord Governor of Ireland, with simple instructions: quell the Irish rebellion and kill this woman pirate.

Back in Ireland, the increased aggression from England forces Irish clans to take unheard-of measures. Dubhdara summons the chieftain of his clan’s most ancient rival, the Clan O’Flaherty, to a meeting in which he proposes that they put aside their ancient grudges and work together. The O’Flaherty Chieftain is skeptical, since their clans have not trusted one another for centuries. He suggests the only solution that can make such unity work: an arranged marriage between O’Malley’s daughter, Grace, and O’Flaherty’s son, Donal. When the marriage produces a son, the clans will be united. Grace is horrified, since she loves Tiernan, yet she knows the necessity for such a political act and agrees (“The Choice Is Mine”).

The night before the wedding, at a shebeen (tavern), Donal is mocked by friends and barmaids about his impending marriage to a woman famous as a murdering pirate who gives orders to men. Donal vows that he will tame this Pirate Queen (“Boys’ll Be Boys”).

The wedding takes place, presided over by Evleen and the two clan leaders (“The Wedding”). Tiernan watches as the wedding party leaves to take Grace and Donal from the O’Malley home in Clew Bay to Rockfleet, the seat of the O’Flaherty clan. Tiernan is devastated, yet something tells him that this is not the end, and that Grace will need him one day. His love for her is so great that he decides to stay near her (“I’ll Be There”).

Grace’s marriage to Donal, a drinker and a womanizer, is indeed difficult, particularly so when word comes that English troops have landed at Belclare, a town halfway between Rockfleet and Clew Bay. The O’Malley and O’Flaherty clans decide to attack the English from both sides. Grace wants to join the fight, but Donal tells her to stay behind with the other women. Grace is furious, but the women in town suddenly cry that the English army has landed. Belclare was a diversion, the real target being Grace herself. Richard Bingham’s ruse has worked: the town is deserted, except for “helpless females.” Grace mobilizes the women. Pretending to be yokels, they seduce the soldiers and, when the men are most vulnerable, kill them. Grace spares only Bingham, telling him to return to England and tell his Queen that “he was bested by a woman.”

Donal and the O’Flaherty men return and learn of Grace’s triumph. She is now the acknowledged leader of the O’Flaherty women – news that disrupts Donal’s position in the clan. Simultaneously,Tiernan arrives with news that a skirmish with the English has left Dubhdara mortally wounded. Grace races off to Clew Bay, and Clan O’Flaherty goes with her (“A Day Beyond Belclare”).

Donal expects that if Dubhdara dies, his marriage to Grace will make him the chieftain of both clans. Dubhdara, however, does something remarkable. He passes the chieftain’s ring and mantle to Grace, making her the first woman ever to become leader of a clan. Dubhdara dies, and the clan gives him a sailor’s funeral, in a flaming boat set out to sea (“Sail to the Stars”).

As Act II begins, Grace, once again captain of The Pirate Queen, gives birth aboard ship. Donal waits, for a son will be heir to both clans, and thus give Donal power again (“Entr’acte”). The Queen is once again attacked by the English. Grace overhears Donal plead to Tiernan that the Irish surrender. Grace, against all arguments of her body, takes up a sword and joins the fight on deck (“Enemy at Port Side”). The Irish prevail, at considerable cost, but Grace can only think of Donal’s cowardice. According to Irish “Brehon Laws,” a marriage becomes permanent only after three years. Until then, either party may dismiss the other. Grace makes use of this law, and banishes Donal from her life (“I Dismiss You”).

Once again, Grace and Tiernan are free to be together (“If I Said I Loved You”).

In England, Elizabeth faces a complex dilemma. As Queen, her most important obligation is to take a consort and produce a child who will be her heir (“The Role of the Queen”). Many ambitious men in England imagine themselves rising to power by marrying Elizabeth, none more than Sir Richard Bingham, who suggests that the man who delivers Ireland into her hands will be the best candidate. Bingham is confident, for he has a new weapon at his disposal. Donal O’Flaherty has decided to betray Grace and his countrymen in exchange for reattaining his power as clan leader.

Donal arrives at the christening of his son Eoin like a penitent father (“The Christening / Let a Father Stand By His Son”). But the penitence is all pretence. Bingham and his English troops burst into the ceremony, killing many of the O’Malley clan and taking Grace prisoner. Donal and Tiernan engage in violent battle, during which Donal is killed. Tiernan takes the child to safety.

Grace is imprisoned for seven years, during which time Bingham completes his conquest of the Irish. He brings the Chieftains to England where they surrender their crowns to Elizabeth. Tiernan comes as well, to offer himself in exchange for Grace, so that she can return to her child (“Surrender”). Elizabeth is shocked that a man loves Grace O’Malley so much that he would sacrifice his life for hers. In Elizabeth’s life, the only men who pursue her are ambitious for themselves. To everyone’s amazement, Elizabeth accepts Tiernan’s offer and releases Grace (“She Who Has All”).

Grace returns to find Ireland despoiled by Bingham’s marauding English troops. Reunited with her son and seeing the Ireland Eoin will now inherit, Grace decides that she must take extreme action. She will go to England and plead the case for Ireland in front of the Queen herself. The people of Clew Bay refurbish The Pirate Queen, and Grace sets sail (“The Sea of Life”).

After her extraordinary act of clemency Elizabeth is enraged that Grace should return to England, but Grace pleads her case and appeals to Elizabeth not as a monarch but as a woman, urging the Queen not to ignore her nature but to use it to rule wisely. Elizabeth finds herself drawn to this female pirate she has hated for so long. The two women talk for two hours, in a historic private discussion whose precise content is unknown. At the end of this talk, Elizabeth restores to Grace O’Malley her lands and ships for her lifetime, and in addition, releases Tiernan from prison (“Woman to Woman”).

Grace and Tiernan return to Ireland where they are reunited with Eoin. At last they marry, and the Irish people celebrate with a plea for Ireland to be once and forever at peace (“Finale”).

Credits

Grace (Grania) O’Malley: Stephanie J. Block
Tiernan: Hadley Fraser
Dubhdara: Jeff McCarthy
Evleen: Aine Uí Cheallaigh
Queen Elizabeth I: Linda Balgord
Sir Richard Bingham: William Youmans
Donal O’Flaherty: Marcus Chait
Chieftain O’Flaherty: Joseph Mahowald
Majella: Brooke Elliott

Ensemble: Nick Adams, Richard Todd Adams, Caitlin Allen, Sean Beglan, Jerad Bortz, Troy Edward Bowles, Grady McLeod Bowman, 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, Karie Erin Tomlinson, Daniel Torres, Jennifer, Briana Yacavone

The orchestra:
Musical Director/Conductor: Julian Kelly
Assistant to the Musical Director/piano: Brian Connor
Associate Musical Director/Synthesizer: Joshua Rosenbloom
Fiddle/violin: Liz Knowles
Uilleann pipes/whistles: Kieran O’Hare
Soprano sax/clarinet: Kenneth Edge
Horn: Jeff Nelsen
Harp/Gaelic harp: Kirsten Agresta
Guitars/banjo: Steve Roberts
Electric bass: Michael Pearce
Percussion: Dave Roth
Drums/bodhran: Frank Pagano