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The Pirate Queen Comes to Broadway:

The critics poo-pooed it, but we loved it all the same!

Visit the website for more information.
Granuaile (aka Grace O’Malley, Grania) enthusiasts the world over will be thrilled to hear that the celebrated pirate queen has hit the stage – in Chicago and on Broadway.  Yes, it’s true, the pre-Broadway opening of a spectacular new musical was in Chicago on October 3 and it previewed in New York in April.  This show is likely to make the mighty Grace O’Malley far more than a romantic historical presence in the West of Ireland.  About 400 years after she lived, Granuaile is about to become a celebrity all the world will know.  We loved it, despite the critics' opinions.

Based on a book written by Morgan Llywelyn, a popular Irish historical fiction writer, the story brings both a lesson in 16th century history and a thrilling adventure to life.  Hers is my favorite rendition of the story.  Anne Chambers, held to be the authority on all things Grace, is special consultant to the musical on the 25th anniversary of the publication of her book, Granuaile: Ireland ’s Pirate Queen 1530-1603.  That book legitimized the legends of the pirate queen through historical fact. 

This was to be no ordinary musical.  The brainchild of the producers of Riverdance, Moya Hoherty and John McColgan, The Pirate Queen features a score by Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Shonberg, the Tony Award winning team that brought us Les Miserables and Miss Saigon, and direction by Frank Galati, another Tony Award winner.  The role of Grace O’Malley is being played by Stephanie J. Block, who brought Elphaba to life in the world premiere of Wicked.  Unfortunately, the reviews from Chicago were less than stellar and the show was revamped for the New York premiere with no more enthusiasm by the critics.

Alex and I saw it last week. We sat in the second row right off the stage, and true to our friend's comment, we were close enough to see the sweat and saliva flying through the air. Next to us was a guy who was on his fifth performance - he fell in love with it the very first moment he saw it! And so did we.

Perhaps it had something to do with the staging on Clew Bay where we have built a house and where Alex grew up. Perhaps it had to do with the spectacular yet non-traditional Irish dancing. Perhaps it was the sailing theme (duh). Perhaps it was the acting and music that took us in. Or maybe it was a combination of all of the above. In any case, we just loved the whole idea that our heroine (we fly her flag the white seahorse) was center stage.

Yes, there were things that could have been handled better - I've read every book about Grace that exists so I am rather partial to her story, which didn't come through as strongly as it could have. Her tribulations with husbands and lovers, skirmishes with Queen Elizabeth and trials in prison took center stage in this production. Yet she did so much as a pirate and a queen and there was hardly a battle with her in charge. She was a leader of hundreds of men and many ships but that strength didn't come through. My humble advice to the producers would be to find Irish playwrites and composers to portray an Irish queen. It lacked some of the Irish humor and spark and instead infused it with the French miserables. C'est tout! Anyone who has lived in Ireland must have felt the difference. Where was the Moytura, her ship? Where was the white seahorse, her flag? What about the haircut on her maiden voyage? So we'll have to wait for the remake to have the woman take charge rather than get herself thrown into prison and rescued by the love of a man. And of course, she'll need clever Irish sayings about it all along the way.

Despite any drawbacks, I was more than happy to see two powerful women on stage parrying with words rather than swords. I was also encouraged by the respect they showed each other. And I was thrilled by the staging and the song and dance. We were both riveted all the way through. And with a standing ovation to show for it, we were not the only ones who loved it. Miss Block played a stellar Grace!

So it was an enjoyable evening overall and well worth the time. Thanks for the effort to bring Granuaile to life.

Promotion for the Pirate Queen. Visit the website for more information.
Pre-Broadway World Premiere Engagement at the Chicago Cadillac Palace Theatre begins October 3rd, 2006

Opening April 2007 at Broadway's Hilton Theatre in New York. Check the website for more information.

Read a preliminary review from the opening in Chicago.

Read the Variety review from New York.

View the TV commercial, learn about Grace, buy tickets, and read about the extraordinary production here.

Grace O’Malley Pirate Queen was one of the episodes featured on Discovery Channel’s Warrior Women series hosted by Xena.  Check out the story here. 

Also view our list of books about Granuaile. 

We welcome your comments:
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